Reading is Fundamental of Northern Virginia, Inc

EIN: 51-0155758

Mission Statement

Books change lives. Reading Is Fundamental of Northern Virginia works to improve children’s lives by providing books to encourage an early and sustained love of reading, to augment reading opportunities and skills through book access and the development of home book libraries, and to help address the alarming and growing U.S. literacy crisis.

Program Summary

RIF of NOVA is an all-volunteer nonprofit that provides books for underserved children at 36 schools and sites in the City of Alexandria and in Arlington, Fairfax, and Prince William counties. The organization has served the Northern Virginia community for 52 years, during which time it has provided hundreds of thousands of books to area children who have few – to even no – books in their homes.

New Books for Ownership: Each year, RIF of NOVA raises funds to purchase new books-of-their-own-choosing for 20,000 underserved children at several child centers and Title 1 schools. Each child served is able to choose at least one book to take home annually; important because children who choose their own books are three times more likely to be frequent readers. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “The only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home.” The NOVA RIF “New Books for Ownership Program” begins to address this critical need.

Gently Used Books: During the pandemic when schools, school libraries, and public libraries were closed, NOVA RIF began a “Gently Used Book Program” to provide additional reading materials to children throughout our community, often delivered in conjunction with school food distributions. The program has collected almost 30,000 new and almost-new books for redistribution – not only to established NOVA RIF schools and sites but also to additional community partners and schools seeking reading materials for children and families.

Special Programming: In concert with local business partners, RIF of NOVA has been able to offer special programming to augment the number of books available for the children we serve. Additional initiatives are welcome. So far, special programs have included:

  • Authors in Our Schools – A multi-year program to bring authors and illustrators and their books to RIF of NOVA participating schools. 
  • STEAM It Up! – In partnership with Amazon and Amazon Web Services in Communities, this pilot program was created to provide local students with age-appropriate books and STEAM activities at several NOVA RIF schools.
  • Amazon’s December to Remember – Amazon and RIF of NOVA partnered up in a major effort to put books into the hands of several thousand NOVA area children just before the 2023 holiday break. The firm funded three new books each for all Pre-K through second grade children at an early childhood center and 14 Alexandria elementary schools.
  • Books & Budding Builders – Energy company AES provided STEM books to a local school, along with an active learning project that allowed children to build a mini wind turbine.

Impact Statement

A March 2023 Topic Paper from Scholastic Research & Validation noted that the likelihood of being on track in literacy and numeracy “almost doubled if at least one book was available in a student’s home.” RIF of NOVA’s programs ensure that disadvantaged children in the community we serve get at least one book every year from Pre-K to 5th, 6th, and sometimes 7th grade and, thus, the opportunity over the course of their school years to build a home library – also critical for school success. On this, the Scholastic Topic Paper noted: “Children in homes with more extensive home libraries read more, have higher-level reading skills, and attain more years of education overall than those with access to fewer books, even after controlling for parental education level.” The paper continued: “Increasing children’s access to books correlates to ‘dramatically positive effects’ on reading growth and achievement.”

The Scholastic research validates our efforts. The work of Reading is Fundamental of Northern Virginia – to provide at least one book annually to each child we serve and build, over the course of time, a home book library – is helping children to read – and succeed – in school and well beyond.

What ways can the public get involved?

Members of the public can help RIF of NOVA to do its work in three major ways: Giving funding, giving time, and giving books.

Giving funding: Our most pressing need each year is to raise funds to purchase new books for 20,000 underserved children at Title 1 schools in Northern Virginia. Members of the public can help with this need by giving donations themselves, helping to identify and connect with potential donors (individuals, foundations, businesses, etc.), providing hands-on help with fundraising activities such as a biannual 5K, and helping to communicate the dire need for books for children in the NOVA community.

Giving time: Among those needed are volunteers with backgrounds or skills in fundraising, event planning, social media expansion, program development, grant writing, nonprofit leadership, and community engagement. Time contributions can range from helping with a specific project to joining our board for a more sustained commitment. Anyone with these skills or interests is encouraged to contact RIF of NOVA at our email address:

Giving books: Volunteers are needed to organize new/gently used book drives, to sort books for quality, and to help give books at schools and community events.

How are charitable dollars spent? Where does my donation go?

Every $4.00 donation purchases one book for one child. The cost to provide one book each for 20,000 children means an annual need to raise approximately $80,000. Additional funding supports expanding special programming (STEAM It Up!, Authors in Our Schools, etc.). It could also increase the number of books given to each child annually or the number of schools participating in RIF of NOVA programming. The all-volunteer board that raises funds and administers book distribution programming is not paid. Mandatory expenses (such as insurance, tax preparation, etc.) are kept to an absolute minimum and totaled six percent of expenses in Fiscal Year 2022, our most recent tax filing.

A photo of a smiling child holding up a book titled "thank you helpers"

Information from January 2024