Please Save RIF

Admit it. There are some advantages to getting older. I have become so calm that sometimes I barely recognize myself. But every now and then I am shocked out of my equanimity.

A small news item last week did it; it actually shook me up. It was very small and simple: Bush's '09 Budget Eliminates RIF Funding President Bush's proposed 2009 budget eliminates all the funding for Reading Is Fundamental's book distribution program that has, since 1966, provided more than 325 million books to more than 30 million underprivileged children. That got me mad -- like in mad enough to do something! Mad enough to talk about it to everyone I know. Mad enough to write my Congressperson and Senators. Mad enough to write Margaret Spilling at the US Department of education. Mad enough to write both Barbara and Laura Bush.

Mad enough to sit down and my computer and start writing. Reading is Fundamental is an awesome program! It is the oldest and largest nonprofit children's literacy program in the world. Their mission is to motivate kids to read.

An important part of the program is providing books for children to explore, read and keep. The program was started in 1966 by Margaret McNamara. While her husband was busy messing up the Vietnam War at the Defense Department she volunteered to tutor a group of Washington D.C. children in reading. One day she took a bag of used books with her.

As she finished her lesson, she told each of the children that they could pick out a book to take home with them. The kids were thrilled. These children (an most of their classmates) had never owned a book! Margarat was astonished by the reaction. She was infected by thier enthusiams and decided right then and there to do something.

She recruited her friends, raised money everywhere she could and started collecting books to give away. For the next nine years her efforts created a program that gave away books to children in the Washington D.C. public school system.

In 1975 the US Congress passed a bill that provided matching funds to RIF. For the last 33 years (in a row) Congress has funded this program. Reading is Fundamental now serves children and families in every state, district and territory of the US. Last year, the program gave away 16 million free books to 4.5 million children! Now, the Bush administration has decided to eliminate RIF's funding! Evidently it is more important to rebuild Iraq, bail out corporations and build Bridges to Nowhere than it is to promote literacy here at home. It is hard to believe, but this is the second time that Presdient Bush has attempted to cut funding for RIF.

The first time (in 2001) there was such a public outcry that the administration finally backed down. This story becomes even more curious when you consider that Barbara Bush served on RIF's board of directors from 1980 to 1988 and then on its national advisory board from 1989 to 1992 . Add to that the fact that Laura Bush served on RIF's national advisory council from 1996 to 2001.

It is time for us to raise our voices in protest! PLEASE go to the RIF site and voice your opinion. The site provides links to find your senator and representative and gives you information about how to send an e-mail message to them. Join me and thousands of others in making our voices heard! Write to Barbara and Laura for good measure! But hurry, there is not a lot of time because the appropriation committee will be meeting in May and June to decide on budgets. Oh yeah, I should mention that this item even made me mad enough to actually make a donation to RIF. This is an organization that deserves our support! The families and children affected by this cut in funding are the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society. There aren't any lobbyists in Washington advocating for them! Children have no voice or power in our society and the depend on adults like us to speak up.

To give them a voice. So get busy -- write, call, spread the word, donate. Let's make sure that kids get the chance to have free books to explore, read and keep! I want to hear protest and outcry so loud that it can not be ignored! Thank you for your support! Copyright (c) 2008 Gigi Reynard.

Gigi Reynard is the CEO of eBooks About Everything, avid reader turned passionate blogger. She knows from personal life experience that books can change a child's world. Gigi lives in Southern California with her writer husband, Henri, their cat, computers, electronic gadgets and thousands of (paper) books.

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