Reading Is Fundamental

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Reading Is Fundamental
Formation November 3, 1966; 50 years ago (1966-11-03)[1][2]
Founder Margaret McNamara[1]
Legal status 501(c)(3)[3]
Headquarters Washington, D.C., U.S.
President & CEO
Alicia Levi [5][3]

Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF) is the largest non-profit children's literacy organization in the United States. RIF is committed to a literate America by inspiring a passion for reading among all children, providing quality content and resources to make an impact, and engaging communities in the solution to give every child the fundamentals for success. RIF is the leading champion for children’s literacy, empowering millions of children to read, learn and grow.


While reading to children at a school in Washington D.C. Margaret McNamara, wife of the United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, was surprised to learn that many of the students didn't have any books of their own. That experience in 1966 led to the formation of Reading is Fundamental (RIF), a nonprofit children's literacy organization dedicated to making reading a fun and beneficial part of everyday life. In the first year, 41,000 DC school children received 200,000 books. With the help of a grant from the Ford Foundation in 1967, the RIF bookmobile was launched, expanding reach and impact outside of the classroom. Following the success RIF had in Washington, the Ford Foundation increased RIF's grant to $285,000 in August 1968, enabling RIF to launch ten model programs across the country. From these early beginnings, RIF evolved into a national motivating force for literacy.

In 2011, Congress approved and President Barack Obama signed a bill that cut all federal funding for RIF.[6] In 2015, RIF released the results of Read for Success, a two-year research study funded by a grant from the Department of Education. Read for Success is centered around motivating children to read by providing access to high-quality classroom book collections, summer books for students to choose and own, enriching STEAM-themed classroom activities, professional development for teachers and parent engagement.

To date, RIF has given 412 million books to more than 40 million children.[7]


RIF has 400,000 volunteers across all U.S. states and territories provide 4.5 million children with 15 million books and a growing number of literacy resources each year.[8][9] RIF's largest priority is providing books and companion literacy resources for underprivileged children from birth to age 10.[10]

RIF's flagship program is Books for Ownership (formerly known as the National Book Program), which also supplies children with free paperback books. By 1989 the RIF had distributed 100 million books.[11]


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