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Community Corner: Nonprofit Partners With Macy's For Children's Literacy

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) - Recent research shows a middle income neighborhood has an average of 13 books per child. But in low income neighborhoods the ratio is only one book for every 300 children. The national nonprofit Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) has been working to support children's literacy and fight this discrepancy since 1966.

In the Bay Area, RIF has 200 site programs that serve 39,000 children in various school districts, Head Start programs, the Oakland Unified School District and more.

KCBS' Connie C. Kim talks to Ernestine Benedict, VP of Marketing and Communications at Reading Is Fundamental, about the organization and its latest projects:

RIF has partnered with Macy's in their latest "Be Book Smart" campaign to raise 1 million books for underserved children across the country.

Macy's customers can donate $3 at any register to help provide a book for a child and receive a $10 off coupon through July 31st. Macy's will donate 100 percent of every donation to RIF.

Macy's and RIF will have two "Be Book Smart"-branded Smart Cars roving San Francisco July 1st through the 3rd. Equipped with a speaker system the car talks and may ask passers-by some children's book-related trivia questions. Participants can win prizes, including Macy's gift cards.

RIF distributes free books to 4.4 million children and families every year at roughly 17,000 sites across the U.S. in every state plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Last year alone they distributed 15 million books to children.

"The favorite part of my job is when I go out and actually get to be a part of giving books to kids," said Ernestine Benedict, VP of Marketing and Communications at RIF. Kids get to choose which books they want and when they find out they can actually keep the books, their eyes get big and they can hardly believe it.

"That experience alone is outstanding - to see the smiles on their faces," Benedict shares. "I often sit down on the floor when I read to children and I want to make sure they can see my face and see the pictures in the book and by the time I'm half way through the book they're so close to me, that just fills me with joy."

She adds that there is still power in books and RIF is dedicated to helping children love to read.

With the recent budget cuts, they've lost their federal funding which accounted for almost 80% of the organization's operating budget. It's a struggle but they are working hard with a volunteer team of over 400,000 people across the nation.

For more information on Reading Is Fundamental, to volunteer or donate go to

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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