Competitors or Collaborators? A Q&A with Carol Rasco on How First Book Works with RIF

Carol Rasco, president and CEO of Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), recently answered some questions about the importance of the long partnership between First Book and RIF.

First Book's CEO & President, Kyle Zimmer & RIF's Presidnet, Carol RascoQ: RIF and First Book are sometimes thought of as competitors rather than partners. Could you put this myth to rest and explain the importance of this partnership?

Carol Rasco:  RIF and First Book have been close partners for many years. The missions and values of both our organizations are closely aligned, as we both strive to ensure that children in need have the high-quality books and resources they need to be successful.

Far from being competitors, we are strong collaborators! Through our continually growing partnership, more than 1,000 RIF programs across the country are able to access new, quality books for their kids through the First Book Marketplace. At the same time, many of the programs in First Book’s network use our resources for teachers, parents and community volunteers. These materials are developed based on Common Core Standards and cover multicultural favorites and science, technology, engineering, the arts and math themes.

We consider ourselves soldiers in the same war to close the gap of inequity when it comes to educational materials for kids in poverty, and we will continue fighting side by side to get more books into the hands of kids in need.

Q:  How have First Book and RIF worked together in the past?

Carol Rasco:  For over a decade, First Book has served as a distributor in the RIF Ready Pack program, providing access to low-cost collections of high-quality titles for RIF programs nationwide, through the First Book Marketplace.

In recent years, First Book and RIF have collaborated on numerous special projects such as the distribution of 600,000 new books nationwide in 2010-2011, a joint effort to support programs affected by Superstorm Sandy by providing 1,500 new books to Sandy affected areas in 2012, and, most recently, First Book won the bid to distribute 120,000 books for RIF’s Multicultural STEAM reading collection.  I also currently serve, and have served for several years, on First Book’s Advisory Council.

Q:   What are RIF and First Book currently working on together?

Carol Rasco:  RIF and First Book have recently joined together to distribute one million, brand-new books to RIF programs across the country, thanks to RIF’s long-time partnership with Macy’s! To date 500,000 new books have been distributed to RIF programs serving kids with the highest levels of need and the remaining 500,000 books will be dispersed, through the First Book Marketplace, prior to summer break.

This initiative has allowed RIF to maximize our resources and acquire books for our programs through First Book at a cost way below retail price.  In addition, the distribution of these books has focused on key times when kids are out of school and in high need for resources, including summer break, when so many children in low-income areas are without the education tools they need to prevent learning loss over the summer months.

Q:   What are RIF’s plans for this partnership going forward?

Carol Rasco:  We know we can count on First Book’s ongoing support for our RIF programs and we are excited to continue growing our partnership and developing more creative initiatives to get high-quality books into the hands of kids in need!