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The Reading Is Fun Program

Schenectady, New York

“Where every child is everyone’s child”

First Annual Report


January 2014–January 2015


Program Overview


Acting with vision and vigor, The Reading Is Fun Program (RIF) has made enormous strides toward its goal of becoming a permanent, integral part of the civic life of Schenectady and the learning life of Schenectady children.


Currently, 70 Schenectady families are signed up to participate in the all-volunteer, free Reading Is Fun Program. Its 65 volunteers have been assigned families to contact and schedule meetings in public venues (library branches, Boys and Girls Club sites, churches, etc.) and begin working with "their" children and parents or other principal caregivers to teach reading-readiness (identifying letters, letter sounds, and letter combinations) and conversational skills and vocabulary—principally by the method of play, one-on-one, once weekly for 30–60 minutes.


RIF has also evolved to have its volunteers go into Schenectady City School District elementary schools' after-school programs for 4-year-old pre-kindergartners and 5-year-old kindergartners to teach select students identified by the classroom teachers as needing extra help. This facet of RIF activities is beginning in the week of Feb. 2 in Lincoln Elementary School, where 2 pre-K and 8 K children will be taught by 7 RIF volunteers and, at RIF's request, the school's principal and its coordinator for community and family affairs. Howe and Pleasant Valley Elementary Schools are slated to be next.




RIF has established partnerships as follows:


  • The Schenectady City School District has conducted three volunteer training sessions with the promise of more as needed, provided RIF with teaching materials, is showcasing RIF on the district website, Facebook page and e-News formats, and is arranging background checks for the growing cohort of RIF volunteers.

  • The Schenectady City School District Education Foundation has agreed to allow RIF to operate under its 501(c)3 umbrella.

  • The First United Methodist Church in downtown Schenectady is providing RIF with office space and teaching venues at no charge, with the local GE Elfun Society expected to donate a computer system for the RIF office.

  • The Schenectady Police Department, the Schenectady County Sheriff's Office, and the Schenectady Federation of Teachers have agreed to advocate among their ranks for volunteer teachers for RIF, with the goal also of fostering better relations especially between the police and other uniformed services and minority communities in the city.

  • The Schenectady Boys and Girls Club is providing RIF with teaching venues and free-of-charge liability insurance for all the RIF volunteers.

  • RIF has partnerships also with the historic (National Registry) Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, to help RIF build its stock of donated children's books and to provide a venue for RIF activities, and with the Blue Roses Theatre in the John Sayles School for the Fine Arts at Schenectady High School, to provide reading-relevant performance programming.


More partnerships are anticipated.


Public Relations and Raising of Funds and In-Kind Donations


  • The RIF logo of the Book Worm artwork, displayed prominently on the RIF website and Facebook page, has been donated.

  • The design and management of the RIF Facebook page (The Reading Is Fun Program) and website (  have been donated.

  • More than 900 children's books and sundry educational apparatus and writing supplies have already been donated, with more anticipated.

  • $15,000 in grants and individual donations have been raised, with more anticipated to meet varied program teaching needs and to hire one or two part-time salaried personnel to manage the increasingly complex RIF central administration.


RIF Looks Ahead


RIF's goals and plans for the next 3-5 years are to broaden its activities, as follows:


  • to have ever more RIF volunteers work with ever more Schenectady families and their 4-year-olds who are not yet enrolled in district schools;

  • to embed RIF volunteers in the after-school programs of all nine elementary schools in the city, to work there with 4- and 5-year-olds enrolled in the school district's pre-K and K classes, and, where possible, with the children's parents or other principal caregivers present;

  • to have RIF volunteers work in all the elementary schools' after-school programs with youngsters in Grades 1, 2, and 3 who are deemed by the classroom teachers as needing additional help in learning reading-readiness and conversational skills and vocabulary, again, where possible, with the children's parents or other principal caregivers present—to help counter the propensity of many third-graders across the nation to fall off the reading and math tracks and never get back on, with insidious effects for the youngsters' later lives, their communities, and the nation;

  • to explore the possibility of transforming RIF from a 10-month (September–June) program into a year-round (September–August) program, to improve the prospects that its pre-K, K, and Grades 1, 2, and 3 student participants will not suffer a diminution in reading skills over the summer hiatus between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next one; and

  • to periodically mount Reading Rallies in public venues around the city, comprising clusters of 4- and 5-year-olds and their parents or other principal caregivers and volunteer teachers, to engage in reading-related activities, and a Grand Reading Jamboree, to be held in a public venue each year in June, comprising all the youngsters in RIF and their parents or other principal caregivers and all the volunteer teachers, again to engage in reading-related activities, with all the youngsters receiving awards for having participated in the program.


The Reading Is Fun Program Board of Directors


Al Magid 

Founder and Executive Director

Mary Lou Russo

Chief Operating Officer

Phyllis Holzhauer

Director for Community Outreach


Nicki Foley

Director for Communications


Gordon Zuckerman

Finance administrator, Liaison from the Schenectady City School District Education Foundation


Kate Abbott

Liaison from the Schenectady City School District

Director for Instructional Support Services

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