The Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) program, founded locally in 1973 and administrated by the American Association of University Women in Arlington, has distributed approximately 150,000 books in its 45-year operation.
Three times each school year, every third grade student in every Title 1 school, up to 16 schools in Arlington, is given three new books labeled with their name. For some, this is the first book they have ever owned.
However, despite its longevity and impact on the students in the Arlington School District, the AAUW chapter must consider stopping RIF because it doesn’t have the funds to support it.
“The program cost is only $10,000 a year, with 100 percent of money raised used to buy books, but all our avenues of fundraising and sponsorship have diminished or disappeared,” says former Lamar High School teacher and program director, Linda Pempsell. “It will be such a tremendous loss to our children and to our city if we stop RIF, but we must if we cannot find financial support.”
The local chapter has sponsored numerous fundraising activities throughout its almost five-decades-long devotion to this program, including the Arlington Book Fair, a yearly event that requires hundreds of hours of work; various special events; selling flowers and seeking financial help from organizations including the local Rotary, Kiwanis and Women’s Clubs.
AAUW has even joined forces with the local Altrusa organization to continue the program. Altrusa’s contribution of funds and distribution to six of the schools has been an enormous help in keeping the program alive. Like AAUW, Altrusa International wants to continue this service to the Arlington community. “As a member of AAUW, I have participated in this program for almost all of its 45 years,” says Sheri Quick, former chapter president. “The excitement when we deliver books, the endearing smiles and hugs, and the many sweet notes of gratitude from students, parents and teachers have encouraged all the members to do all that we can to keep this important program alive.”
Margaret McNamara, a former teacher, began the program in Washington, D.C. in 1966 with a sack of used books that she bought and distributed to the poor children she tutored. In 1975, Congress, through the Department of Education, began providing matching funds to qualified chapters throughout the nation, making RIF the oldest and largest children’s and family nonprofit literacy organization in the United States. To inspire young children to read, RIF sponsors events and contests, and offers invaluable online resources to parents, grandparents and teachers at www.rif.org.
However, the federal government stopped its funding in 2009, leaving local chapters to seek 75 percent of the funds elsewhere, which the Arlington chapter has done for the past nine years. But Arlington RIF volunteers say that unless a benefactor adopts the cost of the program, the local chapter cannot endure, despite its desire to continue the distribution of the books to needy children.
To help in this endeavor for Arlington children, contact Linda Altoonian at firstname.lastname@example.org or 817-299-8306, or Barbara Price at 817-880-2693. Checks can be sent to P.O. Box 2272, Arlington, Texas, 76004-2272.