Blog Posts

RIF Board of Director Michelle Murphy Shares her Thoughts on the Importance of Literacy, Sustainability, and a Bright Future for Our Nation’s Children

We’re excited to share this blog post from Michelle Murphy, a member of RIF’s Board of Directors and Vice President of Human Resources for Trane Technologies’ Commercial HVAC Americas business. Read up on Trane Technologies’ commitment to inspiring a passion for reading with RIF, creating sustainable futures, and Michelle’s lifelong love of books.

I can’t remember not being able to read. I was curious about everything as a child, and I discovered through words and pictures. I learned by reading. I read everything from Scholastic magazines to newspapers to novels as a way to learn about people, topics I was interested in, and the world.

When my children were very young, it was very important to us for them to hear as many words spoken as possible. In addition to reading age-appropriate books out loud with them, my husband (a fabulous full-time dad) would also read out loud everything he was reading – recipes, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and spy novels, among other publications and books. The kids would be playing and he would be nearby providing a steady backdrop of language.

Simply hearing words spoken increases literacy. Children can listen on a higher language level than they can read, so listening provides a way to improve children’s language skills. It not only exposes them to vocabulary and language patterns that are not part of their everyday speech, but it also makes complex ideas more accessible. From the abundance of research conducted on early childhood reading development, we know this is vital to the innovation and growth of future generations coming into the workforce. Unfortunately, not all children have the same opportunities for this level of early childhood word exposure as well as access to books.

This is why Trane Technologies has been so proud to partner with RIF to provide these fundamental exposures to the written word, to provide read- aloud stories, and to support book ownership. Through our partnership, RIF and Trane Technologies provided more than 150,000 children with books and reading content during the 2021-22 school year. Together, we also launched RIF's Sustainable Futures Center, which is housed on Literacy Central, RIF’s free book resource website. The Sustainable Futures Center is an online destination that helps children understand and care about environmental justice, clean air and water, and potential futures in STEM careers through the power of books.

The importance of reading cannot be underestimated. Children spend their early days through third grade learning to read, and from fourth grade on reading to learn. There was already a literacy gap before the pandemic. As we come out of the pandemic, it has increased to levels not seen since 1990. As reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), average student scores declined five points in reading overall. Even more revealing, reading scores for students from low-income households eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch declined by seven points, while the scores of their peers from higher-income families declined by only three points, further heightening the already concerning literacy gap for under-resourced students.

How can you make a difference? Read to children – your children, others’ children. Volunteer to read at your local elementary school. My children, who are now in high school and college, are paying it forward. Over the years, they’ve been sharing their love of reading with their “book buddies.” Each week, they’ve been going into classrooms in an elementary school and reading with a child. And, of course, now they both thoroughly enjoy reading their own spy novels. Use and explore RIF’s resources and especially our online destination on Literacy Central to help students discover how to create sustainable futures via. A sustainable future also includes ensuring that all our children learn to read and obtain the fundamental building blocks to thrive.