A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Biennial Evaluation Report - FY 93-94

Chapter 128

Educational Improvement Partnerships--National Programs Inexpensive Book Distribution

(No CFDA Number)

I. Program Profile

Legislation: Section 1563 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended (20 U.S.C. 2963) (expires September 30, 1999).

Purpose: To support and promote the establishment of reading motivation programs, including the distribution of inexpensive books to students in order to encourage students to learn to read.

Funding History

Fiscal Year Appropriation Fiscal Year Appropriation
1982 $5,850,000 1988 $7,659,000
1983 5,850,000 1989 8,398,000
1984 6,500,000 1990 8,576,000
1985 7,000,000 1991 9,271,000
1986 6,698,000 1992 10,000,000
1987 7,800,000 1993 10,029,000
1988 7,659,000 1994 10,300,000

II. Program Information and Analysis

Population Targeting

The Inexpensive Book Distribution Program is directed at preschool, elementary, and secondary students. As a result of the National Literacy Act Amendment of 1991, the program places a selection priority, for new grantees, on children with special needs--such as low-income children, children at risk for school failure, children with disabilities, emotionally disturbed children, foster children, homeless children, migrant children, children without access to libraries, institutionalized children, incarcerated children, and children whose parents are institutionalized or incarcerated. Since the Literacy Act passed, 35 new projects--that serve over 20,000 children--have been added to the 3,000 previously funded projects.

The Administration's proposal for reauthorizing the Inexpensive Book Distribution Program would encourage local capacity building by limiting the number of years projects can receive funding, and give priority to new projects serving children with special needs.


The program, administered through a contract between the U.S. Department of Education and Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF), provides inexpensive books to students in conjunction with motivational activities to encourage reading. RIF also arranges discounts for distributors to enable local projects such as schools, PTAs, and community organizations to purchase books at reduced rates.

With FY 1993 funds, approximately 3,000 federally funded local projects are distributing an estimated 6.6 million books to 2.2 million children in 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. Since 1976, RIF has distributed over 100 million books to local groups through its subcontractor book companies (III.2). (This figure includes books donated to the program, as well as those purchased with program funds.)

Federally funded RIF projects serve five percent of the U.S. school-age population. The highest proportions of school-age children served, 68 percent, are in the District of Columbia, where the program originated, followed by Vermont (16 percent), Rhode Island (15 percent), Alaska (13 percent), and New Mexico (10 percent). The lowest proportions (one percent) of school-age children are served by federally funded projects in Georgia, Nebraska, and Nevada (III.2).

Program Administration

This program is conducted by Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF), a non-profit organization through a contract with the U.S. Department of Education. A 1992 evaluation found that 57 percent of the federally funded local projects are operated by schools and districts, 23 percent by PTAs and PTOs, and the remainder by service groups (11 percent), library associations (three percent, and other organizations. The substantial proportion of projects operated by PTAs and PTOs suggests that access to the program may depend on active parental involvement (III.2).

In FY 1990, 12 percent of the Federal funds allocated were used for national administration costs relating to the program. These costs included salaries, office rent and supplies. National office functions include approving organizations to run local projects, processing book invoices, and negotiating and monitoring agreements with book suppliers. RIF does not have a structured system for approving new federally funded projects. Thus, the projects receiving Federal funding remain essentially the same each year (III.2).

Federal funds pay for 75 percent of the book costs for all federally funded projects, except those serving children of migrant farmworkers, which receive 100 percent Federal funding. With this exception, federally funded projects must raise funds to cover the remaining 25 percent of book cost and 100 percent of any other costs. Other local RIF projects are supported entirely by funds from private contributions and local fundraising efforts. Ninety-nine percent of staff operating federally funded projects are unpaid volunteers, which keeps operational costs low (III.2).

Local RIF projects differ in their administrative practices based on the number of sites. One-or two-site projects have a project coordinator who organizes project activities, enlists the support of volunteers, and selects and coordinates book selection committee members and activities. Multi-site projects include staff at a mid-management level, who oversee selected sites (III.2).


Isolated studies of a limited number of projects have found increases in the amount of time the children served spent reading, the number of books they bought or owned, their positive attitudes toward reading, and the likelihood that they discussed books with other students (cited in III.2). However, comparable national data do not exist. RIF does not currently collect quantitative outcome data but provides anecdotal testimonials concerning project results.

Management Improvement Strategies

An evaluation of the Inexpensive Book Distribution Program suggests that RIF be required to make the development of financial self-sufficiency of local RIF projects an immediate priority, through working with local projects to assess their financial stability. The Department is proposing, through the reauthorization of the program, that RIF be required to distribute Federal funds to only those local projects serving children least likely to have access to books (III.2).

III. Sources of Information

  1. Program files for funding history.

  2. Abbott, C., Yudd, R., and Gutmann, B., Evaluation of the Inexpensive Book Distribution Program. (Washington, DC: Office of Policy and Planning, U.S. Department of Education, 1992).

IV. Planned Studies


V. Contacts and Further Information

Program Operations:
Carrolyn N. Andrews, (202) 260-2670

Program Studies:
Joanne Bogart, (202) 401-1958

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