by Carol Rasco, CEO, Reading is Fundamental

At first glance, it seems almost too simple, offering children the opportunity to choose the books they want to read and own. But since 1966, choosing books has been the key feature of RIF programs where children often select multiple books per year. Does it make a difference?

In late September of 2010 results were released from a RIF-commissioned, rigorous meta-analysis conducted by Learning Points, an affiliate of the American Institutes for Research. Those results showed that giving children access to print materials is associated with positive behavioral, educational, and psychological outcomes. I invite you to study the results more fully as these results then move us to the importance of picture books in the early years of the children targeted by RIF. Detailed information about the study and its results can be found on the RIF website:

How exciting it has been to learn more this year about PiBoIdMo by following carefully the informative guest posts each day as well as looking back over past year’s PiBoIdMo materials. Reading Is Fundamental deals more with picture books than any other genre, and this is all the more reason I appreciate this opportunity to visit with those of you participating in PiBoIdMo this year. I sincerely hope this opens a dialogue between you and RIF as I know you have ideas and information that could be of benefit to RIF.

Our coordinators in the field who might be teachers, reading specialists, PTA parents, Kiwanis Club members—volunteers of all stripes and professions—tell us repeatedly they seek more of three types of picture books: nonfiction that is “eye and mind catching”, bilingual books, and multicultural books. And at RIF, we do not necessarily see these three as mutually exclusive.

One example I have found of a book that certainly combines the nonfiction and multicultural features is HOW MANY SEEDS IN A PUMPKIN? by Margaret McNamara. I have shared this book numerous times in classrooms across the country and almost without fail, each time I read it some student or even multiple students will talk about the magic in the book. They have no idea they are learning math and science. At the same time the illustrations are clearly multicultural in portraying the world around the students – but would most people label it at first glance a ‘multicultural book’? No. It is a natural portrayal of the real world of mirrors and windows we stress in our Multicultural Literacy Campaign.

As part of our commitment to motivate young readers, RIF has increased efforts through our Multicultural Literacy Campaign to reach more African American, Hispanic, and American Indian children at risk of academic failure. We are deeply concerned about the growing number of quality reports and research studies showing the large gaps in literacy accomplishments too often found between these children and their peers. We know one aspect of promoting improvement is to provide more culturally diverse books so that children nationwide can discover the value of their own heritage while learning about the importance of others. You can learn more about our Multicultural Literacy Campaign at

Choice is a key reading motivator. Allowing children control over what they read can help them build a lifelong, life-changing love of reading. We also believe choice is power. For underserved children, who have fewer opportunities than more advantaged children to make positive choices in life, offering a choice of books provides a taste of the dignity of personal autonomy. Even such small opportunities and encouragements to choose can inspire children to make greater choices: to choose learning, to choose success in school and life, to choose a brighter future. Quite simply, given the power to choose what they will read, children will chose to read to learn.

In addition to choice of book, RIF has two other key components to our book distribution program: motivational activities during the distribution (and nothing is more exciting than an author or illustrator coming to read!) and parent engagement.

I invite you to visit with us at RIF regarding ideas you have about how we can provide more books like those I reference and other inputs you may have on our various program components. I also encourage you to determine if there is a RIF program in your community where you might give one reading/presentation a year as part of our effort. Use the locator map ( where you can easily access program sites near you; should you need assistance in making contact with a program(s) or you have questions/suggestions of any type for RIF, please contact me at crasco[at]

My interest in PiBoIdMo has escalated over recent weeks, and I have started my own beginning short list of books I wish I could write. Who knows, I may figure out how to allocate the time to learn even more about this process over the next year and actually sign up—book one is one I have carried for three years in my head and there are two more beginning to take root. I want to take the excitement I have seen in children at the sea organ in Croatia and the pure awe I witnessed on the faces of students as they watched the making of smoke by an American Indian as he rubbed sticks together at a recent RIF distribution in DC and figure out how I can share those experiences with children who may not the opportunity to visit with an American Indian visit or take a trip to Croatia.

Children’s interests matter at RIF. We strive to develop their freedom to ask and answer questions, to experience adventures and new ways of perceiving the world around them through the books they choose. We are honored to have played a part in offering the millions of choices connected to the more than 366 million books provided to children since our founding…and we look forward to providing millions more.

Happy Reading!

Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF), founded in 1966, motivates children to read by working with them, their parents, and community members to make reading a fun and beneficial part of everyday life. RIF’s highest priority is reaching underserved children from birth to age 8. Through community volunteers in every state and U.S. territory, RIF last year provided 4.4 million children with 15 million new, free books and literacy resources. For more information and to access reading resources, visit RIF’s website at