In May 1966, Margaret McNamara has an idea to get free books into the hands of Washington, DC students: books they would choose, take home, and keep as their own. On November 3, 1966, the first RIF pilot project kicks off in 3 Washington, DC elementary schools.
Launch of the RIF Bookmobile expands RIF beyond schools to reach children in places such as community centers, day care facilities, and even laundromats.
RIF receives our first federal contract, making it possible for us to match local funds for the purchase of books and launching a 3-decade partnership with the federal government through the nation’s Inexpensive Book Distribution Program.
Ruth Graves served as President and CEO for over 20 years (1976-1997). Under her leadership, RIF expands from serving just over 300,000 children annually to more than 3.7 million children, with an expanded focus on reaching children in a multitude of settings including Native American reservations, hospitals, and GED programs.
RIF produces public service announcements with Carol Burnett on television and Arthur Ashe on radio, which are still well-known to this day. Arthur Ashe joins RIF’s National Advisory Council, supporting RIF in this capacity until his passing in 1993.
Through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, RIF produces “RIF Speaks,” a volunteer engagement and program planning kit featuring brochures and audio cassettes.
In conjunction with the International Year of the Child, First Lady Rosalynn Carter and daughter Amy host the first RIF National Reading Is Fun Day at the White House. Special guests included Carol Burnett, John Chancellor, Arthur Ashe, Maurice Sendak, and numerous students.
Barbara Bush joins RIF’s Board of Directors in 1981 and transitions to becoming a member of the National Advisory Council in 1990, ultimately serving until 2001 as an active member of RIF’s governing bodies.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports RIF with a grant to develop materials and methods for at-home use by families in encouraging their children’s reading.
“The RIF Guide to Encouraging Young Readers,” containing hundreds of at-home activities and other suggested resources to help parents encourage their children’s reading, is published by Doubleday.
Oprah Winfrey joins RIF’s National Advisory Council, serving for 6 years and championing RIF’s service to families in homeless shelters.
UGI Corporation begins its support of RIF’s work, focused on first graders in the state of Pennsylvania. In its first year, the program reaches 8,700 first graders throughout 20 school districts. The program is notable for its employee engagement at book distributions throughout the school year and to date, continues to reach 1st grade students across Pennsylvania.
Mattel launches its Love-to-Read™ Barbie® gift set featuring Barbie along with 2 toddler dolls and a mini book of Mother Goose rhymes. Sales of the doll in Toys “R” Us stores benefit RIF through 1994.
The U.S. division of Nestlé launches a partnership with RIF that will go on to span 3 decades and includes activations like Share the Joy of Reading, a national reading campaign including pop-up events with actresses Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kate Beckinsale, and Maria Menounos leading read-alouds. The partnership also launches the Very Best In Youth (VBIY) program to honor young people. Nestle USA raised over $5.4M and supported more than 500,000 children with 1.5 million books.
The National Basketball Association and RIF release their first national public service announcement starring Shaquille O’Neal. The announcement airs during the NBA playoffs.
RIF partners with VISA in their “Read Me A Story” campaign, a touring children's show featured at malls, RIF program sites, and other local sites. The campaign was VISA’s big holiday promotion and included various characters from children’s books. Danny Glover served as the celebrity spokesperson and over $1 million was donated to the RIF through the program.
In April, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton presents the awards honoring the 1997 RIF National Poster Contest Winner and the National RIF Reader.
RIF and The Coca-Cola Company join forces to promote the importance of reading in America’s homes, classrooms, and communities through the “Reading Takes You Places” program. The multi-year, multi-million-dollar initiative reached millions of children nationwide through Library Classroom Collections, StoryTravelers—a traveling bookmobile, the RIF Reading Planet section of RIF’s website, and Ingenuity Grants for community building to motivate children to read.
Carol Hampton Rasco joins RIF in 2001. She serves as RIF President and CEO for 15 years until 2016, leading a vast expansion of federal funding, increasing RIF’s emphasis on research-driven programs and initiatives, and expanding RIF’s service to Black, Hispanic, and Native American children.
RIF launches a regional partnership with Macy’s, that has now become a national program that continues to have lasting impact for children across the country. From the creation of the Multicultural Literacy Project, an initiative to provide books and motivational activities targeted towards Black, Hispanic, and Native American children, to rebuilding a school library in Puerto Rico destroyed by a hurricane, this award-winning partnership now spans 2 decades and has raised over $46 million to fight the literacy crisis in America.
Dollar General makes an initial 3-year pledge to support RIF in 49 schools, serving nearly 20,000 children. Our work together continues to this day, supporting students in communities across the country through book distributions, library rebuilds, and the funding of critical literacy resources and online platforms.
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, RIF partners with LeapFrog to launch new bilingual resources on RIF’s website and to provide over $100,000 worth of LeapPads and Spanish/English books to children across the country.
RIF and US Airways launch “Fly with US. Read with Kids.,” a campaign to help children nationwide discover the joy of reading through the Read with Kids Challenge, a 3-month online challenge in which over 16,000 participants log 3.8 million minutes of reading with children. The campaign also included US Airways support for RIF program sites in designated locations across the country.
RIF establishes our Ambassadors initiative, sponsored by Coca-Cola. The Ambassadors program honors one RIF program volunteer from each state and fosters the sharing of best practices across programs. Each Ambassador is granted funding to host an annual gathering of volunteers in their geographic area.
RIF is awarded a two-year, $9.8 million Innovative of Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grant from the U.S. Department of Education which funded the research that serves as the foundation for the creation of RIF’s research-backed supplemental reading program, Read for Success.
McDonald’s and RIF first partner to distribute more than 20 million books in Happy Meals during a 2-week period, with an additional donation of 100,000 books to children at RIF program sites across the country. We continue to collaborate annually on a Happy Meal promotion that provides free books.
Current RIF President and CEO Alicia Levi joins RIF as we celebrate our 50th anniversary with a special Gift of Reading Gala and a reading event at one of the DC schools where RIF was first founded, Amidon-Bowen Elementary, featuring acclaimed singer Jordin Sparks. This was the first RIF book event attended by Levi.
RIF hosts the first National Reading Coalition, gathering leaders from business, education, nonprofit, and government to address the nation’s literacy crisis and its impact on the workforce with keynote speaker Dane Linn, Vice President, Business Roundtable and honored guest United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor sharing her book, Turning Pages.
RIF is recognized for our innovation and national literacy impact by the Library of Congress and named winner of the 2018 David M. Rubenstein Prize.
Martha and Arthur Goldsmith, leave RIF a transformative bequest gift of over $2M. As career librarian and longtime RIF volunteer, respectively, the Goldsmiths did so much to further literacy and their legacy lives on through RIF's work.
LeVar Burton, a longtime literacy champion and RIF supporter, generously gifts Skybrary, an award-winning digital library of almost 1,000 eBooks and hundreds of real-world video field trips to RIF, enhancing RIF’s program offerings to now include print and digital books. Skybrary is available free to Title I classrooms.
International Paper supports RIF by sponsoring Books for Ownership programming to support 11,000 first graders, launching the beginning of a multiyear partnership that has deep impact in communities nationwide to this day.
RIF launches our Race, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative, championing racial justice and equity through the power of literacy, focusing our commitment to support under-resourced communities of color, amplify diverse authors and illustrators, and launch an online destination of resources and best practices for educators and families. Macy’s is a founding partner in this critical work.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and learning disruptions, RIF partners with multiple companies, such as the PwC Charitable Foundation, Fidelity Investments, International Paper, UGI, and the Pitney Bowes Foundation, to pivot RIF’s approach and get even more books and resources to children during virtual learning.
RIF launches an exclusive giving society, The 1966 Society, to honor the dedication and financial commitment of RIF’s most ardent and generous supporters. Lynda Johnson Robb, Founding Board Member of RIF, is named honorary chair of the Society and Christy Moberly, former Board Member, is named chair.
Through a national expansion of our partnership with Amazon, RIF engages employees across the country to deliver more than 80,000 books to 27,000 children in more than 200 Title I schools. The partnership continues to grow today through empowering employee volunteers to spread the joy of reading by supporting their local schools nationwide.
RIF receives new federal support: 3 grants through the Congressionally directed spending process to bring books to students across three states as well as support through the AmeriCorps VISTA program to further expand RIF’s Race, Equity, and Inclusion initiative in 5 cities across the U.S.
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