Montevallo students excited about reading

Daniel Carmona, of Kim Gray’s MES kindergarten class, is proud of his new book. (Contributed)

By CATHERINE LEGG / Community Columnist

The kindergarten and first-grade children in Montevallo Elementary School are always excited when the teachers tell them that today is RIF day.

That’s the day Becky Cox-Rodgers and her readers of the Montevallo Friends of RIF come to read stories to them and to give them each a book.

These are the very first books some of them have ever had for their very own.

RIF is the Reading is Fundamental program started 11 years ago by the local Kiwanis Club,

“When that club disbanded, the teachers asked more than once about RIF,” Cox-Rodgers said. “They expressed its importance to the little readers and told how it helped with the reading initiative. With the help of a grant from the Alabama Council of the Arts, we rallied old and new volunteers and started Montevallo Friends of RIF.”

It was fun to go along on a recent RIF day and watch the kindergarteners’ enthusiastic reactions to books with titles like “Old McDonald,” or “The Dirty Dog.” Some of their comments were: “I love the books; I read to my mom every day,” “I like to read; I read a book all day last night,” “I get dirty like the dog, but I bathe,” “Dad reads to me every day,” and one little fellow just sang all of “Old McDonald Had a Farm.”

Cox-Rodgers explained that this year UM’s Dr. Mary Jo Buff has drafted and coordinated the reading volunteers.

They include her Upward Bound students, the McNair students, Dr. Hollie Cost’s education students, and local volunteers like Mary Jane Evans, who comes with her high school students and their friends.

Each year the Friends of RIF visit the schools three times, and each time the children get to pick one book of their choice to take home.

Their names are put in the front of the book and the volunteers read that book to them.

Often pencils or bookmarks, with the picture of Riff the reading bulldog on them, are also given.

Reading is Fundamental is the nation’s oldest and largest non-profit children’s literacy organization.

The Montevallo Friends of RIF, over the last six years, has given out about 4,500 books at a cost of approximately $13,500.

The local branch of AAUW is their primary financial supporter, but they also receive assistance from the Montevallo Evening Garden Club, United Methodist Women, Parnell Memorial Library Foundation and individuals.

In addition to Cox-Rodgers and Buff, RIF committee members are Leanne Reed, Libbie Rodgers, Sandra Lott, Kathy McEntee, Kate Vogel and Mary Jo Buff.

Donations can be made to The Parnell Memorial Library Foundation, P. O Box 62, noted for RIF.

Catherine Legg can be reached by email at