I was reminded again this morning that RIF of Cowlitz County, which provided the children of this area free books since 1974, was discontinued as of this year. This is awful and tragic and disgusting. As written language slips closer and closer to losing the nuance and detail available with a full vocabulary and reader appreciation of clever syntax, rhythm, and subtle word-play (in favor of icons for thumbs, smiley faces, and poop), the powers that be have chosen to eliminate one of the best means of getting actual BOOKS into the hands of young kids.
My first RIF book, which I was shocked and thrilled to receive way back in 1977, was Maurice Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.
The book made a REAL impact on me, encouraging my love of reading, inspiring me to draw monsters, and moving me to spend countless hours in libraries, book shops, and thrift stores looking for more paper treasures. And I wouldn’t have received that book without RIF—and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the influence that ONE BOOK had on my life. No exaggeration, no hyperbole. It is because of RIF that I became a life-long reader and an artist/writer/poet/editor.
And now, the kids in Cowlitz County, Washington, USA, will not have the opportunity to receive a similar encouraging push. It’s a tragedy. Reading IS fundamental, but it’s no longer being supported in the same way or with the same emphasis as it was when I was a kid.
RIP – RIF of Cowlitz County.
—Richard F. Yates
(Commander in Cheap of The Primitive Entertainment Workshop)