National literacy group celebrates 35 years of providing books to kids

Reading Is Fundamental helps thousands in Md.

November 25, 2001|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Reading Is Fundamental - which calls itself the nation's oldest and largest nonprofit literacy organization - turned 35 this month, celebrating decades of providing free books to low-income children, including thousands in Maryland each year.

The group, formed in 1966 in Washington by former teacher Margaret McNamara, focuses on children considered to be at risk of suffering academic problems, said Jennifer Greenhalgh, a spokeswoman for the national group.

"The volunteers at the local level select the books the children will choose from," said Greenhalgh. "What we want to do is hear from children who may not have books in the home."

Nationwide, RIF had a network of more than 310,000 volunteers last year. It gave out books to more than 4 million children.

In Maryland, RIF's 1,813 volunteers provided more than 93,000 books throughout the state from March 2000 to March 2001, the most recent figures available.

In some cases, the organization works with school systems - Anne Arundel County's Title I program, which provides federal aid to schools with a large proportion of low-income children, is a RIF partner, said Greenhalgh.

Baltimore Reads, a nonprofit literacy organization, is a local RIF partner and recently provided collections of 100 hardcover books and a bookshelf each to six Baltimore public schools.

The Walters Art Museum is another RIF participant through its "Mummies, Manuscripts and Myths" program. The three-year, arts-based literacy program for second-, third- and fourth-graders and four city schools draws on the museum's collection to enhance classroom reading and activities.

Information: www.rif.org, or 1-877-743-7323.

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