100 Million Books to Kids in Need

Feb 21, 2012, 09:10 ET from First Book

First Book Celebrates 20 Years of Creating Success Stories by Bringing More Books to More Kids

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- First Book, a nonprofit that provides new books and educational resources to children in need, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a call to action.  This year, First Book pledges to distribute its 100 millionth new book, and double the number of schools and programs in its national network, from 25,000 to 50,000.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20101214/DC17316LOGO-b)

The organization is also planning to expand its digital offerings to include e-books and other educational resources.  In addition, First Book, which currently operates across the U.S. and in Canada, is developing pilot programs in India and the United Kingdom.

"First Book is on a mission to use the knowledge we've gained in the past 20 years to dramatically increase our outreach to children in need," said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. "We're at a critical juncture:  the number of children living in poverty is at record levels, and budget shortfalls are increasing stresses on schools, libraries and social services across the country."

"The facts are clear," said Zimmer. "Access to a steady stream of books at home – from birth through high school graduation – is a key predictor of success in school. But the majority of low-income families have no age-appropriate books for their children. For these children this means starting school well behind their peers, an achievement gap that leads to poor school performance, poor attendance and lower graduation rates.  This is a problem we have the power to solve."

"Every child – regardless of the neighborhood where they live – should have the opportunity to become a success story," said Zimmer. 

Over the last 20 years, First Book has created innovative channels for getting new books to children in need:

  • The First Book Marketplace is a website that makes new, high-quality books available exclusively to Title I schools and community programs serving children from low-income families.  The site offers thousands of high-quality new books – including Caldecott and Newbery winners – at prices 50 to 90 percent below retail. 
  • The First Book National Book Bank is a clearinghouse of new books donated by publishers and available free to eligible schools and programs.

"This is great news for teachers and families," said Walter Dean Myers, a best-selling children's author and longtime supporter of First Book who was recently named the national ambassador for young people's literature. "In our current economy, with funds for education being cut across the board, someone needs to stand up for our most vulnerable kids and make sure they have what they need, and there is simply no other organization with First Book's experience, commitment and record of success."

First Book has distributed over 90 million books since its founding in 1992.  In addition to distributing its 100 millionth book and nearly doubling the number of recipient groups by the end of 2012, First Book plans to:

Expand the First Book Marketplace
First Book will be adding new titles to the 2,000 already available, and focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) books, bilingual and Spanish-language titles, books for teens and older readers as well as more digital resources. 

Recruit new volunteers in 30 U.S. cities
First Book's national network of volunteer groups has served as a backbone for the organization since its founding. At present, there are active volunteer groups in 154 cities; First Book hopes to expand that number to 184 cities by the end of the year.

Register and serve 1,000 programs in Canada
First Book Canada – First Book's first international affiliate – has been operating since 2008, distributing over 100,000 new books to Canadian children in need. Over the next two years First Book Canada will more than triple the number of programs in its network and launch the Canadian version of the First Book Marketplace.

How You Can Help
If you know anyone who works with children in need, at a school or nonprofit, encourage them to sign up with First Book. You can also volunteer with a local First Book Advisory Board, or donate to First Book.  A donation of just $2.50 provides one new book to a child in need.

About First Book
First Book has distributed more than 90 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada.  By making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and the elevating the quality of education. For more information, please visit us online or follow our latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact:  Brian Minter, +1-202-639-0115, bminter@firstbook.org

SOURCE First Book