Learning to Read

Popular reading programs for children

Reading is a basic skill at the root of most of our survival in the world today. There are many children, though, who struggle with learning to read for an array of reasons. The following three reading programs may be of assistance to you if your child needs help learning to read or gaining access to books.

Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) is the oldest and largest nonprofit family reading program in the United States. Founded in 1966 by former teacher Margaret McNamara, it's a grassroots organization whose top priority is reaching underprivileged children up to age 8. Its basic elements include providing motivation to read, encouraging parental and community involvement and spreading the joy of owning your own books.


Funded in part by the U.S. government and supported by the U.S. Department of Education, coordinators and volunteers, RIF distributes 16 million new, free books and literacy resources to over 4.5 million children annually, in all 50 states and U.S. territories. It offers services to all sorts of organizations, including Head Start, child care service providers and libraries. Any public nonprofit organization can apply for assistance from this program. Visit the website to find out more (www.rif.org) or contact them at contactus@rif.org.

Reach Out and Read (ROR) is a national nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy. Founded in 1989 by Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center), its purpose is to incorporate literacy into pediatric care. Doctors and nurses are trained in instructing parents on the importance of reading to their children, and they give books to children aged 6 months to 5 years at office visits. ROR serves 2.8 million children annually and distributes 4.6 million books each year. The program is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and over 46,571 health professionals have been trained. Their website is www.reachoutandread.org if you'd like to know more.

Hooked on Phonics (HOP) was founded in 1987 by a father whose son was struggling to read. He developed the system to help his son. Children learn new concepts, practice until they master them, and then play educational games and read books to apply the knowledge. Hooked on Phonics works by strengthening the association of letters with the sounds they make when spoken. Educators, parents, artists and writers all contribute to the creation of its step-by-step system. A wide variety of educational products are available; these begin working with the child at his or her level and carry the child on to higher levels. The 20-year-old system has helped over 2 million families and thousands of schools. It targets all ages and has won numerous awards over the years. Most recently, it won a Teachers' Choice Award in 2007. For more information, visit the website at www.hooked-on-phonics.com.

I grew up watching my father read and developed a love for books myself. To try to instill this in my children, at bedtime, I allowed them to either go right to bed and sleep or lie in bed and read books for 15 to 30 minutes. Which do you think they always chose?

The above programs, and others like them, are excellent resources for teaching your child to read, but never forget what a parent's approval and support can accomplish.

By Trudi Buck