From the Wire

Bush is pulling the funding for RIF. RIF is our country’s largest children’s literacy organization. From the website, “Unless Congress reinstates funding for this program, RIF would be unable to distribute 16 million books annually to the nation’s youngest and most at-risk children.”
Please read this.
Do something!
I can not describe my disgust.
My first encounter with RIF was in first grade, I believe. My heart just ached that day because there was a massive table full of books and all the other kids filed to the back of the room in turns to make their selections. When my row was called I didn’t go and just stared at my desk trying to blink back tears. I didn’t want to see everyone else’s treasures and I certainly didn’t want them to know I couldn’t buy any. At some point, my teacher came over and said I should go back with my row and choose some books. I couldn’t hold back any longer; tears flooded my face and I whispered that I hadn’t brought any money. She hugged me and smiled and said that the books were gifts which meant that we didn’t have to give money for them. I was so relieved and grateful I cried again. She took my hand, walking me to the gleaming mountain of FREE books, and we picked two that became my treasures.
After that, all through elementary school, I lived for the RIF days. Who were these magical people that brought in folding tables, erected them in the back of the classroom, and then decorated them with more beautiful books than I could dream of owning? It didn’t matter to me then who they were; it only mattered that they were my vehicle through Imagination. Usually we were allowed to choose two books. It was almost too much for me to cope. Deliberation lasted ages while I methodically picked up each book, read its back cover and first few pages. Most of the time I’d select the fattest books that seemed appealing just to prolong the enjoyment of TWO new books.
In sixth grade I picked The Great Gilly Hopkins and Bridge to Terabithia, both by Katherine Paterson. Bridge to Terabithia is on my short list of most moving books and certainly at that point in my life, it was the top – perhaps it still is. That is the book I recognize as a threshold across my timeline; before Terabithia – babyhood, after Terabithia worlds opened and enlarged, pure enlightenment.
Indirectly, I’d say RIF helped establish the course for my life. I’ve always loved books, but books are expensive and I was poor. RIF bridged the chasm making my love available and attainable. As an adult, I’m formally studying literature and aspiring to become an expert. Ultimately, simply to inspire the same heart-poundings, giggles, and dry mouths that so many of my favorites evoked in me.
And now I cry for the kids who won’t share this memory.

4 thoughts on “From the Wire

  1. I loved RIF days too!! I still have some of the books I got. We destribute RIF books to our early intervention kiddos at work as well. The families love getting new books. I’m defintely fighting this!


  2. I find it ironic that the President who wants no child left behind is making it possible for them to be left behind. One more year, just one more year…


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