Reading is Fundamental (RIF) is a program initially funded by federal government and Ford Foundation grants in 1966. The program tries to address the reality that some children may not have “bedroom” libraries in their homes like children from other homes do, and they also do not get to engage in “literacy events,” i.e., discussing shared books or other written texts, with adults in the homes. The goal of RIF is to deliver good books, books that children will enjoy, into the hands of youngsters. These books become their personal property. They are taken home, and shared with the caring adults in the child’s life.
Fourteen years ago the Kiwanis Club of Marco Island took on the responsibility of ordering appropriate books and distributing them twice annually to students in the two local elementary schools. These efforts were led by Kiwanians Diana Pagach and Gail Thawley. Initially, federal grants were still available, and the Kiwanis Club covered the additional, matching costs required for the funding. However, in 2011, due to the ongoing economic downturn, all federal funding for RIF stopped. Diana and Gail were not deterred; they simply presented well thought out arguments to the Kiwanis Board and requested that henceforth the Marco Island Kiwanis Club should cover the total cost of the RIF program, approximately $8,000 annually, and the Board agreed. For the 2018-2019 book distributions, Diana, the Kiwanis Coordinator for Tommie Barfield Elementary School, and Marie Lynn McChesney, the Kiwanis Coordinator for Manatee Elementary School, wrote a grant and secured some one-time only outside funding to assist with the costs.
Working out the times and dates for RIF distributions at the elementary schools requires collaboration among the Kiwanis coordinators, the administration of each school (including the in-house media specialists), and the volunteers who staff each school on the days the books are made available to the students. Many Kiwanians particularly enjoy these events as they get to witness, first-hand, the children’s reactions as they choose their books.
Those interested in seeing the wideeyed appreciation of local children for the receipt of their personal, self-selected books are welcome to visit a Kiwanis Club meeting at Stonewalls on Thursday mornings, 551 South Collier Blvd., Marco Island. Breakfast is served at 7 AM, and the Club meeting starts at 7:30 AM. Or, you may call the Membership Chair, Donna Niemczyk at 239-394-7549.