(WTVM) - Experts estimate a child who is not a fluent reader by 4th grade is likely to struggle with reading in adulthood.
However, the oldest children literacy organization in the country, Reading is Fundamental or RIF, is changing those statistics locally here in Lee County.
"We are one of its 5,000 projects across the United States. Our project specifically serves at risk young children ages zero to five. Our purpose is to get books into their hands and home before they start school," explains Executive Director of Jean Dee RIF, Cathy Gafford.
Jean Dean RIF, located in Opelika, has been in operation for 23 years and has served over 460,000 children by distributing nearly 1.5 million books.
"We're the only warehouse that distributes to the state of Alabama and we're the second biggest RIF project for toddlers in the country," says J.M. Anderson, Volunteer/ Shipping Coordinator at Jean Dean RIF
Unfortunately, at the end of 2011, RIF was dropped from the federal budget and they lost their ability to apply for grants.
"That means we lose 1/3 of our funding. Our choice was to drop 8,000 kids or really put our nose to the grindstone and come up with funding locally," explains Gafford.
Now you can help.
Saturday, Jean Dean RIF will be hosting the Truel Watts Ride to Read Poker Run.
The event combines a poker tournament and motorcycle tour of Lee County beginning at the Big Swamp Harley-Davidson in Opelika at 8:30 AM.
"We encourage everybody who rides to come because what we are trying to do is make money to buy books for at risk children, so we want everybody to come and have a good time so we can make money for those babies," says Gafford.
A $35 registration fee includes a T-shirt, three hands of poker and lunch provided by Outback Stakehouse.