The New York Times is reporting today that federal funding for RIF is in grave danger under Department of Education budget proposals. Reading this made me feel ill and, as a proud Chicagoan, almost betrayed by Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. His mother is a respected educator in Chicago, having worked on the southeast side of The City for nearly 50 years. I am quite sure that Mr. Duncan has known from his earliest years just how important it is to cultivate a love of reading in the hearts and minds of our most at-risk children. After all, they will be leading us one day!
When I was in the first or second (I think second) grade, we didn't have much. One magical day, our teacher led us to the school library where tables were set up, piled high with books. Now, I always loved a trip to the library, even then, but on that day, something astonishing happened - she told us to look carefully at the books and then... we could choose one to take home and keep! It was like Christmas and my Birthday and the Luckiest Day Ever, all rolled up together. And, boy, did I take my time! At long last, I settled on Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. (Some of you remember the awesomely trippy purple cover.) No one told me I was too young or tried to change my mind. The nice RIF lady just confirmed, "That's the one you want? Okay."
I still have that book. There were many times I didn't have "kids" novels in the house. I read the World Book and Harlequin romances and a collection of Poe stories and whatever I could find. I even re-read all the Dr. Seuss books we had around the house, but that novel was something else.
Darlings, I am growing old. That was close to 30 years ago (ack!) and I still remember how special I felt and how that fed my (admittedly, already pretty strong) love of books. And now we want to take that same opportunity away from other kids, those who probably need it more than I ever did?
Shame on you, Arne Duncan and Department of Education. You have cleft my heart in twain.
NOTE: RIF is asking supporters to urge their senators to sign a letter in support of RIF. You can get more info here.