Carol Henault, Executive Director at Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California, discusses how bringing books to children from low-income homes can expand their personal libraries as well as their minds. This episode was produced in collaboration with KLCS.
Voyage LA Magazine Featured Carol Henault
Today we’d like to introduce you to Carol Henault.
Carol, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Who would predict a Cornell University biochemistry major would end up as the Executive Director of a children’s literacy nonprofit – certainly not me. But when I think back, my earliest memories are filled with books – The Black Stallion, Fury, Bobbsey Twins, Lassie, My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty, National Velvet, Nancy Drew, Little Women. Even then, I escaped into books – they filled my life. So, not so surprising I landed where I did. Thirty years after college, I found myself with two teenage daughters, ready – and needing – to go back to work to continue my career. But I soon realized that biochemical research and technology had passed me by. I would have to go back to school to catch up – and this wasn’t plausible as I needed a job ASAP. And then, serendipitously, I stumbled into my first nonprofit job working with kids – helping people – and suddenly felt filled with fresh energy and a flourishing passion. And I thought – what if I could combine my love for books with helping kids?
Being the Executive Director of Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California – better known as RIFSoCal – for the past 15 years has been, and IS, my dream come true. It is one of the most important jobs I could have and every day, when I walk into our warehouse on the way to my office, all I smell are BOOKS – all I see are BOOKS – and I’m in heaven – and determined to make a difference in our kids’ lives. “So Many Books, So Little Time” is painted on my office door, and my book, almost always with me, is on my table – ready in case I have a few minutes to read. I’m happy to admit my book is my security blanket.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Thirty years after college, I found myself with two teenage daughters, ready – and needing – to go back to work to continue my career. But I soon realized that biochemical research and technology had passed me by. I would have to go back to school to catch up – and this wasn’t plausible as I needed a job ASAP. And then, serendipitously, I stumbled into my first nonprofit job working with kids – helping people – and suddenly felt filled with fresh energy and a flourishing passion.
Please tell us about Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California (RIFSoCal).
In our 47-year history RIFSoCal has distributed 4.7M books and served 1.6M children! RIFSoCal is the largest childhood literacy nonprofit in our region. We currently partner with 307 high poverty preschools, elementary and middle schools, Head Start programs and community-based organizations throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties. This year alone we will serve over 60,000 disadvantaged children, providing them with almost 200,000 new books to build their home libraries. Children experience the wonder of three Motivational Reading Events each year that celebrate literacy, bring together school, parents and community, and surround them with a growing certainty that literacy really must be important. At the conclusion of each event, children choose a brand-new book – many for the first time, to take home and keep as their own – a book to discover the magic of reading for FUN. What a wonderful gift we give them!
“Thanks to the RIFSoCal team for the passion and relentless effort in supplying all children with that LOVE of books and reading!” “My Daughter chose On the Road, a book about vehicles. She couldn’t wait to share it with her dad during their evening reading time. It is an awesome thing to see children excited about reading.” “Thank you for the RIFSoCal books. Thank you for adopting our school. The free books will help us learn. They will help us love reading. I enjoyed reading my book about the tropical rainforest. I learned that we need to save the tropical rainforest. It was thoughtful of you to help our school. It made me adore reading.” “Ninety percent of those we serve live at or below the poverty level and the excitement each child has at the thought of choosing something that is their ‘own’ is priceless.” “Children love to get their hands on new books. They carry them around for days to read during playtimes!” No wonder I’m so passionate about the work I do every day…
I’m also plagued by the children’s literacy crisis in our country: Two out of three children living in poverty in the United States today have no books of their own. Students who live in poverty and cannot read on grade level by 3rd grade are 13 times less likely to graduate high school on time. There is a direct correlation between poor literacy, high school dropout, and ultimately crime and incarceration. Quite simply, letting a child choose a new book to keep as their very own is one of the most powerful yet simple tools we have to support our children’s development. Instilling a love of reading determines whether a person will become employable at a living wage, whether they will participate in their communities – or whether we will lose their talents. As former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings once said, “Reading is more than a pastime. In today’s world, it’s a survival skill. A child who can read is a child who can learn and a child who can learn is a child who can succeed.” Onwards!
RIFSoCal and KidLit TV
Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California is delighted to announce our new, magical partnership with KidLit TV!
KidLit TV is a winner of the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, the Norton Juster Award for Devotion to Literacy, and one of the American Library Association’s Great Websites for Kids. KLTV is available in over 700,000 schools worldwide via our website and video distribution partners. They are a diverse group of parents, educators, librarians, kid lit creators, and award-winning filmmakers working together to create fun new ways to reinforce an appreciation of reading that children will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
LINK to all Read Out Loud episodes with graphics featuring individuals shows throughout the day/week: https://kidlit.tv/
Join Forces To Promote Children's Literacy and Independent Publishing
Rise Up Foundation Sponsors RIFSoCal's 2019 - 2020 Bookmarks
Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California is delighted to announce our new, magical partnership! Each book purchased through MagicBeans Bookstore supports independent publishing AND enables the donation of a brand-new children’s book for RIFSoCal children to take home to keep as their very own.
Independent authors and artists celebrate their diverse voices, breaking the mold and making ALL children feel included by bravely writing about autism, bullying, multiculturalism, diversity, LGBT, spirituality, self-esteem, as well as other topics often overlooked by mainstream publishers of children’s books.
RIFSoCal and MagicBeans fiercely believe every child deserves to experience the magic of books.
Rise Up Foundation
Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California so appreciates the special book Rise Up Foundation donated for our sites! RIFSoCal will distribute 500 copies of All Are Welcome by Alex Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman directly to site libraries for teachers to check out and use as a springboard to celebrate diversity and promote conversation about inclusiveness in their classroom.
Proud Partner of Story Monsters Ink
Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California
Announces Partnership with Story Monsters Ink Magazine
Los Angeles, CA (April, 2018) – A staggering 60 percent of students growing up in low-income households do not have any age-appropriate books in their homes. In an effort to get new, suitable books into the hands of more children in need, two staunch advocates for children’s literacy are joining forces. Story Monsters Ink magazine and Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California (RIFSoCal) are teaming up to create home libraries for kids and motivate them to read.
An award-winning monthly magazine, Story Monsters Ink is the literary resource for teachers, librarians and parents. Each issue offers book reviews, author interviews, reading lists and more. The magazine also features poems, stories and articles written by kids and its popular #Caught Reading program encourages readers of all ages to open up a book.
“It is such an honor for us to partner with RIFSoCal,” says Linda F. Radke, a former special education teacher, president of Story Monsters LLC and publisher of Story Monsters Ink. Every single child deserves to know the joy of reading and every single book makes a difference. I’m so proud to work with RIFSoCal to bridge the reading gap and give hope, love, and dreams to children in need.”
Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California was formed in 1972 and works with underserved youth in Orange and Los Angeles Counties. Volunteers, including parents, teachers, librarians, school administrators and civic leaders orchestrate the book distribution events, demonstrating the community’s support for children’s literacy. Children choose their own brand-new books to keep and read for fun. The books are provided at no charge to the children or their families. A 501c3 nonprofit, RIFSoCal has been recognized for its successful multi-site program, the largest within the RIF organization.
“Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California is honored to join forces with Story Monsters Ink to encourage children’s passion for reading, as this is the greatest gift we can give them on their personal road to success,” says Carol K. Henault, executive director of Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California. “I am so inspired by Story Monsters and their role as a top-rate literary resource. Our partnership will help ensure RIFSoCal children have new books to keep as their very own – many for the first time – and allow them to discover the magic of reading. I am proud to stand with Story Monsters Ink and together, move forward with fierce determination to improve the literacy potential of our children.”
This year alone, the combined goal for these two literacy powerhouses is to reach 68,000 children with over 200,000 new books and make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children, one book at a time.
Carmax and RIFSoCal!
On October 29th, 19 Carmax volunteers came to help us out, collating and packaging 30,000 bookmarks into bookmark and bookplate packets. Thank you so much for your amazing, and hard work Carmax!!!