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Facts & Statistics

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly two-thirds of low-income American families do not own any books for their children. RIF Pittsburgh works to fill this critical void in our community by placing more than 103,000 new, high-quality, high-interest books into the hands of more than 22,000 of our city’s most economically disadvantaged children.

Our programs are based on research that support the importance of 4 core elements in healthy literacy development:

Access to Books

· “Limited access to books is a problem for all young children, but for those in low-income areas, it may be tantamount to reading failure.” 1
· Fourth graders who reported having 25 books or more at home had higher scores on the NAEP reading test than children who reported that they had fewer than 25 books. 2
· “If more access leads to more reading, and if more reading leads to better reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and a larger vocabulary, this means that the first step any literacy campaign needs to take is to make sure children have access to plenty of books.” 3
· “The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print. Communities ranking high in achievement tests have several factors in common: an abundance of books in public libraries, easy access to books in the community at large, and a large number of textbooks per student.” 4
·  “Simply providing access is the first and most important step in encouraging literacy development.” 5

1 Susan Neuman, Access for All: Closing the Book Gap for Children in Early Education, International Reading Association, (2001).
2 NCES, (2005).
3 Stephen Krashen, Literacy Network News, (2007).
4 Sanford Newman, et al, “American’s Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy,” Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, (2000).
5 Stephen Krashen, Bridging the Equity with Books, (1998).




· “Just having access to books, while an important first step, does not automatically lead students to become avid readers. Students must also find books that match their tastes and interests as readers, and for some this may not occur in the natural course of events. It pays to be proactive and guide students to try different books until they find something they enjoy.” 6
· “One way to increase children’s desire to read is to let them choose their own books. During the [study of elementary aged children in a low-income school], children frequently discussed books they had chosen themselves. This finding highlighted the importance of choice when attempting to positively affect reading motivation.” 7
· “The more children read, the better readers they become. Children read more when they have access to engaging, age-appropriate books, magazines, newspapers, computers, and other reading materials.” 8

6 Kathryn H. Au, “Promoting ownership of literacy,” Reading Today, 26.6 (June-July 2009)
7 “What teachers can learn about reading motivation through conversations with children,” The Reading Teacher, Vol 59, No. 5 (February 2006).
8 “On Reading, Learning to Read, and Effective Reading Instruction: An Overview of What We Know and How We Know It,” NCTE: A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts, The Commission on Reading of the National Council of Teachers of English, (1 May 2004), Web.



Motivational Environments

· “Young children especially need to be engaged in experiences that make academic content meaningful and build on prior learning. It is vital for all children to have literacy experiences in schools and early childhood programs. Such access is even more critical for children with limited home experiences in literacy.” 9
· Reading motivation activities, books in the home, leisure reading, and parent involvement are among the best ways to help children develop into capable readers and decrease the risk of educational failure. 10
· “Students learn best when they are engaged in full activities instead of exercises, activities that they themselves find meaningful. When students engage in such literacy activities, with support from others, they eventually learn how to ‘do literacy’ on their own.” 11

9 “Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children.” A joint position statement of the International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. NAEYC (1998).
10 Becoming a Nation of Readers, U.S. Department of Education’s Commission on Reading, (1988).
11 Francis Mangubhai, “Taking Account of the Social Correlates of Literacy,” Third South Pacific Conference on Reading, (13-16 January 1991), Web.



Family Involvement

· Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are significantly less likely to be read aloud to everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above the poverty line. 12
· “The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.” 13
· “Reading to preschoolers is the most important thing families can do to prepare them for reading.” 14
· “Children in low-income families lack essential one-on-one reading time. A recent report by the Packard and MacArthur Foundations found that the average child growing up in a middle class family has been exposed to 1,000 to 1,700 hours of one-on-one picture book reading. The average child growing up in a low-income family, in contrast, has only been exposed to 25 hours of one-on-one reading.” 15

12 NCES, (1999).
13 National Commission on Reading, (1985).
14 M. J. Adams, Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print.
15 Jeff McQuillan, The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions (1998).