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1. Monthly Book List: Our Favorite Books for July

Once a month, our team of book enthusiasts share their picks for the best in children’s and young adult books.

This month, Lori, Alison, Matthew, Jenn and Miriam have selected tales on finding oneself, nurturing friendships, appreciating grandparents, adapting to change, and coping with loss — with adorable illustrations, silly stories and powerful narratives.

Pre-K – K (ages 3-6)

how_to_grow_a_friendHow to Grow a Friend by Sara Gillingham

Lori’s pick this month: “Colorful, eye-catching illustrations, and a diverse cast of characters make this a perfect read-aloud for preschool. A great book for back to school, springtime, or anytime!”


Grades 1-2 (ages 6-8)

grandmaGrandma in Blue with Red Hat written by Scott Menchin, illustrated by Harry Bliss

Alison’s pick this month: “I am so in love with this book! Clever and sweet, it’s a wonderful salute to grandparents that also offers a great lesson in art appreciation. Adorable!”


Grades 3-4 (ages 8-10)

alvin_ho_allergic_to_babiesAlvin Ho #5: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night written by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Jenn’s pick this month: “I love Alvin Ho! He’s a super funny kid who worries about everything, and a lot of kids can relate to his feelings. You’ll love this laugh-out-loud story about family, siblings, and adapting to change.”

5-6 (ages 10-12):

five_lives_of_our_cat_zookThe Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin

Matthew’s pick this month: “This hilarious and heartwarming novel about a cat with twenty six toes and the two kids who adore her is one of my favorite family stories. It’s a great book about coping with loss and caring for loved ones.”


7th & up (Ages 13+):

heaven_angela_johnsonHeaven by Angela Johnson

Miriam’s pick this month: “I first read this book when I was in 8th grade and it has stayed with me into adulthood. Quiet, powerful, and tender, this is a wonderful, award-winning novel about a girl who uncovers a big family secret and finds herself in the process.”


The post Monthly Book List: Our Favorite Books for July appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. Increase Your Students’ Interest in Reading

87 increased interest in reading








When kids receive new books their faces light up, they cherish their books and keep them by their side at all times. Without any prompting from their teachers they trade books with one another, start small books clubs and encourage one another to read. They become more interested in reading and learning.

The teachers and program leaders who use books from First Book have seen this firsthand when they give books to the kids they serve.

If you work with kids in need, you can receive books and resources for your classroom or program. Sign up with First Book to spark an interest in reading in your students!

The post Increase Your Students’ Interest in Reading appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. 300,000 Books for Kids to Take Home

Rochester, New York was recently ranked one of the poorest cities in the United States. More than half of its children live in poverty.

IMG_5115(2)But on an early summer day, the students in the Rochester City School District have a spring in their step as they walk down the hallway – they’re getting 10 new books to take home for the summer.

“You get to keep these books!” says one student to one of their new classmates. “You don’t have to give them back, these books are ours!”

“Our kids’ lives are different from the lives of kids in Rochester’s suburban neighborhoods,” says Aimee Rinere, secretary of the Rochester Teachers Association. “It’s not safe for them to go outside.  There are many obstacles our kids face on a daily basis including poor attendance at school, unsafe neighborhoods, and finding their next meal.  They simply don’t have the opportunities, books and resources other kids have.”

IMG_5117The district’s Superintendent, Rochester Teachers Association and the Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals are dedicated to the success of his students and getting them to read at grade level by the third grade, no matter the obstacles. As a way to combat summer learning loss every student has received books to take home for the past two years. Over 300,000 books have been given away in total.

The students in Kindergarten to Second Grade were each given ten books, and this year five were books of their choosing. The older students were able to choose two books to take home.

“Some of the older girls chose the same book. They made plans to meet during the summer to read them together and have a book club,” Aimee explained.

Some students who didn’t want to take books home were met by the protests of their classmates.

“Why don’t you want to read? You should take a book. It will make you a better student,” they said. Without any prompting from the teachers or librarians, the students are now encouraging each other to read.

“We couldn’t put these books into kids’ hands without First Book’s help,” said Aimee. “We’re leveling the playing field for our kids’ with these books, and at the end of the school year we know that, if nothing else, they have the resources we are giving them.”

The post 300,000 Books for Kids to Take Home appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. The Best Way to Keep Kids Reading Over the Summer

IMG_1654“Kids will always be more excited about reading, if they can choose what to read,” says Stephanie Phelix, Library Media Specialist at Belle Forest Community School in Memphis, TN.

“If it’s a cookbook or the cheat codes to their video games, it’s still reading. When they’re at the grocery store, they can read the signs around the store. If the boys want to read books about Spiderman or comic books, that’s reading too!”

She believes reading of any kind is valuable for her students. This summer, however, she wanted to give her students the best resource to keep them reading over the summer – books they are excited to read.

IMG_1660Stephanie’s school serves students from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and goes out of its way to make sure every child is successful.  But as a brand-new school, one thing they didn’t have were  books to send home for the summer. With support from First Book and partner Conn’s HomePlus®, each child was able to choose one book to take home for the summer.

“I tell them, read what you want to read. The books we sent home with them are a great start,” says Stephanie. “Giving them books and other tools at the end of the school year keeps them motivated.”

The post The Best Way to Keep Kids Reading Over the Summer appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. How First Book & The White House are Transforming Education Today

Barack Obama Education Quote

At the heart of First Book’s mission to help children in need read, learn and succeed is the distribution of educational content. Breaking down the barriers to accessing books and other information can lift the kids we serve and their communities out of poverty and into bright futures.

When President Obama announced the ConnectED Initiative two years ago, he set an ambitious goal to provide 99 percent of American students with access to next-generation broadband internet in their classrooms and libraries by 2018. And this past April, the President followed up on this commitment with the Open eBook Initiative, a program aimed at creating a world-class digital library and making it available to students aged 4-18 from low-income families.

First Book is proud to partner with the White House to support this bold program that will bring all of America’s classrooms into the digital age. Specifically, First Book will help ensure the eBooks library reaches students in low-income families.

Many of the 180,000 schools and educational programs we serve are already working to transform their districts’ teaching and learning in the digital age. We’re excited to support Open eBooks to reinforce their efforts and take strides to ensure all children have a world of knowledge within reach.

The post How First Book & The White House are Transforming Education Today appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. Monthly Book List: Our Five Favorite Books for June

This month’s book list features stories about two adorable pigs and jazz trailblazer Melba Doretta Liston. Flip through a page-turning mystery inspired by Chinese folklore, find a magical pen that can finish homework and learn about a man who inspired millions of students worldwide.

Pre-K – K (Ages 3-6):

Toot and puddleToot and Puddle Written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie

Heartwarming and utterly adorable, this modern classic celebrates small moments, friendship, individuality, and the joy of spending time with the people (or pigs) you love. A terrific read-aloud!

Grades 1-2 (ages 6-8):

little_melba_big_tromboneLittle Melba and Her Big Trombone Written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Frank Morrison

Jazzy rhythms and expressive art fill the pages of this dynamic picture book biography about a little-known but highly influential musician. Kids will be inspired to tap their toes and pursue their dreams.

Grades 3-4 (ages 8-10):

strarry_river_of_skyStarry River of the Sky Written and illustrated by Grace Lin

Family, forgiveness, and magic are the focus of this richly imagined tale inspired by Chinese folklore. Readers will be drawn in by the story’s compelling mysteries and beautiful full-color illustrations. Stunning!

Grades 5-6 (ages 10-12):

all the answersAll the Answers By: Kate Messner

Kids will love this lively and empowering story about friendship, family, risk-taking, and one really extraordinary pencil! Perfect for fans of Andrew Clements, Wendy Mass, and Linda Urban.

7th & up (Ages 13+):

of beetles ad angelsOf Beetles and Angels: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard By: Mawi Asgedom

Mawi’s memoir about his family’s move, as refugees, from rural Ethiopia to suburban Ohio is eye-opening, moving, entertaining, and inspiring. This is one of those books that should be read by both kids and their care-givers, all of whom are likely to be wowed by it.

The post Monthly Book List: Our Five Favorite Books for June appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. This is a Life He Never Imagined


When Antwon’s kids get a little older, he plans to tell them what he’s been through. A 25-year-old father of three, he’s working hard to give them all a better life.

Today, he is employed as a plumber, studying to get his GED and has completed a leadership and empowerment program for young fathers… twice. But this is a life he never imagined.

Antwon grew up in the Woodland Terrace housing development in Washington, DC where many families live off an annual income of $7000 per year.

“My mother worked on and off. She was raising five kids. She was struggling.” When his siblings’ father, who his family relied on for financial support, passed away, “everything changed.” As the oldest child, Antwon felt a tremendous sense of responsibility.

“The only thing I cared about was taking care of my family, but my mind wasn’t thinking that I could get a job. I wasn’t old enough to get a job. I was 13 at the time, and I got into street life. I was selling drugs.”

Antwon faced time in prison. While he was incarcerated, his mother passed due to a stress induced seizure.

A few weeks before returning home, something hit Antwon. “I had children, and I couldn’t do nothing for them but stand on the block all day. I needed a job. I needed to stay off the streets.”

IMG_7800That’s when Antwon connected with Smart from the Start, a family support, community engagement and school readiness organization. As a First Book partner, the nonprofit helps parents and caretakers become their child’s first teacher by supplying them books to help break the cycle of chronic school underachievement.

“I read to them. They like the sticker books, but I read,” he shares with a smile. “My oldest son, he is in school now. He’s got good grades. I sneak up on him sometimes, but I never let him know I’m coming. I just peek in the classroom. He’s doing good.”

Antwon knows there is work ahead, but he’s incredibly motivated. He needs to earn his GED to get an apprenticeship. Eventually, he wants to become a firefighter. But above all else he wants his kids to have a better life than he had.

“I want to motivate them to do better than I have done – finish school, get a good jobs; if they have kids, take care of their kids, be responsible.”

“It’s crazy,” he tells us, “I’ve seen a lot of things, but now I don’t even look back… My whole life has just changed.”

The post This is a Life He Never Imagined appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. Our Crazy Summer Reading Program Was A Go!

Today’s Guest Blogger is Amy Bartilotti, the Communities in Schools Site Coordinator at Bellwood Elementary School in Chesterfield, VA.

Amy Bartolotti CIS Summer AppealSummer is particularly difficult for kids from low-income families. With few books at home and limited access to libraries, they often fall behind.

Last year, my colleagues and I decided to dream big, ignore budgets and create a summer reading program to help our at-risk readers. No more than an hour after we had made our final plans, we got an email from First Book.

Oh my goodness! We were getting hundreds of brand-new books! Our crazy reading program was a GO!

Thanks to First Book, our students were able to pick out new books that were mailed to them every two weeks. They came with a letter of encouragement from their teacher.

The results were phenomenal! Instead of falling behind, 95 percent of our readers maintained or improved their developmental reading assessment scores.

I cannot begin to tell you how grateful we are. Our little corner of the world is a bit brighter because of First Book.

Please give to First Book to keep kids reading all summer long.

The post Our Crazy Summer Reading Program Was A Go! appeared first on First Book Blog.

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9. A Year-Round Need for Books

Books Year Round

Summer is on its way. But that doesn’t mean teachers, program leaders and the kids they serve don’t need books.

In fact, access to books is important year-round and this is especially true in the summer. When school is in, students have access to books and resources provided by their schools.  But when school lets out, kids in need don’t have the same access they had at school.  They may not have books at home. Their community library may be hard to access. And this stands as a barrier to their ability to succeed in school and in life.

Whether it’s the beginning of a summer program, the end of the school year or time to go back to school, one thing is clear – educators and program leaders need books for their students!

Do you work with kids in need and need books? Do you know someone who does? Sign up with First Book to access books year-round.

Source: First Book Nurturing Survey, September 2014-April 2015. N=1386

The post A Year-Round Need for Books appeared first on First Book Blog.

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10. Thank A Teacher

Thank a teacher ecard 2015 v3

Educators leave a lasting impression on every mind that crosses their path. As another school year comes to a close,  show your gratitude to a teacher in your life by sending them this card today.

The post Thank A Teacher appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. Jessixa Bagley and Laurie Ann Thompson Chat with First Book

Today’s blog post is part of our Stories For All Project series, focused on sharing the latest announcements and impact stories about our effort to put diverse, inclusive books into the hands of kids.

Jessixa Bagley and Laurie Ann Thompson authored two of our 2015 Stories for All Project title selections. The new picture book authors recently joined us for a Twitter chat to discuss their books “Boats for Papa” and ”Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah” and why diversity and inclusion are important in children’s stories.

Here are some of the highlights. You can see full answers to all seven questions and questions from our audience on the Storify for this chat.

Why do you think it is important that diverse books are available to all children?jb2




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How can books featuring diverse voices and experiences contribute to inclusivity?

jb3a jb3b






 How have you seen your book affect a reader?

jb7 jb7a

lat7 LAT8

Find out more! View the Storify of this Twitter chat.


The post Jessixa Bagley and Laurie Ann Thompson Chat with First Book appeared first on First Book Blog.

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12. Monthly Book List: Our Five Favorite Books for May

Our May book list includes fun, magical books featuring adventures with an adorable elephant, funny stories about sisters for young readers, the story of strong man Charles Atlas, a laugh-out-loud tale about pranksters and one of the best teen romances ever written.

Pre-K – K (Ages 3-6):

elliotLittle Elliot, Big City By: Mike Curato

Elliot loves the adventure of living in the city but his size often gets in his way. Readers’ hearts will melt when Elliot meets an unlikely friend at just the right moment and the two take on the town together. A sweet, beautifully illustrated book!


For  1st & 2nd grade (Ages 6-8):

ling_ting_not_sameLing & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! By: Grace Lin

Young readers will be utterly charmed by these funny stories about a delightful pair of sisters and their everyday adventures. Clever and funny, this series is great for kids who are ready for beginning books with chapters.


For 3rd & 4th grade (Ages 8-10):

strong_man_atlasStrong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas By: Meghan McCarthy

Who knew that Charles Atlas, the so-called “Strong Man” who once pulled a 145,000 pound train with his bare hands, was bullied as a kid? This inspirational picture book biography with playful cartoon illustrations is a great starting point for conversations about kindness, healthy eating, and healthy living.

5th & 6th grade (Ages 10-12):

terrible_twoThe Terrible Two By: Marc Barnett

It’s prankster vs. prankster in this hugely appealing story, great for reluctant and eager readers alike. Get ready to laugh your pants off, read the funniest bits aloud to your friends, and even learn some very interesting facts about cows!

7th & up (Ages 13+):

eleanor_and_parkEleanor & Park By: Rainbow Rowell
Every so often a young adult novel comes along that is so remarkable you want to press it into the hands of everyone you meet. THIS IS ONE OF THOSE BOOKS! Pure magic, it might just be the best teen love story ever written.


The post Monthly Book List: Our Five Favorite Books for May appeared first on First Book Blog.

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13. What Does the Stories For All Project Mean to You?

Today’s blog post is part of our Stories For All Project series, focused on sharing the latest announcements and impact stories about our effort to put diverse, inclusive books into the hands of kids.

On May 6th, we hosted a Twitter chat to talk about how books featuring diverse voices help children learn and grow. Educators from across the country joined publishers, thought leaders, supporters and partners to share their thoughts.

Here are just a few highlights from the conversation. View the entire Twitter chat on Storify.

What does the #StoriesforAll Project mean to you?

Why is it important that diverse books are available to all children?

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14. The Right Book at the Right Time

Today’s blog post is part of our Stories For All Project series, focused on sharing the latest announcements and impact stories about our effort to put diverse, inclusive books into the hands of kids.

Today’s guest blogger is Melissa Spradlin, Executive Director of Book’em in Nashville, TN.

First Book supporters provide 33,000 new books to kids in needHaving the right book at the right time can make a difference in a child’s life – sometimes forever. That is why having a variety of books to choose from is so important to our program.

Every day I work with Book’em in Nashville to make kids and teens owners of books, helping them discover the joy of reading.

Our public schools serve over 80,000 students of different ages and different backgrounds. They represent more than 100 different countries, many different ethnicities, races and languages.  They are creative, giving, curious, caring, amazing kids.

Because we have such a diverse population, it is extremely important to showcase diversity in the books we have available for our children. You never know what book might turn a child into a reader, but books that speak to their experience get enthusiastic readers  even more excited and inspire  readers who are a bit more reluctant.

Being able to choose from a variety of diverse books allows our kids to see themselves represented in ways they can relate to. It also helps broaden our students’ horizons and pave the way for a more inclusive future.

We are grateful that First Book’s Stories for All Project™ has allowed us to provide diverse, inclusive books to the children we serve.

The post The Right Book at the Right Time appeared first on First Book Blog.

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15. Six Diverse Stories: Our 2015 Stories for All Project Selections

Today’s blog post is part of our Stories For All Project series, focused on sharing the latest announcements and impact stories about our effort to put diverse, inclusive books into the hands of kids.

Last week, we announced our latest action in the Stories for All Project – we selected six outstanding titles that showcase characters and storylines often underrepresented in  children’s literature and are making 10,000 copies of each title available in affordable trade paperback format for the first time ever.

The first three titles are available now on the First Book Marketplace and in Target stores nationwide.

Nino Wrestles the World PB“Niño Wrestles the World”

Written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, celebrates play and the power of the imagination through the unforgettable, underpants-wearing Niño. Pulling from Mexican folklore, Morales pits a series of silly, slightly spooky opponents against Niño. But no foe can stand up to the cunning competitor. He takes down his challengers with a Slish! Boop! Crunch! – playfully defeating each one. Winner of the Pura Belpre Illustrator Award for affirming Latino culture and experience, and the SCBWI Golden Kite Picture Book Illustration Honor.

And Tango Makes Three PB“And Tango Makes Three”

Written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole, follows two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo through their fruitless efforts to hatch a rock. One day a zookeeper gives the dedicated fathers-to-be an extra egg that needs to be cared for. From this egg comes Tango, the very first penguin in the zoo to have two daddies. Based on a true story, winner of the ASPCA Henry Bergh Award.

Tiger in My Soup“Tiger in My Soup

Written by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, features a young Indian-American boy determined to make his older sister read aloud his favorite story about a ferocious tiger. When she repeatedly puts him off, his imagination takes over and the tiger springs from his alphabet soup. An epic battle between boy and tiger commences, all behind the back of the distracted sister. While the hero eventually gets both his story and his reheated soup, he keeps a wary eye out for the tiger’s return.

Boats for Papa“Boats for Papa”

Written and illustrated by new author/illustrator Jessixa Bagley, explores the healing love between a child and parent. Buckley the beaver loves to carve toy boats out of driftwood from the beach nearby. With Mama’s permission, he sends a boat out to sea for his father, whom he misses very much. Buckley believes that if the boat does not come back, it must have reached his Papa. He sends boat after boat to Papa, each one more beautiful that the last. Then one day

Buckley finds all of his boats carefully collected and kept by his Mama. Buckley sends one last boat – this time with a new message.

Emmanuels Dream PB“Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah”

Written by first-time picture book author Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls, is an inspiring true story about triumph over adversity. Born in Ghana with one disabled leg, Emmanuel was dismissed by most people, but taught by his mother to reach for his dreams. He hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age 13 to provide for his family, and eventually became a cyclist. In 2011, he rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability.

KnockKnock PB“Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me”

Written by Daniel Beaty and illustrated by Bryan Collier, is a heartbreaking and hopeful story about love and loss. Every morning, a boy and his father play a game. While the boy pretends to sleep, his father knocks on the door and approaches the bed to say, “I love you.” One day, there is no knock. This powerful and inspiring book shows the love that an absent parent can leave behind and the strength that children find in themselves as they grow up and follow their dreams. Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

The post Six Diverse Stories: Our 2015 Stories for All Project Selections appeared first on First Book Blog.

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16. These Children Saw Themselves in a Book

Today’s blog post is part of our Stories For All Project series, focused on sharing the latest announcements and impact stories about our effort to put diverse, inclusive books into the hands of kids in need.

Cathy Gaudio reads aloud to a group of students in Phoenix, Arizona.  It’s a special day – every child at Sun Canyon Elementary is going home with a book of their own. The book, “Pelitos” by Sandra Cisneros, is bilingual. She reads one page in English, soon echoed by her bright-eyed helper reading the page in Spanish.  The children are thrilled.

“’Pelitos’ talks about how we all have different kinds of hair – showing that everyone’s differences are worth celebrating” explains Cathy.

IMG_0607Cathy, the Program Manager of AARP Foundation Experience Corps Phoenix, is joined by the school’s reading tutors for the celebration.   For an hour every week, 90 retiree volunteers from the program tutor 300 children in ten schools throughout the city. Sun Canyon is one such school.

On this day, the students gained more than reading skills from their tutors.  They saw themselves in the book they enjoyed.

“When these students can see themselves in books, they get more excited about reading, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to inspire in them,” says Cathy. “There’s one reference to very long hair that’s shiny. After we finished reading one little girl went to her book and opened to that page saying ‘This is me!  This is my hair!”

The young girl’s discovery created a larger conversation in the classroom.

“But this is me!” said one child.

“But I have curly hair, so this is me,” said another.

“At that age, they all accept each other and can find something very personal in that book,” Cathy observes.

Every child was able to find a reflection of themselves and they were overjoyed.

The post These Children Saw Themselves in a Book appeared first on First Book Blog.

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17. The Stories for All Project: 60,000 New Books to Increase Diversity, Promote Inclusivity

When children see their lives reflected in the books they read they become more enthusiastic readers. Their educational outcomes improve. They succeed in school and in life.

But few books actSFAP Pie Chart Infographicually reflect the cultures and circumstances of the kids First Book serves, all of whom live in low-income households and many of whom are of minority backgrounds. In fact, a mere 11 percent of 3,500 children’s books reviewed by Cooperative Children’s Book Center this year are about people of color.

This is the reason we created the Stories for All ProjectTM – the only market-driven solution to increase diverse voices and promote inclusivity in children’s literature.

Today, we’re proud to share our latest news with you: With support from Target, KPMG and Jet Blue Airways, First Book is making 60,000 copies of outstanding children’s titles featuring diverse characters and storylines available for the first time ever in affordable trade paperback format, to fuel learning and educational equity.

We chose these titles fromStories for All group photo hundreds submitted by publishers with input from the 175,000 educators and program leaders we serve. By aggregating the demand and purchasing power of this educator community, we have become the first organization to create a viable and vibrant market for books that reflect race, ability, sexual orientation and family structure in our ever-diversifying world.

Each of our selections contributes unique perspectives underrepresented in children’s literature while remaining relatable to all readers. As part of this current effort, First Book is thrilled to make available two titles by new picture book authors:

  • “Niño Wrestles the World” written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales
  • “And Tango Makes Three” written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole
  • “Tiger in My Soup” written by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
  • “Boats for Papa” written and illustrated by new author/illustrator Jessixa Bagley
  • “Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah,” written by first-time children’s author Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls,
  • “Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me,” written by Daniel Beaty and illustrated by Bryan Collier

Copies of all six titles will be available through the First Book Marketplace.  The first three titles are also available for the first time in paperback format on Target.com and at Target stores nationwide.

Every day, in communities around the country and around the world, we see the critical need to further our human understanding and embrace the gifts and experience each of us brings. The Stories for All Project and promotes understanding, empathy and inclusivity with stories that can help all children see and celebrate their differences and similarities.

The post The Stories for All Project: 60,000 New Books to Increase Diversity, Promote Inclusivity appeared first on First Book Blog.

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18. First Book Joins White House to Bring Thousands of e-Books to Kids in Need

iStock_000014235579MediumWe know that access to books – in all forms – is critical for children to develop into readers.

Now, through a new White House-led initiative, First Book is helping connect children in need across the country with access to thousands of e-books. The initiative, announced today by President Obama, is part of a broad effort to ignite kids’ love of reading by improving access to digital content and public libraries.

Through the initiative, called Open eBooks, publishers are providing $250 million worth of e-books for free to children from low-income families. 10,000 of their most popular titles will be included.

The books will be accessible through an Open eBooks app, which is currently being developed by the New York Public Library, the Digital Public Library of America and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Once complete, the app and all the e-books will be available to programs and classrooms serving children in need through First Book.

Know someone working in the lives of children in need? Encourage them to sign up with First Book.

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19. INFOGRAPHIC: Books Make a Difference in Kids’ Lives (Now Available in Spanish)

Our popular infographic “Books Make a Difference in Kids’ Lives” is now available in Spanish. The infographic illustrates how the presence of books in a low-income community versus an upper-middle income community impacts a child’s life.

Ahora encuentras nuestra infografía popular “Los libros hacen una diferencia en la vida de los niños” en español.  La infografía ilustra como la presencia de libros en una comunidad de escasos recursos versus una comunidad de recursos altos y medios impactan la vida de los niños.


Do you work with kids from low-income families? First Book can help you get new, high-quality books for the kids you serve.

¿Trabajas con niños de bajos recursos? First Book te puede ayudar a conseguir libros nuevos y de alta calidad para los niños de tu escuela, centro educativo o programa comunitario.

La versión en inglés de nuestra infografía se encuentra aquí

See the English version of our infographic here.

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20. One More Page

Dr. Shirley JohnsonDr. Shirley Johnson, in her words, is an educator to the depths of her soul.

Over the last 40 years, she has been a teacher, administrator, union leader, curriculum supervisor and an education advocate.  Most recently, she opened The Resource Room, an afterschool education program for children ages five to 11 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

She is also a long-standing NAACP member and Regional Chair with a long history and deep family roots in the Civil Rights Movement.

Recently, with support from the General Motors Foundation, First Book partnered with NAACP to launch the new national NAACP Reads initiative. The initiative kicked off with an initial distribution of 900 copies of Child of the Civil Rights Movement. Regional Chairs were challenged to read the book to at least 10 children.

Dr. Johnson took the challenge to heart and started by reading the book to the 32 students at one of The Resource Room’s locations.  She has since shared the book, and the joy of reading, with many more children.

“I have never seen children who are so hungry for knowledge. In the middle of my reading of the book, I told the boys and girls that time was up and we would continue the next day.  I was met with the response of the children chanting ‘One more page! One more page!’” she says, “They loved the book so much, just as they love every book. All the children in that location can now read fluently.”

First Book is proud to partner with the GM Foundation. Together, the GM Foundation and First Book have provided 5,000 books to children in need through the national NAACP Reads initiative, 100 Black Men, the National Urban League, CNC, and MANA, A National Latina Organization.

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21. Sparking Students’ Interest In Math

counting on 1

Sarah’s students practicing “counting on”

When it’s time for a math lesson, Sarah Richardson’s kindergarten class sits in a group, with one hand on their heads, counting on the other hand in front of them.  They’re learning addition using a method called “counting on”. This can be a very tricky skill for some of Sarah’s students.

After a tough math lesson, the students sit down to enjoy a new story.  She begins to read a book about a builder named Jack who uses different numbers of blocks to build robots, a hot dog stand and the tallest building in the world.  He adds on more and more blocks to create bigger and better structures.

Sarah’s students aren’t just enjoying a new story. As she reads, the students begin to use the skills they just learned to solve the problems in the book.

Math can be tricky for many students. Michelle Evans, a Reading and Literacy Coach at Joseph Keels Elementary in Columbia, SC has observed some of her students being timid and reserved when it comes to participating in math lessons.

“They’re afraid to take risks for fear of not having the right answer,” she says.

class with book editedSarah has noticed similar behavior in her students during math class.  “Some students tend to not participate because they are shy, or feel that if someone else knows the answer first, they don’t need to answer,” she explains.

Michelle and Sarah searched for books to help those who struggled with math concepts. They recently found the MathStart series on the First Book Marketplace. The series is filled with vivid illustrations and fun, real-life stories that represent math concepts.  The books have helped their students gain confidence when participating in math lessons –and they’re more excited about math.

“I’ve witnessed my students become more confident in their mathematical abilities.  The books are helping them have a deeper understanding of math,” says Michelle.

Sarah’s students love to read the books on their own after they’ve discussed them in class.

IMG_4606editSarah and Michelle are not alone. First Book surveyed 89 educators who have used these books with their students and 74% said they used these books to help spark their kids’ interest in math.

Michelle has seen her students select MathStart books during independent reading.  They copy and complete word problems from the books.  They’re choosing to do math problems and understanding the concepts on their own.

First Book was able to bring this collection of books to the First Book Marketplace thanks to the support American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM.) 

Do you work with kids in need?  You can access this great math series, and many other books and resources, by signing up.

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22. Celebrate National Poetry Month!

It’s April! At First Book that means it’s not just springtime, it’s the month that we celebrate all things rhythm, verse and rhyme: National Poetry Month. Here are five of our favorite collections to make poetry fun for kids of varying ages.

button_upButton Up! Wrinkled Rhymes Written by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Petra Mathers

This hilarious book features poems written from the points of view of different articles of clothing. From “Emily’s Undies” to “Bob’s Bicycle Helmet,” each is certain both to get laughs and to help kids think creatively about voice and perspective. Perfect for Kindergarten – 3rd grade.


firefly_julyFirefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems Edited by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Stunning illustrations fill the pages of this beautiful collection. Hand-picked poems of just a few lines each take readers through the changing moods and weather of the four seasons, making this a perfect book for year-round reading. Ideal for Kindergarten – 4th grade.


emmas_poemEmma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty Written by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” When poet Emma Lazarus penned these words in 1883, she was speaking out for the immigrants arriving on America’s shores and shaping the world’s view of the Statue of Liberty. This simple but powerful biography brings her story to life and invites  conversations about U.S. history, women’s history, immigration, and human rights. Recommended for 2nd – 5th grade.


wild_book_engleThe Wild Book Written by Margarita Engle

Filled with luscious language and rich imagery, this moving novel in verse by Cuban-American poet Margarita Engle tells the story of a girl who is struggling with dyslexia but determined to defy the predictions of those who say she’ll never read. The book offers sensitive insights into life with a disability while showing readers an especially chaotic time in Cuban history, circa 1912. Best for 5th – 8th grade.


youdontevenknow_flakeYou Don’t Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys Written by Sharon Flake

Honest, heartfelt and thought-provoking – three words we’d use to describe the poems and short stories in this collection, each told from a black teen’s point of view. Their voices tell tales of gangs, guns, pregnancy, STDs and abuse; but there’s also love, community and positivity on these pages.  In short, it’s a truthful look at life’s realities, told with rhythm, insight and genuine care. This would be terrific for use as reader’s theater or as inspiration for teens to record their own stories in writing. For use with mature middle school and high school students.

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23. Books to Forge Friendships

CML TeensThere’s very little for kids to do in the town of Bluefield, West Virginia. But once a week, eighteen students from different walks of life gather to talk about books.

Suzette Sims, the program services coordinator at the Craft Memorial Library, organized the book club a few years ago. It started with three middle school students and has since grown in size and friendship.

But the library doesn’t have money to buy books. When the book club had just three members, they could obtain books through interlibrary loan.  Now, the program has grown and the book club needs almost twenty copies of books per week to keep it going – an almost impossible task.

Through First Book, Suzette can find enough copies of the books her students love to read.  The students debate, learn and forge friendships.

CML Teens2“This is somewhere they can meet and see their friends once a week,” says Suzette. “It’s a mix of the groups. Some are friends, some didn’t know each other beforehand.”

Along with providing a safe and supportive environment, Suzette hopes to give her students the opportunity to discover their interests and passions.

“The more I can show them about different things – science, art, books – the more they’ll be able to figure out what they’re interested in and what they want to do,” explains Suzette. “I have a lot of hope for these kids. They have such a spark in them – if they want to, they can go anywhere.”

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24. Parents Value Printed Books

Domtar Infographic Circle v2A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that 9 out of 10 parents of children under 18 say it’s important to them that their children read printed books. The parents in the study value the sensory experience books give to children — the turning of the pages, the cover images, the rich colors of the illustrations and ink.

They also believe that reading printed books helps them to model reading habits for their children.

One parent who participated in the study thought this to be particularly true in our digital culture. “I’m reading…a book [on a tablet] and my children don’t know if I’m reading a book or if I’m playing on Twitter,” they said. “So I think it’s important to have the book so that they go, ‘Oh Dad’s reading’… not just, ‘Oh he’s updating his Facebook page.’ I think there is like a difference in that.”

Want to help bring books into the hands of kids in need? Find out how you can get involved!

First Book is able to provide printed books and other educational resources to children in need thanks to partners like Domtar Paper.

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25. Our Five Favorite Books for April

Our five favorite books for April will help kids celebrate each other’s unique differences, process with the emotions of moving, learn about the culture of Haiti — even teach them a few magic tricks!

For Pre-K – K (Ages 3-6):

bad_bye_good_bye“Bad Bye, Good Bye”by Deborah Underwood

In very few words, this warm and reassuring picture book captures the emotions kids experience in the process of moving. Over the course of the story, a boy goes from sadness to joy as his family moves from the country to the city, saying goodbye to old friends and hello to new ones.

For  1st & 2nd grade (Ages 6-8):

not_typical_dragon_1“Not Your Typical Dragon” (First Book Marketplace Special Edition) by Dan Bar-el

Kids will laugh out loud at this funny, lovable story about a young dragon who can breathe everything but fire. A terrific lesson in recognizing and appreciating everyone’s unique talents!

For 3rd & 4th grade (Ages 8-10):

vanishing_coin“Magic Shop Series #1: The Vanishing Coin” by Kate Egan

This engaging chapter book series hooks kids with a fun plot and a great bonus – lessons for performing magic tricks! Kids with attention issues or those struggling with bullies will especially relate.

5th & 6th grade (Ages 10-12):

stella_by_starlight“Stella by Starlight” by Sharon Draper

Through the eyes of a quirky, relatable 12-year-old, readers are transported to 1932 when the Klu Klux Klan resurfaces and unsettles a close-knit community. Kids will root for Stella as they witness her inspiring determination to face her biggest fears head on.

7th & up (Ages 13+):

“Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go”hold_tight by Laura Rose Wagner

This deeply affecting novel provides a rich exploration of Haiti’s culture through the experiences of Magdalie, a teenage survivor of the 2010 earthquake. Magdalie’s resolve to make a better life for herself makes this an empowering story for anyone who is suffering a loss or coping with tragedy.



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