RCM has been involved in the Reading is Fundamental book distribution (RIF) program for over 20 years, distributing books to kids kindergarten through 8th grade. Past President Rick Luedke remembers gathering in Jack Lindsay’s warehouse to sort through thousands of books during the early days of the program. Today Rotarians are the face of literacy to many Milwaukee school children, distributing RIF books and sharing how reading is important in their own lives.
RCM has been funding the RIF program through annual gifts of $10,000 for well over a decade. In the past Rotary’s annual $10,000 contribution was matched 3:1 by the federal government, but in 2012, federal funding for the program disappeared. Dedicated Rotary volunteers were determined to continue the program for Milwaukee’s kids, especially RIF chair John Connelly. The Milwaukee Brewers stepped up as our partner and pledged a three year commitment at $10,000 per year to help provide free books to students in fourteen Milwaukee schools historically supported by Rotary. We are now in the second year of the Rotary-Brewers funded program.
Each student at our 14 schools will receive two free books this year through RIF, distributed by Rotarians. Often these books are the only books students actually own. At the book distributions, kids pick out a book of their choice and hear from Rotarians on the importance of literacy. The program also demonstrates to the kids that their community cares about their education and success.
This partnership would not be possible without the hard work of several dedicated Rotarians, including the members who volunteer as school coordinators and book distributers. This is one of Rotary’s most popular volunteer opportunities, and it’s not difficult to see why! New member Pat Swanson recently volunteered with RIF for the first time and had a wonderful experience that she plans on repeating, saying: “The kids were delightful. I will definitely sign up to do RIF again!”
And after each book distribution, hand-made thank you cards pour in from the recipients – look for recent examples on the tables at an upcoming January luncheon. After the December book distribution at Escuela Vieau School, Daniel wrote to us, “RIF is the best – free books, free smiles!”
To learn more about Reading is Fundamental or to volunteer at a book distribution this year, please contact the Rotary office.
Straight from RIF recipients...
RIF kids tell us they love reading because:
- It helps me relax
- It calms me down when I am mad
- Reading makes me feel as though I am on an adventure
- It helps me do better in school
- It’s fun and keeps me from being bored
And one recipient told us he doesn’t like to read, but he’ll read his RIF book “because we paid for it!”