A national fundraiser is helping Northside children get excited about reading this month and distributing free books through a campaign sponsored by Reading is Fundamental Pittsburgh and local Macy’s department stores.

Reading is Fundamental is the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the United States. The Pittsburgh branch operates out of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh on the Northside.

 RIF Pittsburgh manages programs in over 100 sites across the city, including schools, community centers and after-school programs. There are 20 sites on the Northside alone. This year’s campaign is called Be Book Smart.

 “Children at RIF Pittsburgh are so grateful and excited when they choose their RIF book,” said Kate Porigow, program director at RIF Pittsburgh. “Together with Macy’s, RIF motivates every child to be book smart and this campaign will provide more books for children in Pittsburgh.”

The goal is to raise $1 million to provide 1 million books. Now through the end of July, Macy’s customers can donate $3 to help provide a book for a child and in return receive a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $50. One hundred percent of each donation goes directly to Reading is Fundamental.

“It’s a big goal to say we’re going to sell a million coupons, but it’s attainable with everyone’s efforts,” RIF Pittsburgh Program and Development Associate Kathryn Heffernan said.

Although the campaign is designed to raise funds for the organization and provide children with books, the real motivation for their efforts is the children who are able to pick out their own book to keep. More than 10,000 books were given to Northside children last year through Reading is Fundamental programs.

Although the campaign is designed to raise funds for the organization, which will enable RIF to provide children with books, the real motivation for the effort lies with the children who are able to pick their own book to keep. More than 10,000 books were given to Northside children last year through Reading is Fundamental programs.

“A lot of these kids don’t have books in their home so we really try to give them pride and ownership in their books,” Heffernan said. “They chose the book, so there is a connection.”

The book giveaway campaign with Macy’s is one of the largest fundraisers for RIF, that helps fund a variety of other programs throughout the year.

 Due to federal funding cuts, RIF Pittsburgh is now responsible for covering 100 percent of the book costs, so the fundraiser is needed now more than ever.

Their largest program, Books for Keeps, runs three times a year and allows children to participate in motivational activities and receive free books. Many of these books come from national vendors and cover a wide variety of interests. RIF also receives occasional book donations.

On the Northside, RIF works with Pittsburgh Public Schools to facilitate an annual reading program which rewards students for finishing 25 books during the school year. There are also programs to develop good reading habits in Northside family homes.

“Our programs are centered on increasing access to books and creating a fun and motivational environment for kids,” said Heffernan.

For more information on RIF, visit www.rifpittsburgh.org. To find out more about this year’s Be Book Smart campaign, visit facebook.com/ReadingisFundamental or stop by your local Macy’s store.

Margaret Singer is currently working toward her master’s degree in journalism at Point Park University.