Reading Is Fundamental, Honolulu, Inc. (RIF-Honolulu) is a Hawaii non-profit corporation. It was founded in 1978 by Mildred Jones, Marie Shim and Susan Fuller to reach out to students in under-resourced communities and spark an interest in reading in the early years of their education.
We began by serving 566 students in four public elementary schools. Our children’s reading program currently serves nearly 5,000 students in one charter and 15 public elementary schools on Oahu. More than 80 percent of the students in our program qualify for free or reduced price lunch under federal guidelines. Since 1978, RIF-Honolulu has distributed over 575,000 books to students in kindergarten through grade three. In 2014, we expanded our program to include preschool classes established by the state Department of Education at four of our schools.
We are affiliated with the national RIF organization as part of its National Registry. The national organization provides us with access to book suppliers and publishers who offer discounts and special services to affiliate programs. This relationship has gained importance as federal matching funds for our program were eliminated in 2012, and the need to provide books and services continues to grow.
RIF-Honolulu is supported locally by private foundations, community groups, businesses, and individuals. Our organization is staffed entirely by volunteers, many of whom are retired educators.
Our volunteers visit individual classrooms three times a year. They read stories and conduct activities to encourage reading. Each student then chooses a book to keep, without adult interference, from a selection of brand new books. Our emphasis on reading for fun is an important complement to the schools’ instructional programs. Principal Debra Knight of NanaikaponoElementary School said, “The RIF Program volunteers convey their love of reading every time they come to the school, and our students embrace their enthusiasm.”
Research shows that third-graders’ ability to read is a clear link to future academic and career success. Third-graders who can read at grade level are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college. A 2014 study found that children who believe reading for fun is important are more likely to be frequent readers. They also discovered that 91 percent of children ages 6 to 17 say “my favorite books are the ones I picked out for myself.”