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Funding for RIF, Reach Out and Read and Other Literacy Nonprofits in Jeopardy

I received word over the weekend that the anti-spending wave that's sweeping the government is poised to decimate some of my favorite organizations, like RIF and Reach Out and Read. While I am a fan of cutting unnecessary "porK' spending, I think that a blind approach like this that lumps established, respected literacy programs like this in with everything else is just plain wrong.

I believe that programs that put books into the hands of children who need them pay for themselves over and over again, at a societal level, by reducing the need for remedial education, cutting school drop-out rates, and, ultimately, by reducing the need for spending on social welfare programs and prisons. Taking funding away from these programs because of other shortcomings in government spending just isn't right. A more nuanced approach is needed here. Or, in colloquial terms, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Here's what RIF and Reach Out and Read have to say about it (including requested actions):

From RIF:

RIFF_logo On November 29, 2010, the U.S. Senate will begin voting on an amendment to ban ALL domestic earmarks in the FY11, FY12, and FY13 budget cycles. Although RIF is an authorized program and is not an earmark, this moratorium would cover all national projects, authorized or unauthorized, and would include Reading Is Fundamental.

If this moratorium takes effect it can be damaging to RIF’s local programs and the 4.4 million children RIF currently serves. Please take a moment and send your senators a message encouraging them to vote “NO” on this earmark moratorium as it is currently defined.

Your action could help save RIF and enable it to continue serving millions of children across the country.

Send your message before Monday, November 29, and forward this email to your friends, family, and colleagues, encouraging them to contact their representatives as well.

As a constituent, your voice is the most important resource we have to make sure senators vote “NO”!

From Reach Out and Read:

Ror.red Reach Out and Read has joined 12 other national education nonprofit programs to fight an amendment that would decimate an entire segment of America’s nonprofit sector and place millions of children and families in jeopardy.

On Monday November 29, the U.S. Senate is set to vote on Amendment 4697, proposed by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)  as a rider to the “FDA Food Safety Modernization Act” (S. 510). If passed, the amendment would ban all congressionally directed spending (earmarks) for the next three years.

While the savings would be trivial ($16 billion – or one-half of one percent of the $3.5 trillion federal budget), the ban would eliminate funding for 13 well-established, effective national programs. In addition to Reach Out and Read, the list of affected programs includes Teach for America, Reading is Fundamental, the Close Up Foundation, the National Writing Project, and VSA.

“The passage of this amendment would be catastrophic for Reach Out and Read and 12 other high quality, evidence-based programs that benefit millions of children and families in our country,” said Reach Out and Read CEO Earl Martin Phalen. “It’s unfathomable that Senators would put politics before helping American families struggling to stay afloat.” 

This year, Reach Out and Read was awarded $6 million in federal funding. With that funding, Reach Out and Read leveraged an additional $21 million in non-federal funding, enabling the organization to serve 4 million children and families through more than 4,600 pediatric practices, hospitals, and health clinics nationwide.

Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based, national nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud at regular pediatric checkups. The model includes providing a carefully-selected, new, age-appropriate book for each child to take home from every checkup from 6 months through 5 years.

Along with the free book for every child, doctors and nurses also provide guidance to parents about the importance of reading aloud with their children every day.  More than 27,000 medical providers nationwide currently participate in Reach Out and Read. 

This simple intervention results in children entering kindergarten with larger vocabularies, stronger language skills and a six-month developmental edge, significantly reducing their risks for poverty, illiteracy, and dependency in the future.

As scores of research studies show, “immunizing” children against illiteracy in the critical years before they enter school will result in millions of dollars in future cost savings. Reading difficulty increases the risks of school failure, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and dropping out – all of which are expensive to taxpayers. 

“The best way to protect America’s economic security for the future is to invest in early education, and vote against this shortsighted amendment,” said Phalen. “We hope and believe that in the end, the interests of children and our workforce will prevail.”

Please help to spread the word about this important and time-sensitive issue! Thanks!