Springfield Area Reading Is Fundamental Association (RIF) began in June, 1978 and is a not-for-profit 501( c ) ( 3 ) organization. Our goal is to provide elementary students the opportunity to choose and keep free books three times a year for three years (3rd, 4th, and 5th grade), thus creating a personal library. The program endeavors to continue the development of literacy by motivating children to read and providing them with book ownership. The RIF program embraces three essential elements to foster children's literacy: reading motivation, family and community involvement, and the excitement of choosing free books to keep.
RIF is staffed solely with volunteers. For many years, RIF operated out of District #186's Instructional Resource Center (IRC), located in the old Vachel Lindsay School on Chatham Road. District #186 converted a conference room there into offices during the spring of 2007. It became increasingly evident that we needed to find a new location for book storage and space for our three distributions each school year.
The idea of moving to Hope Presbyterian was presented to the Session in August, 2009. With the Session's approval, RIF officially moved into the facility prior to our first distribution that school year. We are grateful to the Congregation for providing the space necessary to run the program these past five years and for various members of the Congregation who have helped lay out thousands of paperback books in preparation for our distributions in November, February, and May over these years.
At each distribution day, representatives from 34 public and private schools in Springfield and the surrounding area come to select books for their respective 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. There are currently 5,071 students participating in the Springfield Area RIF program. The number of participating students has been reduced this year because the Chatham School District decided to drop from the program due to staffing and budget cuts. The volunteers who run the RIF program suggested using parent volunteers to select and distribute the books as many schools do, but the decision was made to discontinue participation. We provide an additional 15-20% books above the number of students to ensure the children have a good selection from which to choose. The representative takes the selected books back to their school, then has a "distribution day" for that school's students. Any books not selected by the students are returned to Hope Presbyterian where they are put back into our inventory for the next distribution.
Although federal funding for RIF ended in 2011, we have been fortunate that local financial support has continued. Under federal guidelines, the RIF program was limited to purchasing only paperback books. Several of our suppliers offer outstanding hardcover books for $1.65 to $2.00. We are pleased to be able to include these books in our distributions at such an affordable price. Our annual budget for this school year is $40,000. Of this amount, less than 2% will go for overhead. That means 98% of our budget is used to purchase about 16,500 hardcover and paperback books each school year. With the loss of federal funding we have had to be even more careful in our book selection, meaning books costing over $4 generally are not purchased. Regardless, we intend to continue the program with whatever funds we have available. We are counting on our relationship with Hope Presbyterian to continue for years to come. We greatly appreciate the partnership we have with Hope and offer thanks for allowing us to use your facility these past 5 years.
Eloise Baird, Program Coordinator
Francie King, Book Selection Chair