Mike and I were invited by RIF President, Carol Rasco, to attend the RIF Gala last night at the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. (You might remember that Carol is in my awesome DC Kidlit Book Club and that she invited me to visit the RIF offices not too long ago.)
I wish I'd taken more pictures, but honestly, I was too busy having fun. Before dinner, there was a reception and silent auction of incredible art work by both children and professional children's book illustrators. (You can see the art in a gallery on the RIF Gala site. I adore that frog! Also the alien with lots and lots of arms so he can read multiple books at once.)
There was a photo area with props--- huge funky glasses and striped Cat in the Hat toppers and wildly colorful parasols. (Why oh why didn't I scoot over there and take a picture with my husband?)
There were lots and lots of lovely people milling about, including some of the wonderful RIF staff members who remembered me from my visit, and of course, Carol to hug and thank, and surprise! a fellow blogger. Carol had invited Liz Burns from A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy, who was in town for a meeting of librarians from the National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. (You can read a wonderful interview about her work here.) But I knew Liz also from her tweets about books and pop culture, so I had to bring up our mutual love of Friday Night Lights. (If you're not watching this show, why not?) Luckily, Mike is a big FNL fan, too, so we had a great conversation about how FNL portrays teens so well in a way that is rare on TV. We also told Liz, who served on the Schneider Family Award committee last year, how thrilled we both were with the choice of Marcelo in the Real World. Liz, I hope to see you again at ALA!
The reception was followed by a yummy dinner, and an honoring of volunteers, including a beautiful slide show of former RIF kids who grew up to be awesome RIF adults. A boy who was given a book about the excavation of Troy who grew up to be an archeologist. A girl who was given My Brother Sam is Dead, and grew up to be a college professor of literature and later tracked down a copy of that same book to hold with delight in her adult photograph, proudly showing the RIF stamp on the side of the worn paperback.
And my favorite image of all? A boy slyly hugging his book---the book he'd just been given by RIF---his book, and his alone, and you can see the joy and the incredible glee and the "I'm the king of the world" grin on his face.
At the end of the night, we were served a buffet of desserts that included chocolate mousse on silver spoons and tiny pastel colored macaron cookies. While munching on those goodies, a woman came to talk to Mike, who was in his AF uniform. She told him her husband had flown F-4s, and had been killed in an accident with the RAF over Wales many years ago. She'd gone back to school and started a new life, and is now a professor of children's literature in Ohio. We talked a bit more about military families and kids books, and then in a mind-boggling moment, she said to me "You should really read Operation Yes."
I don't know if there's much cooler than a person recommending your own book to you! She also told me that her university has a Creative Drama department for teachers, which I must check out.
Also during dessert time, we could sign up to sponsor a set of multi-cultural books to be given to RIF kids (which of course, we did. You can too.) We were given the lovely books in the centerpieces to take home and share with children, as well as plantable bookmarks.
Look at these beautiful centerpieces!
All in all, it was a book-and-light-filled night. If you don't know RIF, you should. If you aren't supporting RIF, you should. If you want to know more, check out the nation's oldest and largest non-profit literacy organization. They change lives. They really do.