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Reading is Fundamental

The RIF Program Proposal 

Reading is Fundamental/RIF is the largest children's literacy non-profit program in the United States. RIF believes every child deserves an opportunity to own books, learn how to read, and obtain the fundamental building blocks to achieve their highest potential. Literacy opens doors and enables every child the chance to live their own journey. 

Sister Patricia McKinney Lewis wrote the first project proposal for RIF.  The Epsilon Epsilon Omega Chapter received the first grant from the National Reading is Fundamental organization to help fund the RIF program in June 1980. The chapter's total RIF budget for the first year was $400. The RIF grant provided $300, and the chapter was responsible for $100 to purchase books for the summer project. 

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Patricia McKinney Lewis with RIF Summer Reading Program students in 1980.

The Vision for the RIF Program

When she was asked why she sought out the first RIF contract in 1980 and what her vision was for our community, Mrs. Lewis passionately stated, “I remembered as a child the first time I visited a library, I was amazed at the number of good books.  The library became a place I loved to visit. I fell in love with reading. Reading became very important to me as a child and a teen. My vision was that children with few resources would have the opportunity for book ownership and become avid readers. As a young teacher, I knew that the ability to read was the key to learning and understanding other subjects in school. I realized that some children lived in homes with no books. I started the RIF project for the sorority to provide books to children with few resources (low-income homes) during the summer months. Allowing children to select books that they are interested in reading promotes the love for reading.”

The Early Years of the Program

During the first year, the Chapter committee distributed books at three Champaign Park District summer camps: Centennial, Spalding, and Douglass.  In the second year, permission was granted to change the distribution sites to: Douglass Center Day Camp, Douglass Branch Library, Girls’ Club in Urbana, and Boys’ Club in Champaign. After the Girls' Club closed and the Douglass Branch Library moved, the sites for many years were the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club, Douglass Day Camp, Mount Olive Baptist Church, and St. Luke CME Church. In recent years, book distributions and read-ins in conjunction with National African American Read-In Day have been held at the Laura Lee Fellowship House in Danville, Canaan Baptist Church in Urbana, The Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center, Jettie Rhodes Day at King Park, and Champaign-Urbana Day at Douglass Park. 

The Chapter's 35th RIF Anniversary Celebration 

On February 27, 2015, the Epsilon Epsilon Omega RIF committee distributed books to more than 40 children at the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club in Champaign, Illinois. The books were purchased with a generous $500.00 donation from Macy’s Department Store in Champaign.  During the book distribution, sorority members read to students and talked to them about the importance of reading. The children signed a banner to thank Macy's for their generous donation, and celebrated Epsilon Epsilon Omega’s 35th RIF birthday with cake and punch. 

Summer Reading Resource Fairs

The RIF committee hosted Summer Reading Resource fairs from 2015 to 2019 at various locations in Champaign and Danville, Illinois. The resource fairs provided children and their families with books, reading logs, book lists by grade level, reading strategies, information about summer reading programs in the community, reading incentive programs from local businesses, and a variety of other resources to encourage reading during the summer.

Black Girl Brilliance Book Club

The RIF committee created a Black Girl Brilliance book club in the Fall of 2018 to encourage young Black girls to celebrate their brilliance. Each book club began with the reading and discussion of the poem “Black Girl Brilliance.” The book club's first book was Hidden Figures, a book about a group of brilliant African American female mathematicians who assisted with successfully sending rockets and men into space during the 1960s. The RIF Committee provided each girl with their own copy of Hidden Figures, a book reading guide, a journal to record their reflections about the book, the poem “Black Girl Brilliance,” a bookmark, a book bag, and a photo booth experience to capture their brilliance on camera. The committee hosted book clubs at Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, The Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center, Bethel AME Church, and Jericho Missionary Baptist Church.