×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tina Fey Aims to Bolster Literacy Rates With Nonprofit Reading Is Fundamental

Tina Fey became an Emmy-winning writer for “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” after learning to love books as a little girl. “I was read to every night for sure,” she says. “My dad would work and come home, and that would be daddy-daughter time. I remember him reading me ‘A Christmas Carol’ when I was in the second grade. And my teachers in school being like, ‘You’re reading this?’ He was like, ‘You can understand this.’”

Not every child has that same access to books. That’s why Fey supports Reading Is Fundamental, the nation’s leading literacy nonprofit since 1966. The organization, which was founded by Margaret McNamara (the wife of former secretary of defense Robert S. McNamara), has distributed 415 million books to more than 40 million children across the country and enlisted a million volunteers to bolster literacy rates.

Tina Fey Variety Power of Women NY Cover 2018
CREDIT: Brigitte Lacombe for Variety

In 2017, one million books were gifted to children who needed them, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. “There are 25 million children in America today who aren’t reading proficiently,” says Reading Is Fundamental president and CEO Alicia Levi. “That’s a problem we can solve.”

Reading Is Fundamental, or RIF, as it’s often called, operates by funneling money into local organizations.

“We invest in community literacy advocates,” Levi explains. “Sometimes they are schools. Sometimes they are parent groups. Those groups then take the final step to make those books available. In addition to that, we encourage those groups to create cultural literacy.”

As schools have embraced digital technology via computers and iPads in the classroom, Levi points to some troubling statistics. “If a child is texting, then they can be reading,” she says. But that’s not always the case. Recent studies suggest that 65% of children entering fourth grade aren’t proficient readers. By the time they graduate from high school, 63% of students don’t make the cut.“That’s a horrifying statistic in today’s day and age,” Levi says.

For 35 years, Reading Is Fundamental received millions of dollars in federal support. But in 2011, Congress cut all government spending to the nonprofit in a move to prioritize competition for funding. “As you can imagine, the loss of that funding severely affected communities across the country,” says Beth Meyer, the group’s chief marketing officer.

That means that the organization, which operates with about 25 employees, has had to rely on individuals and corporate sponsors such as Macy’s and Amazon. Last year the web goliath ran a two-week campaign with its consumers, asking them to chip in. That resulted in the sale of 11,400 books, which were donated to the charity. “It’s important that children have books of their own choice that they can call their own,” Levi says.

More TV

  • Us Television Writers and Producers Maria

    Mad Men’s’ Andre, Maria Jacquemetton Set for Series Mania’s UGC Writers Campus

    MADRID — André and Maria Jacquemetton, the Emmy and WGA Award-winning writer-producers of AMC’s “Mad Men” and consulting producers on Amazon Studios’ “The Romanoffs,” will serve as Guests of Honor at Series Mania’s UGC Writers Campus, a workshop whose participants include Denmark’s Christina Miller-Harris and Israel’s Noy Carmel. The Jacquemettons will deliver a masterclass and [...]

  • China Plans Remake of BBC Time-Travel

    China Plans Remake of BBC Time-Travel Cop Show ‘Life on Mars’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    A Chinese “Life on Mars” is in the works after BBC Studios and Phoenix Entertainment inked a deal to create a Mandarin-language version of the time-travel cop series. BBC Studios will officially unveil the format deal at Showcase, its annual programming market for international buyers, which is now underway in Liverpool, England. “Life on Mars” [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • 50 Cent Power

    NYPD Officer Under Investigation for Allegedly Telling Police to Shoot 50 Cent 'on Sight'

    A New York City precinct commander is under investigation for allegedly telling officers to shoot rapper 50 Cent on sight, a police rep confirmed to Variety on Sunday. “The matter is under internal review,” an NYPD rep said, declining to answer further questions. Deputy Inspector Emanuel Gonzalez is accused of telling officers during a June 7 roll [...]

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content