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1. The Collective Power of a Nation of Readers

This piece also appears on The Huffington Post’s Impact blog.

Steve White, a volunteer at a local nonprofit, worked through the holidays to ensure that 3,000 kids in need in Denver would have brand-new books of their own at Christmas.

Elisa Mayo, the finance coordinator for a school district in Mississippi, helped students at her Title I school get the books — and the encouragement — they needed to start book clubs, and now dozens of students, from third to fifth grade, voluntarily skip recess to meet and to talk about their new books.

A community group in Navajo County, Arizona was so determined to have a free library for local children that they raised money through bake sales, started with a donated room in a nearby gas station, and eventually came up with the funds to build a library.

These everyday heroes all have something in common. They are part of First Book, a nonprofit network of teachers, librarians, community leaders and program administrators serving kids in need — a network that stretches across the country and around the world.

An Alabama teacher and her class, part of First Book's network

These men and women and thousands more like them are working every day to transform the lives of children from poor neighborhoods, and they know how desperate the need is. Kids from low-income families lack the resources that many of their middle and upper-class peers take for granted. Every study confirms the impact that has on their futures. One study that never fails to shock revealed that, while children in affluent neighborhoods had access to an average of 13 books a day, there is only a single age-appropriate book for every 300 children.

First Book is working to change that. We partner with the publishing industry to provide books — brand-new, high-quality books — to the teachers and program leaders who sign up with us. Our network is the fastest-growing group of educators in the country serving kids in need: we just reached the incredible milestone of 100,000 registered schools and programs.

Reaching that milestone is exciting, because that means that we’re reaching more children in need than ever.

But there’s another reason why bringing so many educators together matters.

By joining First Book, the people we serve are acknowledging something important: we have more power collectively than we do as individuals. It’s one of the most powerful ideas in human history, from the birth of cities to the workers’ unions that built the country to the marvelous online social networks that are transforming how we communicate.

We’ve already seen the impact this can have. For example, at one point, there was no bilingual edition (English and Spanish together) of the perennial children’s classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but the educators we work with requested it repeatedly. Based on that feedback, we were able to go to the publisher and show that there was real demand. A bilingual edition rolled off the presses shortly thereafter, a book now available to all children and families.

This unprecedented network is also the source of valuable insight into the needs of those serving children at the base of the economic pyramid. There is no group of people whose voices are more critical to our collective future; what they have to say about the 30 million children living in low-income families in the United States and their futures is of paramount importance to us all.

Everyone at First Book is proud of our role in supporting this network. But we know there’s much, much more to be done. We estimate that there are 1.3 million educators and program leaders out there eligible to join us, and we’re doing everything we can to connect every single one.

The post The Collective Power of a Nation of Readers appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. Oh, the Places You’ll Go

bookCoverShannon Bowers’ son Alex loves Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go.

Shannon gets teary-eyed when they read it together. Someday Alex will grow up, go to college and live out his dreams. Alex gets teary-eyed when Shannon reads too many of the pages. He’s five now. That’s his job.

Recently, Alex and his classmates, students from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, all picked out brand-new books from First Book to take home. They chose stories about history, princesses and sharks. Their excitement was overflowing; many of them had no books at home.

Shannon Bowers family 2014Books have always been an important part of Shannon’s life. Her parents read to her as a child, and she and her husband Paul entered parenthood sharing the belief that education creates opportunities. They have always made an effort to fill their home with books.

Since Alex was born, Shannon and Paul have made reading as a family part of their nightly routine. Alex picks out a book; they all pile into his bed and share the story together. These days, Alex really likes to read to one-year-old Michael. He gets frustrated if mom or dad interrupts.

Shannon hopes reading will help take Alex and Michael all the places they want to go – in their imaginations and in life. She hopes financial issues won’t stand in their way. She hopes the same can be true for all kids.

“Our kids, they’re five years old,” she said. “None of them are thinking about [the future] right now. But we are. We think about that kind of thing… I want all of these kids to know if they make good enough grades, and they do what they need to do, then it’s there. They can do whatever they want.”

Together we can prepare kids for brighter future. Please consider making a gift to First Book today.

The post Oh, the Places You’ll Go appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. Purina® “PAW”ty Challenge (Funpage for Kids)

First Book and Purina® have teamed up to celebrate two of our favorite things – reading and pets. And we want you to join the fun! Click on the image below to download and print our Purina® “PAW”ty Challenge funpage. You’ll find creative activities like drawing, story writing and a book maze for your kids or students to enjoy.

Purina and First Book fun page

The post Purina® “PAW”ty Challenge (Funpage for Kids) appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. Just How Many Books Can Volunteers Get to Kids in One Year?

New homes, a birthday party and a seaplane … what do these have in common?

These are all ways that First Book volunteers got books to kids in need this year. First Book has a network of dedicated and passionate volunteers in hundreds of communities in the U.S. and Canada who support our efforts to provide books and educational resources in fun and innovative ways.

Just last year, First Book volunteers distributed over 613,000 books all across the United States! Here are a few of our favorite First Book volunteer stories:<!--[if gte mso 9]>

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1507874_10152120653148894_1055536980_nTess Reiman, a 9th grader who raised funds for First Book to support Habitat for Humanity in Atlantic Beach, Florida.  While her brother volunteered building houses with Habitat, Tess saw that many of the children moving into new homes did not have any books to fill their newly constructed rooms.

Tess created “Project Storybook” and raised the money needed to help get new books into these children’s hands. She then purchased books from the First Book Marketplace and donated baskets of new books to for their new Habitat homes.  In her first year, she donated over 200 new books to 40 families.

59383kirkland0328_First-BookSeven year old Maguire Brooke loves to read.  This year he didn’t want birthday presents.  He wanted his friends and family to help him get books to kids in need. With the support of First Book-Seattle he created a virtual book drive, raised $500, donated 200 books to two second-grade classrooms and provided a starter library of six books to each child. Titles included some of Maguire’s favorites, including the Magic Treehouse series and The Diary of A Wimpy Kid.

“It was awesome,” Maguire said. “I’m the proudest person on earth.”

Books by dog sled, boat, ATV and seaplane!  Many remote areas in the Alaskan Bush are only accessible via these modes of transportation.  That didn’t stop First Book-Anchorage from distributing 47,000 books to schools in over 55 rural Alaskan communities.  They also distributed approximately 33,000 books in Anchorage.

volunteers01Every child from pre-school to 12th grade received 3 to 5 books each.  To secure these books, the volunteers fundraised, received in-kind support and connected First Book to local programs and classrooms. There are over 85 K-12 schools located throughout rural Alaska that are not meeting their Academic Yearly Progress (AYP) in more than 4+ years in the area of literacy.

We’ve put tons of new books into the hands of a lot of children in need in the last twenty-plus years and we couldn’t have done it without our volunteers. Thank you!

Click here to learn more about volunteering with First Book.

The post Just How Many Books Can Volunteers Get to Kids in One Year? appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. Four Books to Celebrate El día de los niños

Today’s guest blog post is by Pat Mora, award-winning author and founder of El día le los niños, El día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day.

All the books Pat recommends are available at deeply discounted prices on the First Book Marketplace to educators and programs serving children in need.

Pat MoraA lifetime of reading teaches us the pleasure and power of books, and that literature at all levels and from all cultures can not only teach us but humanize us.

Through the writings of others we can share the experiences of a Midwest family on a farm years ago, the fear of a Jewish family during the Holocaust or the internment terror of Japanese families here during World War II. As readers, we can share in the triumph of a black family or an Egyptian family that writes a play about its history or traditions. By reading writers from the diverse cultures that are part of our United States, children learn new songs, celebrations, folk tales and stories with a cultural context.

This is what El día de los niños, El día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day is all about – implementing creative literacy strategies using diverse books and planning Día book fiestas for all children, from all cultures, in all languages. High-quality children’s books that reflect our rich plurality are able to reveal the many ways we are all alike as well as the ways we are all different.

Another major element in Día is honoring. Do we connect our literacy goals and efforts with really honoring each child and honoring home languages and cultures? Once honoring culture becomes a priority, creative and dedicated staff and families can propose and share ideas. Teachers and parents can create a sense of “bookjoy” with stories, games, literacy crafts and read-alouds. Coaching parents who did not have diverse literacy experiences growing up is of particular importance; whether a family is Spanish- speaking, English-speaking, Chinese-speaking, etc., we need to invest in respectfully and innovatively coaching multilingual families to join us in sharing a love of books.

Today, twenty-five percent of our children live in poverty – including one-third of black and Hispanic children. By 2018, children of color will be the majority in the U.S. What can we do to serve them and their families well? Celebrating Día and creatively championing the importance of literacy for children from all backgrounds is one way to start. Here’s to becoming a reading nation!

Here are 4 titles that can help you spread “bookjoy” and celebrate El día de los niños, El Día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day with children in your community! Sign up with First Book to access these and other great titles on the First Book Marketplace.

crazy_horses_visiongrandmas_chocolate_bilingualmeet_danitra_brown_2tomas_library_lady_mora

You can learn more about Pat Mora and El día de los niños, El Día de los libros/Children’s Day, Book Day on Pat’s website.

The post Four Books to Celebrate El día de los niños appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. 80,000 Books to Help Kids Read, Lead, Achieve

It was only 6:30 in the morning, but over 100 teachers had already lined up outside of the Children’s Museum of Houston – each eagerly waiting to select new books for their students.

Pi Beta Phi“It is hard to describe the lump I had in my throat when I drove up and saw all the teachers who had come at that early hour, from all over Houston,” said Patricia Gres Shuford, a collegiate member of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity.

Patricia volunteered with her New Mexico Alpha chapter to help distribute 20,000 books in Houston as part of Pi Beta Phi’s Fraternity Day of Service, conducted in partnership with First Book. She spent the day sharing stories and loading books into the cars of over 300 Houston-area educators and program leaders serving kids in need.

“The teachers were so excited and grateful,” said Patricia. “Helping distribute these books was such a rewarding experience.”

Cat in the Hat Pi PhiFirst Book, and longtime partner Pi Beta Phi, also touched the lives of kids in need in Baltimore, Long Beach, Calif. and Nashville, Tenn. In addition to the Fraternity Day of Service book distributions, hundreds of kids joined Pi Phi volunteers to enjoy Dr. Suess®-themed story times, visits from the Cat in the Hat and reading with therapy dogs. Across all four cities, local kids are now reading, learning and loving over 80,000 brand-new books.

First Book looks forward to its continued partnership with Pi Beta Phi through the Read > Lead > Achieve® initiative, inspiring a lifelong love of reading and impacting one life at a time.

To learn more about how you can volunteer with First Book, visit www.firstbook.org/get-involved/volunteer.

The post 80,000 Books to Help Kids Read, Lead, Achieve appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. How Much Do Books Really Matter: New Study Shows How Book Availability Effects Children

Ever wonder if having books around has any positive side effects?  It turns out that, not only for children, but also for teachers, having books available doesn’t have a single positive effect, it has a multitude of them. This study looked at what happens when schools with little to no reading material for their students gain access to books. The results are truly astounding, and you can see the full details by clicking the infographic below..

Access to Books Promotes Reading

Studies like this one demonstrate just how critical our mission is – both at home and abroad. As part of First Book’s commitment to reaching children in need around the world, we’ve created the First Book Global Marketplace. Now more than ever, we’re proud to offer an expanding collection of deeply discounted books to educators and program leaders serving children in need worldwide.

(Many thanks to our partners at Destination Graphic for the creation of this infographic)

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8. Delivering Hope to a School in Detroit (VIDEO)

“The biggest challenge our students face is the simple fact that they’ve been told they can’t do it. And so we charge them to have hope.”

- Jamelle Settles, Assistant Principle, Robert Burns Elementary School

First Book and our friends at JetBlue recently visited one of Michigan’s most struggling schools to provide students with brand new books. Check out the video below for the full story.

The post Delivering Hope to a School in Detroit (VIDEO) appeared first on First Book Blog.

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9. Free Latino Culture Books on the First Book Marketplace

Latino Culture Books FreeFirst Book has recently been able to offer tons of amazing new Latino cuentos (stories) on the First Book Marketplace – highlighting Latino authors, illustrators, culture, and experience – and we couldn’t be more excited about it!  Our friends at Disney are also excited, and to help you celebrate and explore these stories with your students, they have provided funding to make these books even more accessible to you!

If you are signed up with First Book you are eligible for 50% off of any book from the Latino Interest Category on the First Book Marketplace.  Here you’ll find the new Latino Culture collection, as well as our bilingual and Spanish language books and resources. Your $100 order just became $200 worth of books for your kids.  Double the impact of your dollars and double the impact on your kids! Happy Reading.

How do you get free books?

  1. If you aren’t currently registered with First Book, now is a great time to sign up!
  2. Once you are signed up, visit the First Book Marketplace and add books from the Latino Interest Category section to your cart.
  3. At checkout, enter the code LCC_50 to receive 50% off those titles, while funding lasts.  So don’t wait too long!

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10. 496 Million Women

496 million. That’s how many women in the world can’t read or write even the most simple sentence. Many women never have the opportunity to reach 6th grade, and some don’t get to go to school at all.

Today, we join citizens around the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, and I want to share the stories of Dinah Mwangi and Katie Hendricks, two special women whose lives exemplify the theme of this year’s celebration, “Equality for Women is Progress for All.”

Dinah MwangiDinah makes progress for all in Nairobi, Kenya. While waiting in line at a carwash, Dinah noticed two young boys straining to see what she was reading – a children’s book she had purchased for her niece. When she asked if they would like to join her, the boys lit up.

They read, and laughed and shared stories with Dinah. Then they told her they had no books of their own.

Dinah started buying books with her own salary and recruited volunteers to read and distribute them to kids each Saturday. In less than three months, she had over 500 kids participating. Now she’s pursuing relationships with Kenyan publishers, corporations and funders in order to expand her reach and deepen her impact.

On the other side of the world, Katie makes progress for all by helping girls from low-income families in California’s East Bay bridge the gap between school and home.

Photo from girlsinc-alameda.orgAs a young teacher, Katie yearned to improve all aspects of her students’ lives, inside and outside the classroom. Her holistic approach led her to create Girls Inc. of Alameda County, a program that inspires girls to be strong, smart and bold. Katie and her team reinforce what their girls learn at school, help them become fluent English speakers, provide them with healthy meals and expose them to subjects girls aren’t always encouraged to study, like science, technology and athletics.

By improving the lives of girls in California’s East Bay, Katie also improves the lives of their family members, teachers, friends and classmates.

Dinah and Katie represent what’s possible when women have the education, resources and motivation to make progress for all. Their immediate impact on the kids they serve is immense. Equally powerful, however, is how their spirit and service ripple through entire communities, transform lives and change the future.

In addition to celebrating heroic women like Dinah and Katie, I invite you to join me in recommitting ourselves to becoming a powerful force for equality.

The gender gap has closed significantly over the past few decades, but we still have a long way to go. In some countries, less than a quarter of women finish primary school; 496 million women around the world cannot read or write a simple sentence; and globally, women only reach 93 percent of men’s educational attainment.

I believe the path to equality is through access to quality education. That’s why First Book is equipping educators like Dinah and Katie with brand-new books and resources for the kids they serve, expanding our network to reach women and girls around the globe and lifting up the voices of an unprecedented community of individuals serving children at the base of the economic pyramid.

Please consider a gift to First Book today. Together, we can support the work of heroic women like Dinah and Katie around the world.

The post 496 Million Women appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. World Read-Aloud Day: Six Great Books to Read Aloud

When was the last time someone read aloud to you? Odds are you remember it. Reading together creates a shared experience with lasting impact – a warmer heart, a fuller mind, a better vocabulary. It offers benefits we never outgrow, so it’s a practice we should all continue, long into adulthood!

Today in celebration of World Read-Aloud Day I’ve handpicked several titles from the First Book Marketplace that I know from experience make great read-alouds.

For Babies

More More More Said the Baby Vera B. Williams“More More More,” Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams

This multiethnic celebration of love and family is one of my favorite books to give new babies! As three babies cavort and play with a parent or grandparent, each one begs for the fun to continue, saying, “More More More!” Children listening to this book will quickly add its refrain to their repertoires and make this title a frequent request.

For Toddlers and Preschool

House in the Woods Inga MooreA House in the Woods by Inga Moore

This picture book gem is relatively new, but it looks and reads like a classic. When a moose, bear, and pig decide to move in together, they hire a team of talented beavers to design and build their house. Kids love following each step of its assembly, and readers of all ages love noting the intricate and funny details in the book’s illustrations. Heartwarming and utterly wonderful!

For Kindergarten – 1st Grade

I stink Kate and James McMullanI Stink! By Kate and James McMullan

Rambunctious readers will find a kindred spirit in the lively trash truck that narrates this wry and clever book. With a voice that oozes personality he regales readers with accounts of all the items he eats as he makes his rounds. Kids delight in his gross list of consumables and love imitating the truck’s sound effects. The book also makes a great entry point to conversations about waste management, recycling, and composting.

2nd Grade – 3rd Grade

 National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! J. Patrick LewisNational Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! edited by J. Patrick Lewis

This hefty hardcover is truly a book for all ages, and a gift no reader will outgrow. A terrific collection of poems paired with stunning photographs, it’s a visual and auditory feast that’s perfect for any animal lover and the ultimate resource for teachers. This is a book you’ll reach for all year long!

For 4th – 5th Grade

Three Times Lucky Sheila TurnageThree Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Want to captivate and entertain a room full of kids? This Newbery Honor-winner will absolutely do the trick! A small-town Southern murder mystery, it’s both riotously funny and wonderfully suspenseful. Memorable characters, distinct voices, and rich metaphors make it an utter delight from start to finish.

For Middle School

Buried Alive!: How 33 Miners Survived 69 Days Deep Under the Chilean Desert Elaine ScottBuried Alive! How 33 Miners Survived 69 Days Deep Under the Chilean Desert by Elaine Scott

Good nonfiction is both illuminating and captivating, and this book is both. A well-researched account of the collapse that almost buried 33 Chilean miners, it explains both the science that saved them and the psychology that kept them alive during a harrowing, lengthy ordeal. Moving and inspiring, it’s a must-read for middle schoolers and a great book for adults and kids to read together!

What books have you enjoyed reading aloud with your family or students? Please add a comment and share your favorites!

The post World Read-Aloud Day: Six Great Books to Read Aloud appeared first on First Book Blog.

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12. Celebrate Latino Culture with Free Books!

A generous donation from Disney has enabled an expansion in our selection of Latino children’s books – a wealth of great titles for your elementary school kids! Our Latino Culture section includes books that highlight the diversity, history, and rich storytelling traditions of Latin America. Here you’ll find books that capture the imagination of the Latino experience, showcase the talents of Latino authors and illustrators, and reflect the lives of Latinos throughout the Americas, with a particular emphasis on the Latino experience in the U.S.

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13. First Book and Glassybaby Unite for a Night of Fundraising

First Book volunteers in Seattle, teamed up with Glassybaby for a night of giving to raise money for new books for kids who need them in the Seattle – King County area.  Since 1998, Glassybaby has donated over 1.5 million dollars to Seattle based charities and First Book.  First Book fundraising volunteers and guests joined together for a night at the Glassybaby studio to watch professional glass blowers create Glassybabies and share in the joy of giving new books to kids in need.

Glassybaby and First Book fundraiser collage

“We have seen with every event, once people hear about First Book and what we are trying to do they go out of their way to help – whatever is needed; money, venue, food, awareness and always smiles,”  Says Jody Ericson Dorow, Co-Chair of First Book – Seattle.
Guests could pre-order  their own Glassybaby, or purchase one the night of the event with a portion of the sales going to support First Book in Seattle.  The local volunteers work to provide book grants to eligible schools and programs in the Seattle area.

Joy Brooke, Co- Chair of First Book- Seattle, said of the event, “It was truly a team effort by the volunteers to pull this fundraising event together. A goal we set in August was to put on a successful adult-only event that would bring in a whole lot of books to kids, and we did it! It was an amazing evening  watching glassblowing, drinking wine, eating appetizers, shopping at Glassybaby, but most of all sharing the message of the importance of getting books to kids who need them most. We are grateful for all the support First Book-Seattle received that night and look forward to many more fun events in the future that help put books in the hand of kids.”

Thank to the generous support of Glassybaby, First Book volunteers were able to raise over $4,000, which was enough to purchase 1,600 new books for children in the Seattle – King County area.  To learn more about First Book – Seattle visit them online and to learn more about how you can volunteer with First Book visit: http://www.firstbook.org/get-involved/volunteer .

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14. David J. Johns: The Importance of Literacy Among African American Youth

Welcome to First Book’s celebrity blog series. Each month we will be connecting with a powerful voice in education and hearing their suggestions for books to use in the classroom, all of which are available on the First Book Marketplace.

This month we hear from David J. Johns, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, on the importance of literacy among African American youth.

David Johns on the importance of readingA love of reading is crucial for increasing achievement among African American students and, consequently, for closing persistent achievement and opportunity gaps. Any student who picks up a book is exposed to adventures, life experiences, and characters that help cultivate voice and agency, and contribute to developing a strong sense of self. Since many students depend on books as their primary method of learning beyond the confines of the classroom, African American children are uniquely challenged when the majority of characters in the literature available to them do not affirm their experience, identity or culture.

The availability of texts reflective of the interests and experiences of African American students, schools and communities is critical – powerful books, such as Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave and Richard Wright’s Native SonThese books depict African American boys leveraging skills cultivated from their life experiences to negotiate racial, class, and historical tensions. The need to negotiate these tensions continues to this day and these lessons apply regardless of the child’s family wealth, home language, zip code, identity, expression, race or gender. Both Frederick Douglass, as he reflects upon his experiences in the autobiography, and Bigger Thomas, Wright’s protagonist, are examples of resilient and intelligent young boys who struggle to learn, grow, and pursue a better life.

Strong female protagonists, like Cassie Logan from Mildred D. Taylor’s The Road to Memphis and Pecola Breedlove from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye support young women in developing a strong sense of agency as well as the strength to persist in pursuing post-secondary opportunities. These books can also help young men understand how to relate to, and engage with, strong women.  The poetry collection In Daddy’s Arms I am Tall celebrates fatherhood and promotes the importance of family in a way that all children can relate to. The stories and images in this important text disrupt and supplant negative stereotypes about absent fathers, reminding us of the tremendous opportunities male mentors and engaged fathers provide.

Additionally, reading about characters who are disabled, children of veterans, English language learners, children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, can help all students mature, develop empathy, awareness, and appreciation for diversity. In Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin describes the experiences of his protagonist, John, in ways that enable readers from all backgrounds to grow in their understanding of the challenges faced by their peers—at home, in school or at church.  The book is a powerful lesson of the role that faith and family play in supporting young people through adversity and is a seminal text for all students searching to find their voice.

Literacy is essential. Individuals without the skills to read or fully comprehend written text or without access to written text at all (including books and other materials that are inclusive, diverse, and affirming) are constrained in their ability to engage in our global society.  For these reasons, The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans supports efforts to increase literacy and encourage diversity within the publishing industry.

By David J. Johns, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Initiative contributes to closing the achievement gap for African American students.  For additional information on ways to support African American educational excellence, please visit http://www.ed.gov/AfAmEducation and follow the initiative on Twitter at @AfAmEducation.

Recommended Books:

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Native Son

The Road to Memphis

Bluest Eye

In Daddy's Arms I am Tall

 

 

 

Go Tell it On A Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

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15. In a Haitian School, 50 Books for 250 Students

In A Haitian School, 50 Books for 250 StudentsFour years ago this week, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti. The tragedy left 1.5 million citizens displaced from their homes, hundreds of thousands dead and devastated an already depressed economy.

Today, Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas. And while much has been done to aid Haiti’s recovery, a staggering eighty percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Poverty keeps millions of children from accessing the world of knowledge that books provide. First Book is committed to changing that, by bringing badly-needed books and educational materials to children in countries like Haiti. Last month we had the opportunity to deliver books to kids in Haiti’s capital city of Port au Prince, a donation made possible through First Book’s longstanding partnership with Jet Blue.

At Ecole Herve Romain, a local school in the Port au Prince “red-zone” of Bel-Air known for high crime and extreme poverty, 250 students previously had to share 50 books between them. Now they have a library of 500 new titles to read and explore.

In addition to providing books, First Book staff met with representatives from USAID and other global and national NGOs in hopes of creating partnerships that lead to more educational resources for Haiti’s kids in need.

“We believe that one book can change the world,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “But we also know that building relationships with partners in Haiti and around the globe will be critical in to achieving our goal of providing books and educational resources to 10 million children in need worldwide by 2016. We want to understand local needs and connect the dots so that kids in need all over the world can read, learn and rise out of poverty.”

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16. In a Haitian School, 50 Books for 250 Students

In A Haitian School, 50 Books for 250 StudentsFour years ago this week, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti. The tragedy left 1.5 million citizens displaced from their homes, hundreds of thousands dead and devastated an already depressed economy.

Today, Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas. And while much has been done to aid Haiti’s recovery, a staggering eighty percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Poverty keeps millions of children from accessing the world of knowledge that books provide. First Book is committed to changing that, by bringing badly-needed books and educational materials to children in countries like Haiti. Last month we had the opportunity to deliver books to kids in Haiti’s capital city of Port au Prince, a donation made possible through First Book’s longstanding partnership with Jet Blue.

At Ecole Herve Romain, a local school in the Port au Prince “red-zone” of Bel-Air known for high crime and extreme poverty, 250 students previously had to share 50 books between them. Now they have a library of 500 new titles to read and explore.

In addition to providing books, First Book staff met with representatives from USAID and other global and national NGOs in hopes of creating partnerships that lead to more educational resources for Haiti’s kids in need.

“We believe that one book can change the world,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “But we also know that building relationships with partners in Haiti and around the globe will be critical in to achieving our goal of providing books and educational resources to 10 million children in need worldwide by 2016. We want to understand local needs and connect the dots so that kids in need all over the world can read, learn and rise out of poverty.”

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17. Best-Sellers From the First Book Gift Catalog

The feeling you get when you help a child in need isn’t something that can be wrapped in a box or tied with a bow. Experience the magic and honor the loved ones in your life with these top-sellers from the First Book Gift Catalog.

1) Beloved picture books that encourage a young mother to read to her child every night.

Books for Babies

Beloved Books for Babies

2) Powerful stories that emphasize girls are smart and strong.

Empowering GirlsEmpowering Stories for Girls

3) Books that bring comfort to a child dealing with tragedy.

kids in crisisKids in Crisis

4) A classroom library that helps a new teacher get her students off to a great start.

new teachers

Great Starts

5) A tractor-trailer full of books that transforms an entire community.

Truckload of booksTruckload of Books

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18. Your Tweets, Pins and Signatures brought 10,000 Books to Kids for the Holidays!

Chronicle Books’ #GiveBooks campaign donated 10,000 books to kids in need through First Book. Every pin, tweet and signature of the #GiveBooks pledge generated one new book for a child in need.

chronicle books give booksMore than 10,000 people have pinned, signed, tweeted and mentioned the #GiveBooks campaign, since it began on November 1st. Authors, booksellers, publishers and the general public have shared their love of reading, flooding social media channels with tweets, pins and pledges to #GiveBooks for the holiday season.  The social media campaign featured a call to arms to support local bookstores, promote literacy and provide books to kids in need.

The campaign was run by our delightful partners, Chronicle Books, who Chroniclebooksbookinschoolcelebrated the campaign’s success with an added gift of personalized books for students at two schools in McDowell County, West Virginia.  Copies of the holiday keepsake book ‘The Night Before Christmas’, customized for each student to include their name, town, favorite pet and more, produced delighted smiles, especially when delivered by a special guest reader dressed in red.

“First Book was thrilled when Chronicle approached us with this idea, and we loved that so many people got involved to help spread the message,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “It’s remarkable what people will do when given the opportunity to bring books to kids in need.”

For more information about Chronicle Books visit www.chroniclebooks.com
To join the campaign, tweet #givebooks or pin here.

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19. Are My Charitable Dollars Going to Good Use?

Charity Navigator 4-star rating

Even in a slowly recovering economy, Americans are still givers, donating over $316 billion last year (an increase of 3.5% over the previous year), with the vast majority of that money coming not from companies or foundations, but from individual donors.

At First Book, we rely on the generosity of our donors to help put new books into the hands of kids in need. But we understand how difficult it can be to make decisions about where your money will be used most effectively.

Which is why we’re pleased to share some great news: for the third year in a row, First Book has been awarded four stars — the highest rating possible — by Charity Navigator, the leading charity evaluator in America.

Only 11% of the charities we rate have received at least three consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that First Book outperforms most other charities in America.
Charity Navigator rates nonprofit organizations to provide donors with reliable data about the impact, efficiency and fiscal health of the organizations, and their online rankings are visited more than all other charity ratings groups combined. So we’re pleased to earn this distinction and proud that we’re using your gifts effectively to help children in need.

When you donate to First Book, 97% of your donation goes directly to putting brand-new books into the hands of educators serving kids in need — not to administrative and fundraising costs.

If you have any questions about how First Book operates, or exactly how your donations are used, we’d love to hear them! Get in touch through Facebook or Twitter, or send us an email.

Click here to see First Book’s profile on Charity Navigator.

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20. Does Soman Chainani, Author of The School For Good And Evil, Consider himself good?… or evil?

“Sophie had waited all her life to be kidnapped.”

Does that quote seem familiar to you? It’s the widely recognized first line of the book, The School For Good And Evil. Soman Chainani is the author behind the book, which is available through First Book.

If you missed out on our video from last week that includes promo codes for free books, but not just any books… an entire free box of The School For Good And Evil books, then there’s still time to take action. Soman Chainani can help you ask the question – are you a GOOD or EVIL teacher?

Soman Chainani, author of The School For Good And Evil

Soman Chainani, author of The School For Good And Evil

Soman:  We didn’t have cable when I was young, so all we had was our rickety TV set and VHS tapes of every single Disney animated movie. Until age 8 or so, that was all I pretty much watched. Everything I learned about storytelling, I learned from Disney. (You can imagine what an irritating child I was.)

When I went to college, though, I read the original fairy tales and realized that my entire childhood was built on a lie! In the original stories, there’s so much more darkness and richness and real life. What I loved about them was how unsafe the characters were. You could very well end up with wedding bells and an Ever After – or you could lose your tongue or be baked into a pie. There was no ‘warmth’ built into the narrator, no expectations of a happy ending. The thrill came from vicariously trying to survive the gingerbread house, the hook-handed captain, or the apple-carrying crone at the door – and relief upon survival.  Somewhere in that gap between the Disney stories and the real stories, THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL was born.

Q:  What was your favorite fantasy book?

Soman:  I love The Phantom Tollbooth, Alice in Wonderland, and Roald Dahl’s books the most — but my favorite fantasy book as a child was Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews. It’s just wildly inventive in every way.


Q:  How do kids react when reading The School For Good and Evil? 

Soman:  The enthusiasm kids have had for the book continues to shock me every day. Kids have created all kinds of fanart, from posters, stickers, tattoos, cakes, fan fiction, fan poetry, Ever-inspired workout tapes, online Wikis to the book’s world, role playing games, Tumblr tributes, science fair projects, SGE-themed Warrior Cat games, Halloween costumes… Just typing that list made me realize how creative and amazing our growing community of Evers and Nevers has been.

The School For Good And Evil is available on the First Book Marketplace

Q:  How can a GOOD teacher use your book to get students excited about reading? 

Soman:  Well a Good teacher would use the SCHOOL FOR GOOD & EVIL curriculum guide, designed by teachers for teachers, available on www.schoolforgoodandevil.com. It meets Common Core standards and gives teachers discussion questions, activity ideas, and tips on how to use the book in their classroom. A Good teacher would also tell the teachers to skip all the parts where the Evil kids, or Nevers, are plotting world domination in the most terrible ways.

Q:  How can an EVIL teacher use your book to get students excited about reading?

Soman:  An Evil teacher would tell students that the book has a recipe for “Children Noodle Soup,” a character that can turn anything she touches into chocolate (including people), and that in this story — unlike most other kids’ books — Evil has just as much a chance to win as Good.

Q:  So… Would you consider yourself good? Or evil?

Soman:  I was so compelled by this question of whether I was an Ever or a Never that I launched an interactive game on www.schoolforgoodandevil.com that helps each reader answer this question for themselves. You can log-on and take a 10-question Entrance Exam to The School for Good and Evil that sorts you into your school as an Ever or a Never. It also computes what percentage of your soul is Good and what percentage of your soul is Evil. The questions change every time (and I’ve written all of them!), so be prepared for a stern test. I, myself, have taken the quiz honestly a few times and consistently get 75% Evil, 25% Good. So it appears I’m a Never after all. Not surprising.

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21. Unique Holiday Gift Options from the First Book Gift Catalog

Give Gifts That Give Back

You can honor a loved one with a meaningful holiday gift and make the holidays merry and bright for children in need with the First Book Gift Catalog.

Here’s how:

  1. Pick a gift that inspires.  From a collection of books that is just for giggles to a truckload of books that can transform a community, the First Book Gift Catalog has something for everyone on your list.  
  2. Personalize a holiday card for your loved one.  Choose from a variety of beautiful cards to let your loved one know about the generous contribution you have made in their honor.  You can print the card at home or send it via email.  
  3. Bring joy to a child in need.  With each gift you make, a child in need will receive brand-new books.  Your gift of new books will help ignite imaginations, inspire hope and elevate the quality of education for kids from low-income families.

Give a gift that gives back with the First Book Gift Catalog.  Thank you for your support.

 

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22. [INFOGRAPHIC] STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children’s Lives

STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children's Lives

CLICK THE IMAGE TO SEE A BIGGER VERSION.

Thanks to partners like Lockheed Martin, First Book is helping thousands of kids in need get the books and resources they need. If you work with children from low-income families, sign up with First Book today to get brand-new, high-quality STEM books.

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23. How STEM Books Make a Difference to Girls in One Dallas Afterschool Program

One afternoon last week, a big box of books arrived in Miss Vicky’s classroom. After she explained to her students, who devote each Wednesday to studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), that the books were about “why things work and how they work”, the girls “shot up from their seats and ran over to the books.”

“Some of the younger girls didn’t understand all the words, but they kept reading,” she said. “Working hard to figure out what the book was about.”

Miss Vicky — known to the world outside her classroom as Vicky Hernandez — teaches girls, ages 6 to 18, at Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, and she strives to help them be strong, smart and bold.

[INFOGRAPHIC] STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children’s LivesHer students come from the surrounding West Dallas neighborhoods, an area known for high crime and struggling schools. Their parents have chosen to pay $5 every month so the girls can participate in tutoring and educational programming and receive a full, healthy meal each night after school at Girls Inc.

Recently, Miss Vicky received a grant from First Book, made possible by our generous corporate partner, Lockheed Martin. “We had some books,” she said, “but not STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] books.”

Despite the lack of resources, STEM is central to the curriculum at Girls Inc. They believe studying STEM improves their students’ chances for successful college and career placement.

And they’re right. By 2018, there will be over 8 million STEM jobs in the United States, but only 5 million people qualified to fill them. Women in STEM careers also make more, with median annual earnings in selected STEM occupations nearly doubling that of women workers overall.

“STEM books are so valuable, because they teach specific concepts while helping the girls develop their reading skills,” Miss Vicky said. “It’s not just reading to read, it’s reading to grow a greater knowledge base.”

First Book is grateful to our friends at Lockheed Martin for making it possible for us to provide books about science, technology, engineering and math to students like Miss Vicky’s across the country.

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24. Hunger ‘For Books’ Games

The creative minds in Memphis took advantage of one of the most teen popular book collections to create a fundraising event so good we had to share it!

winners of the hunger for books games            First Book supporters in Memphis recently held a fundraiser at the Autozone Challenge Center, located within the Salvation Army Kroc Center, to help put new books in the hands of children in need.  Teams competed in a series of mental and physical challenges in theme of the ‘Hunger Games’ books.

            “This event challenged students intellectually and physically, and gave them a fun opportunity to give back to their community,” said Lolly Easley. “We chose the theme because the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy is a favorite series for the younger generation. Teens celebrated their love of this series, while helping children in need and supporting literacy in Memphis.”

            The event raised $1205, enough money to purchase over 480 new books for Memphis area children who need them.

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25. Alison’s Teen Titles of the Week! Today’s topic: NONFICTION

alison's teen titles of the week

Many of you have told us you’d like help finding recommendations of great books that will engage your teen readers. As usual, we want to help!

Meet Alison Morris, our new Senior Director of Publisher and Author Relations! She’s a veteran bookseller with 15 years’ experience matching books to readers and endless enthusiasm for books. For the next four weeks she’ll use this space to recommend terrific titles for teen readers – many of them hidden gems you probably haven’t discovered.

__________________________________________________________________________________

I love this book!

If you’re working with teens who think nonfiction is dry or boring, hand them John Fleischman’s Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science and prove them wrong! This is a truly fascinating account of an incident (and injury) that was – and still is – hugely important to our understandings of the human brain.

In 1848 Phineas Gage was working as a railroad construction foreman when a sudden blast sent a 3 ½ foot rod through his cheek and out of the top of his head. While Phineas was knocked to the ground, he never lost consciousness, never suffered from infection, and fully survived the incident. BUT (and here’s where things get really interesting!) his personality completely changed. Photos, charts, and diagrams appear alongside Fleischman’s well-organized account to help readers understand how Phineas went from being a level-headed, likeable guy to a very unstable person, and teach them which areas of the brain control their behavioral, medical, and emotional functions. This is a genuinely interesting book that will get teens thinking about the way their own minds work and (hopefully!) spark their curiosity to learn still more.

More of my Non-Fiction favorites:

Getting Away With Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till CaseGetting Away With Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case

by Chris Crowe

An eye-opening, moving account of an appalling tragedy.

 

King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised AutobiographyKing of the Mild Frontier

by Chris Crutcher

The stories of sibling rivalry in this hilarious memoir will make you LOL!

 

What do you think of this weeks titles? What titles would you and your teens choose?
Let us know at tellus@firstbook.org!

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