Back to school shopping? Round up your purchase at Macy’s and help boost literacy in underserved communities.

This year, your back-to-school shopping can have a positive impact for local families, and all you have to do is round up at checkout. But first, let’s talk about America’s literacy problem. Did you know that two-thirds of children living in poverty do not own books?

For these children, schools and local libraries are often the only place where books are easily accessible. And what about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on these under-resourced communities as children were learning remotely? The experience of a child living in an impoverished community is vastly different from the experience of other children. There has been a 27-point gap in literacy proficiency between Black students and their White counterparts for almost thirty years. The pandemic will likely only worsen these numbers.

The ability to read and write is something many of us take for granted (you’re reading this article right now!), but according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sixty-five percent of American 4th graders read below grade level. This sobering statistic translates to approximately 8,000 students dropping out of school every single day. Low literacy rates disproportionately affect poor, underserved areas — students drop out of school, get locked out of the job market due to a lack of education, and the cycle of poverty continues.

Simply put, inequitable access to literacy resources and support is a major part of what perpetuates a cycle of poverty that makes it difficult to succeed academically and ultimately in the workplace.

Literacy isn’t only about classroom education — it plays a vital role in transforming children into socially and civically engaged citizens. It means being able to keep up with current events, communicate effectively, pass a driving test, and understand the issues that are shaping our world. It enables us to self-advocate, understand finances, and make better decisions regarding healthcare, housing, and nutrition. The fact that twenty-five million children in the U.S. cannot read proficiently is alarming because every child deserves equitable access to books and education, and we must all come together to address this crisis and make a real change. That statistic doesn’t bode well for our future.


Macy’s wants to support creating a literate America until every child reads, which is why for the past 18 years, they’ve partnered with Reading Is Fundamental to provide more than 14 million books and thousands of supplemental literacy resources for children across the country.

Photo courtesy of Macy’s

Additionally, Macy’s is a founding partner of the organization’s Race, Equity, and Inclusion (REI) Initiative, which launched in fall of 2020. The purpose of this effort is clear: to provide books and literacy resources to the most marginalized, the most disenfranchised, the most at-risk youth in America, located primarily in the underserved communities of color — and use the power of books for positive impact and change, showcasing diverse books, characters and authors.

The goal is to extend all children the opportunity to reach their potential and to see themselves and a reflection of their experiences in the books they read, inspiring generations to read, learn and grow. RIF’s approach not only helps families build diverse at-home libraries, but also builds up diverse book collections at local schools so that every student has an opportunity to see themselves in the books they read and learn about others to create empathy and inclusion.

“Thank you so much for all your organization has done [during COVID]… it’s been a difficult time for schools & families. We have been able to begin a book distribution program in Athens that will continue throughout the summer. We estimate we’ve given out over 12,000 books with no end in sight. Our precious children light up when they get to choose their beautiful new books—and they are reading!” said Jennifer Walker, a Librarian at Ingleside Elementary, in Athens, TN.

So, as you’re shopping at Macy’s to prepare for the coming school year, be sure to round up your in-store purchase to the nearest dollar and donate your extra change or donate online. A $4 donation equals one book, and one hundred percent of the donations go directly to Reading Is Fundamental, leaving a direct impact by funding critical literacy needs in communities that have the greatest need.

Let’s join together to support children’s literacy until every child reads.

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