Ensuring children have access to books has proven instrumental in combating illiteracy in children in the U.S. Studies prove the simple act of reading a book to a child at bedtime has a direct impact on his or her educational growth and potential. To help fill this critical need, McDonald’s began distributing Happy Meal Books in 2013 and, by the end of this year, will have distributed more than 50 million books to children—enough to provide a book to every child in America under the age of 12.

To put that into more perspective, McDonald’s USA will have distributed more than twice the number of children’s books than are cataloged in the classification system at the Library of Congress, the largest library in the world.

“Our team at Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the nation’s largest children’s literacy organization, is pleased to partner with McDonald’s and its mission to put books in millions of little hands. Books are the building blocks for a better future; they foster the imagination, expand our understanding of the world, and fuel a lifelong love of learning,” says Carol Rasco, president and CEO of RIF. “There’s magic in books, and the simple act of reading with our children has a profound impact on their educational development. By giving them choices and increasing access to books, we can make a lasting difference in the lives of those who need us most.”

For children without access to books, the statistics are staggering. Nearly 65 percent of fourth graders read at or below the basic level. And more than 75 percent of children who are poor readers by the end of third grade remain poor readers and ultimately fall behind in school.

To help fix this we must get books into more young readers’ hands. Numerous studies confirmed the number of books in a home directly predicts a child’s proficiency at reading. In fact, a child who grows up with books in his or her home reaches a higher level of education than those who do not.

To further make an impact, McDonald’s has donated 100,000 books from this year’s Happy Meal Books program to RIF. With two-thirds of children living in poverty without books, McDonald’s is helping to provide critical access to books to inspire children to read.

“The benefits of reading abound. We know it increases a strong foundation of learning, keeps kids in school, increases graduation rates, and inspires the pursuit of post-secondary education and training required to transition into adulthood,” Rasco says. “We’re deeply committed and grateful to be working with McDonald’s and HarperCollins to ensure that books and the joy of reading remain a part of every child’s growth and development.”

Charitable Giving, News, McDonald's