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Three years ago I visited RIF Headquarters in Washington D.C. to deliver a donation from Picture Book Idea Month. I was told an incredible story of how a RIF executive had just returned from one of the poorest areas of Appalachia. She visited a school with children who lived in run-down homes of five families each. Many more lived in tents patched together. These children had no books of their own. The books RIF provided would help give them a chance to succeed.


I wish I could recall the story in full. I was riveted listening about the sheer joy of the children. Many couldn’t believe the books were theirs to keep.


Every year I have taken the proceeds from the PiBoIdMo Cafe Press shop and given it to RIF. Every year I wish it were more. RIF is a charity I believe in so deeply. I believe in the power of books and reading to transform lives.

So I am very honored to be spending the day with RIF tomorrow for their 50th Birthday Bash. In those 50 years, RIF has given more than 412 MILLION BOOKS to 40 MILLION CHILDREN. That is EXTRAORDINARY.


If you’d like to join in the festivities, we will be live streaming  on the web at at 9:15am EST.

There is also a RIF 50th Toolkit with classroom activities and ways to celebrate.


And remember, for just a small donation, RIF is able to provide a child in need with much-loved BOOKS.


Thank you for reading…and for giving the gift of reading!



Been snowed in this week and going stir crazy?


Yowie! I think you may have fractured something there, buddy.

Speaking of fractures, all along I’ve been calling LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD a fractured fairytale, but I think I’ve been WRONG. Yes, folks, I’m admitting my mistake. Somebody turn up The Biebs!


LITTLE RED is actually a fairytale MASH-UP. (This is probably a sub-segment of a fracture, like a bone chip.)

I didn’t merely retell LITTLE RED, I inserted a flock of fairytale and nursery rhyme characters into a whole new story starring Red and The Big Bad Wolf.

During revisions, editor Heidi Kilgras asked me to create a chain reaction after the boy cried “Wolf!”. I immediately whipped this up, which Troy Cummings illustrated brilliantly:


I’m wondering if maybe I haven’t marketed this book correctly. Do people think it’s the same story as the original, just taking place on ice??? No, it’s so much more than that!

Again, self-doubt creeps into the creative’s mind. Self-doubt, which I talked about last week, happens not just when you’re writing, but through every part of the book-making process…even when the process is over! I still think self-doubt is healthy, as long as it’s not overwhelming or paralyzing. Those slices of doubt help you create a better book…and perhaps also help you market the title more effectively!

So now I’m doing the mashed potato.


Oh wait, not THAT mashed potato. I’ll leave that for an alien book.

OK, enough hijinks (which is a FABULOUS word for a picture book text)…onto the final winners of the PiBoIdMo daily prizes. I will be emailing the remaining winners (from this week) later today to arrange delivery!

Day 21: Nancy Tupper Ling Winner
LANE ARNOLD (Double Happiness)

Day 22: Anna Staniszewski Winner
CAROL GWIN NELSON (Power Down, Little Robot)

Day 23: Katy Duffield Winner

Day 24: Jesse Klausmeier Winner
ANNIE CRONIN ROMANO (Open This Little Book)

Day 25: AJ Smith Winner
ROBYN CAMPBELL (Even Monsters)

Day 26: Pat Zietlow Miller Winner
LISA CONNORS (Share the Bread)

Day 27: Kelly DiPucchio Winner
AMY BRADSHAW (Everyone Loves Bacon)

Day 28: Paula Yoo Winner
CHRISTINE RODENBOUR (Twenty-Two Cents…the book, not $0.22!)

Day 29: Arree Chung Winner

Day 30: Kim Norman Winner

Congratulations to all the winners…and that includes all those who completed the 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge. Remember you can honor your gumption (ooh, another great word!) with a prize at the PiBoIdMo CafePress Shop! Like this snazzy mug! Every purchase via our link makes $3.00 for RIF (all proceeds).


In 2015,  PiBoIdMo donated $230.39 to Reading is Fundamental,  helping to put new books into the hands of underprivileged children. A sincere thank you to those who snapped up PiBoIdMo goodies. You did a good thing.


Thanks to everyone for participating! That’s all, it’s OVAH!

Now I think I’ll go hibernate with this guy!








Thank you, PiBoIdMo participants, guest bloggers and illustrators. Do you know what you did?

You helped me raise $433.62 to donate to RIF, Reading is Fundamental.



Your purchases via the PiBoIdMo CafePress Shop made it possible.


With Carol Hampton Rasco, CEO of RIF

For every $10 donated, RIF is able to distribute four books to a child in need.



So last month I made my way down to RIF Headquarters in D.C. I toured their offices and talked with RIF staff about the important work they’re doing.

One staff member had just returned from a county in Appalachia, where 28% of the schoolchildren were officially homeless, and where even more lived in crowded trailers with multiple families apiece.

The school Principal told RIF that amazingly, their test scores rose from 9th percentile to the 22nd percentile in just one year. To what did they attribute that growth? RIF! Now that these children have books of their own, they’re able to continue learning at home and over the summer break instead of being left behind. Books are AMAZING. But you already knew that, right?

As part of my trip to RIF, my publisher, the Aladdin imprint of Simon & Schuster, donated 100 copies of THE MONSTORE to the children at Bancroft Elementary in Washington, D.C. I was honored to appear at the school to talk to the children about writing and to personally sign every copy.



The best moment of the day? When I told the children they’d each be going home with a copy of my book. They cheered and hoorayed, and two besties in the front row hugged each other so tight they tumbled over in joy. Now that’s a great day for any author. Thank you, Aladdin and RIF!




I have something else important to tell you.

RIF’s donations have taken a plummet in recent times. The economy has hit them hard. So please consider donating directly. Remember $10 = 4 books!


Donate here. Or here.

And again, thank you for making the PiBoIdMo donation possible!

Every sale from the PiBoIdMo CafePress Shop will continue to benefit RIF!


Shirt design by Tory Novikova and available in the PiBoIdMo CafePress Shop!

Shirt design by Carter Higgins and available in the PiBoIdMo CafePress Shop!

Shirt design by Carter Higgins and available in the PiBoIdMo CafePress Shop!


carolrascoEarlier this week The New York Times published an article discussing how young Latino students are not seeing themselves in books frequently enough, and the obstacle many educators feel that omission puts in the path for enjoyment as well as for learning from books for these young children. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison of Education, which compiles statistics about the race of authors and characters in children’s books published each year, notes that in 2011 only 3 percent of the 3400 books reviewed were written by or about Latinos; this proportion is unchanged over the last decade. And yet, Hispanic students are one quarter of the nation’s public school enrollment.

Several years ago Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) initiated our Multicultural Literacy Campaign, borne from our concern with the NAEP figures we were studying from years past and the distance with which African-American, HIspanic and American Indian children continued to perform behind their Asian and Caucasian peers. Our campaign is a multi-year effort designed in part to provide children the opportunity to explore and learn about their own culture and the culture of others, the “mirrors and windows with sliding glass doors” concept as articulated by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop. One component of our effort is a yearly compilation of multicultural book sets through the generous sponsorship of Macy’s; these sets are distributed to more than 500 sites annually with the book lists and activities posted online for all to use.

RIF held the launch for the 2012 collection at the Library of Congress Young Readers’ Center with a panel made up of authors and illustrators whose books are featured in that “CELEBRATIONS” collection; the panel was chaired by Dr. Violet Harris, a literacy expert and chair of RIF’s Literature Advisory Board.

In her presentation, Dr. Harris set the context for the audience regarding the need for multicultural literature for all children, literature representing as many cultures as possible by discussing the work of Dr. Nancy Larrick, the second president (56-57) of the International Reading Association. Larrick is said to have noted the impetus for her oft-quoted study in the early 1960′s was when a five year old black girl asked her why all the children were white in the books she read. Her question came more than 20 years after Charlemae Rollins and others had begun a campaign for more positive examples of blacks and black culture in books for children. The lack of progress as well as that little girl’s sincere question compelled Dr. Larrick to investigate and produce the article “The All White World of Children’s Books” published in The Saturday Review of Books in 1965.

rollins3Rollins had published her groundbreaking We Build Together in 1948; this is a publication which “highlighted criteria for choosing books that portrayed Blacks realistically and built democratic attitudes among all people.” Rollins noted in her publication:

For many years books about Negro children followed a stereotyped pattern. The characters portrayed were the barefoot menial, or the red-lipped clown. Rarely did the Negro character in a story where there were other children ever take part in the story as equals. Illustrators, it seemed, could not resist presenting the quaint ‘pickaninny type’.

With regret we note today the change in children’s literature has not kept pace as many of us would have hoped. Similar statements can be made and are indeed written about the lack of inclusion of other cultures in children’s literature.

As Dr. Harris further noted ”…I want to emphasize…, it is a fight that goes on constantly. Each generation or even every couple of years it is two steps forward, one step back.” And further food for thought from Dr. Harris was her question to us: How can we say to the rest of the world that you need to model yourselves after us, our educational systems, our political systems, our economic systems and so forth, when we disenfranchise a significant portion of our citizenry?

You have finished a month of hard work producing ideas for picture books. As you move further into and with each idea, I challenge you to give very serious attention to the issue of children seeing themselves as well as having a window on the world. The book does not always need to be “about” diversity…perhaps it will be like HOW MANY SEEDS IN A PUMPKIN? by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. The classroom shown through the illustrations is diverse, and I have actually heard children mention that diversity they can see in the book. The experience of seeing the diversity present in a book was new to them, but a common everyday experience in the school each attends.

We as a nation have much to do to prepare each child as fully as possible to read well. One element and one relevant to your work is to show we indeed as a nation value each child and celebrate each child; and part of that visible celebration must be that each child sees and reads about children “just like me.”

Book People Unite!

P. S. How can I post on this blog without giving a roaring round of applause to Tara for her sponsorship of PiBoIdMo as well as personally say ‘Thank You” to her and to all who have purchased from the PiBoIdMo store where the proceeds come to RIF. We are deeply appreciative!


logo_rif2Carol H. Rasco is President and CEO of RIF. She joined RIF in 2001. Throughout her life, Carol has been a devoted advocate for children, youth, and families, as a professional and as a volunteer.

Prior to this position, Carol was the executive director for government relations at the College Board. From 1997 through 2000, Carol served as the senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, and as director of the America Reads Challenge, a four-year national campaign to promote the importance of all children reading well and independently by the end of the 3rd grade. Previously, Carol worked for four years in the White House as domestic policy adviser to the president and directed the Domestic Policy Council.

Originally from Arkansas, Carol worked as the chief policy adviser in the Arkansas governor’s office for 10 years and also served as the liaison to the National Governors Association. Additionally, Carol has extensive experience as a volunteer for arts organizations and disability advocacy groups. Carol received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and earned a master’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas. She has taught in the public school system and worked as a middle school counselor.

Carol serves on the Board of Trustees of Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina. She is the mother of Hamp and Mary-Margaret, and the proud grandmother of William and Charlie Marks.

So I love this coffee mug.

Everything about the title and cover design screams that it’s going to have something marvelous inside. (And that it’s HOT.)

Note the retro color scheme and bold lines representing books on a shelf.

I talked to the author of this mug, and she said she wanted to create it so avid readers could profess their love of books. And, oh yeah, to also bring in a few bucks for Reading is Fundamental (RIF), the national non-profit organization that puts books in the hands of underprivileged kids who otherwise wouldn’t have any books of their own.

Well, how did the author pull this off?

That’s right, she bugged her friend Carter Higgins, the writer and designer behind the popular blog Design of the Picture Book. Yes, the same person who designed the Picture Book Writing Pie.

And Carter delivered. Big time.

So head on over to the CafePress PiBoIdMo shop to grab your cuppa. (And there’s a shirta, too.)

All proceeds benefit RIF ($3 per purchase), so there’s a good cause behind a good design!

Go ahead, tell the world you love reading by wearing this adorable “Keep Calm and Read On” tee designed by!

They’re now available in the PiBoIdMo shop, with all profits ($3 per item) to benefit Reading is Fundamental (RIF).

Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the United States. They prepare and motivate children to read by delivering free books and literacy resources to those children and families who need them most. They inspire children to be lifelong readers through the power of choice. RIF provides new, free books for children to choose from and make their own.

And yes, children’s tees are available, too!

And if there’s something you’d like with this logo on it and it’s not listed in the shop, just leave a comment here and I’ll add it.

Thanks for your support of RIF!

I’m so pleased to bring you the PiBoIdMo Cafe Press shop this year!

There’s mugs, t-shirts, journals and totebags with Bonnie Adamson‘s adorable firefly logo, and every purchase earns $3.00 for two charitable causes: RIF and Mount Prospect Elementary School library.

RIF has lost its federal funding grant, and Mount Prospect’s library budget has been slashed by 80% over the last 2 years. (I volunteer there once a week.)

Proceeds from the shop will be evenly split between these two charities.

So if you need a hot cup of java to get your creativity flowing, what better mug than this one?

by Carol Hampton Rasco
President/CEO, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF)

What a special week in the Children’s Literature World…two of my favorite “specials” this month are the start of Picture Book Idea Month (plus two days!) and the birthday of Reading Is Fundamental where the 45th birthday will be celebrated Thursday, November 3 with Lilly and her famous purple purse with lots of children and special guests at the Library of Congress!

And you know what? I see PiBoIdMo as seriously connected to RIF and our mission. Each time I write or talk about this year’s major milestone birthday of 45 years for RIF, I talk about the 380 million magical moments, the 380 million books placed into the hands of children over these 45 years RIF has existed. And guess what? The majority of those 380 million moments have been brought about by picture books given our primary audience of birth to 8 years of age.

Within that age group, RIF seeks first to serve those children most in need and sadly, with poverty the greatest indicator of probable difficulty to read well and independently by the end of third to fourth grade, it means according to the latest poverty reports we have that even more children by comparison in years past to ignite, to motivate, to inspire to learn to read. This means in reality, we need so many different books in order to strike that chord deep within a child, to create the birth of that “aha!” moment, that “wow!” experience that has a child believing “If I can read, I can do anything, be anything.”

Last year I wrote in my guest post for PiBoIdMo noting three types of picture books we hear about most as on the “wanted” list by teachers, reading specialists, PTA parents, Kiwanis Club members—RIF volunteers of all stripes and professions: nonfiction that is “eye and mind catching”, bilingual books, and multicultural books. The requests continue to be the same. All three categories are also critical to the family involvement component RIF believes critical to the success of our mission in motivating children to love reading.

Last weekend I saw again in person the beauty of a picture book that had four generations of individuals pouring over a book, sharing common knowledge and experiences elicited by the book in front of them. It is a picture book about animals in winter—“it doesn’t look like a true fact book, they’re usually boring” as generation two noted in his 6-year-old voice. Generation one was intrigued by the pictures, generation two was eager to learn more about the animals he already had discovered, parents of gen two had no idea about some of the more unusual facts and gen three had information to add about ways these animals were viewed in “the olden days.” After going through the book the family discovered information added by the author at the back and headed to the computer, four generations together again! Gens one and two were reading the text even…what a great experience for the family together…it was a spontaneous activity shared following a meal and lasted with no whining for more than 30 minutes. This family is not unique, no reason this animal book would have been predicted to be the one to “catch their eyes” over others. But it connected for them; it was a prolonged magical moment. And to serve the children and families who need us most, we need lots and lots of books portraying life and our surroundings in oh, so many different ways!

With Thanksgiving now on the horizon, our Hampton multi-generations will for the 32nd year read sometime before the meal begins “Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’” by Eileen Spinelli (1982 version) which was given to my son on his 6th birthday that year. It is a tradition every child entering the family savors when old enough to follow the laugh lines and even more when old enough to be a reader!

A magical moment…that is what you are creating in a picture book…memories that plant the seeds of a lifetime love of reading. My best wishes to all of you as you put those ideas into writing this month! Hurray, more magic is on the way!

Happy Reading!

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

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