If you think reading is fundamental, join this online campaign

A decades-old program that helps children learn to read is turning to the Internet for support and a chance at continued funding.

Reading is Fundamental (www.rif.org) last year provided more than 15 million books to more than 4.4 million students in every state, but it’s one of several programs that may lose federal funding soon.

“It’s quite a unique situation,” said Stephen Leach, RIF’s vice president of government relations and community outreach. “This is actually the third time in our history where a similar situation has occurred and the program is not written into the presidential budget.”

Leach said Reading is Fundamental is one of seven programs that will be offered as state competitive grants, similar to the “Race to the Top” funding (http://bit.ly/cv9IAp).

“States compete with one another for funding,” Leach said. “Upon receiving funding they can choose to partner, or not. They can create their own program or initiative.”

The public can help save the nonprofit RIF program by electronically signing an online petition to their U.S. Senators at (www.rif.org/saverif/). You begin by entering your ZIP code, which will direct the petition to one, or both, of their senators. The deadline is Friday .

The RIF program began 43 years ago and has grown to more than 17,000 locations in 420 of 435 congressional districts. In Clark County 38 sites use RIF, including 36 in the Clark County Reads program, which served more than 21,000 children by providing nearly 75,000 books in 2009. Martinez and Williams elementary schools in North Las Vegas, which are not part of Clark County Reads, also participate in RIF.

“Clark County Reads has sites all over,” Leach said. “We’ve been working with them for several years and they are a true partner of ours. We don’t want to see them go away.”

You can learn more about the program at (www.ccpef.org/programs_ccr.html)

“We have a two-part approach to combating this (budget) challenge. First, we want to secure our short term funding by October 1, the start of the new fiscal year,” Leach said. “We launched petitions on Capital Hill with Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate side to get them to support RIF funding.”

The other leg is mobilizing the Web community.

“Online is the grass roots campaign,” Leach said. “We want to educate the public to get them to sign the petition. Family, friends or parents — anybody that supports the program can sign the petition letter.”

Leach said 101 House members signed on to the petition.

“Typically, if you can get 15 members to support a cause you are doing well; 101, that’s a great number,” he said.

Fourteen senators have also signed the letter, he said and RIP hopes to get that number to 30.

“We owe it to the families and children we serve to see that RIF is around for years and years to come,” Leach said. “We need to get folks on ground to get involved and get engaged.”

Share your Internet story with me at agibes@reviewjournal.com.

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