Reading Is Fundamental Urges Support for Reinstatement of Funding

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Since its inception in 1966, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) programs have prepared and motivated children to read by delivering free books and literacy resources to those who need them most -- underserved children from birth to age eight. Since 1975, RIF's Inexpensive Book Distribution program, which is authorized under the U.S. Elementary and Secondary Education Act, has been funded by Congress and six administrations without interruption; however, now funding for the program is in jeopardy.

For the second time during his administration, President George Bush has proposed a budget that eliminates RIF's Inexpensive Book Distribution program. Unless Congress reinstates $25.5 million in funding for the program, RIF will no longer be able to distribute 16 million books annually to the nation's youngest and most at-risk children, said Carol Rasco, RIF president and CEO. Now, the organization is asking supporters to help in its campaign to have funding reinstated.

Upon learning of the proposed cuts, "we were devastated for the children and families," Rasco said. "We know how important it is to the families." RIF programs in schools, childcare centers, migrant programs, military bases, and other locations serve children from low-income families, children with disabilities, foster and homeless children, and children without access to libraries.

According to Rasco, the administration believes that RIF can "raise enough private dollars to replace" federal funding for the book distribution program. "And that's not true," she explained. "We currently serve 4.6 million children and their families, but there are more than 13 million underserved children.... [The government funding] is 77 percent of our budget."

Over the past two weeks, RIF has sent e-mail alerts to literacy supporters urging them to "Act Now" and "help RIF build support for reinstating the funding" by sending an e-mail to your members of Congress. To date, the effort has garnered 31,000 e-mails.

This week, RIF launched the second phase of its campaign: A letter to the appropriations committee that is being circulated in the Senate by Senators Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and in the House by Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Don Young (R-AK). The letter calls on other members of the House and Senate to add their names in support of the reinstatement of RIF funding.

To help garner the necessary congressional support, RIF is asking booksellers and others concerned about literacy to send an e-mail to their members of Congress that urges them to sign the letter to the appropriations committee.