06/03/2008 05:37 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Congress: Don't Close the Book on RIF

By Margaret McNamara Pastor and Nancy Richardson Carlson

The President's proposed budget eliminates federal funding for Reading Is Fundamental's (RIF) book distribution programs that provides 16 million free books annually to underserved children in schools, childcare centers, migrant work programs, and other locations. Unless Congress reinstates $26 million in funding for RIF, the organization will be unable to provide the financial and organizational support needed to operate its literacy programs. RIF uses the federal dollars to leverage an additional 25 percent in funding from local communities where it has programs.

A recent National Endowment of the Arts report notes that good readers do better in school, get better jobs, make more money, and are more active citizens. RIF's programs are based on research that shows when children have access to books and learn to read for fun they perform better in school. There are 13 million children living in poverty. Sadly, many of these children don't have books in their homes. These are the children RIF's programs target. These are the children who will be left behind if RIF is not funded by Congress and the President.

Now is not the time to close the book on RIF.

Note: Margaret McNamara Pastor is the daughter of Margaret McNamara, a former teacher who founded RIF in 1966 in Washington, and Robert McNamara, who served as U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968 and as president of the World Bank.

Nancy Richardson Carlson is the daughter of Anne Richardson, who served as RIF's chairman from 1981 to 1996, and Elliot Richardson, who served in four cabinet positions during the Nixon and Ford administrations.