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1. How One Librarian Uses Food to Keep Kids Learning


Theresa Mai, librarian at Truscott Elementary

“I always tell our kids that they are like cars, motorcycles or trucks,” says Theresa Mai, the librarian at Truscott Elementary in Loveland, Colorado. “We talk about their parents getting fuel for their car – how it can’t run without the right fuel. Their bodies are the same way. Food is their fuel and we have to keep them going so they can learn.”

Theresa Mai provides books, games, activities, and all kinds of resources from the First Book Marketplace for the students at her school. But without food, the kids don’t have the basic caloric intake to benefit from the resources she supplies.

Much of the non-perishable food the school receives from First Book is used as mid-day snacks to keep kids alert and engaged. Some is used after school to feed kids in Book Club, Garden Club or Running Club. Many of the snacks are just available for kids when they get hungry.

Theresa even uses the food as a learning tool. While reading stories about zoo animals, Theresa’s students play with animal crackers. They break them apart and combine the animal’s characteristics to inspire imaginative play, learning the benefits of different animals’ biological traits.

Global Institute student reading with Love Child 3“I would combine any animal with a chicken because then my family could eat the eggs,” said one student. He then explained to Theresa that his family was out of money and almost out of food.

This isn’t an atypical experience for the students at Truscott. Because of this the school provides snacks to their students regardless of need or ability to pay. Many of their kids come to school without breakfast and don’t go home to a meal awaiting them. Others stuff their pockets with snacks to bring home to their siblings who don’t attend the school.

“I am often in awe by how appreciative the kids are of food,“ explains Theresa. “Most of us have access to food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But for those who do not have easy access to food, it is the kind of gift that lights up a child’s face.”

If you’re an educator or program leader serving children in need, you can find non-perishable food and other basic needs on the First Book Marketplace.

The post How One Librarian Uses Food to Keep Kids Learning appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. Monthly Book List: Our Five Favorite Books for January

Our favorite books this month celebrate the differences that make us great, inspire us to believe and dream, reinforce the power of friendship (real or imaginary!), and take us on an epic journey with two supervillains.

Which of our five favorites will you read this month?

For Pre-K – K (ages 3-6)

happy in our skin children's picture book diversityHappy in Our Skin  By: Fran Manushkin

For families of all stripes comes a sweet celebration of what makes us unique—and what holds us together. Fran Manushkin’s rollicking text and Lauren Tobia’s delicious illustrations paint a breezy and irresistible picture of the human family—and how wonderful it is to be just who you are.


For Grades 1-2 (ages 6-8)

Dream Drum Girl Children's picture book diverse kids book on music

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music  By: Margarita Engle

Girls cannot be drummers.

Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule—until the drum dream girl. Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers, Drum Dream Girl tells an inspiring true story for dreamers everywhere.


For Grades 3-4 (ages 8-10)

Crenshaw kid's Book on HomelessnessCrenshaw By: Katherine Applegate

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times.

Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?



For Grades 5-6 (ages 10-12)

Bayou Magic Book

Bayou Magic By: Jewell Parker Rhodes

A magical coming-of-age story from Coretta Scott King honor author Jewell Parker Rhodes, rich with Southern folklore, friendship, family, fireflies and mermaids, plus an environmental twist.





For 7th Grade & up (Ages 13+):

nimona_noelle_stevensonNimona By: Noelle Stevenson

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.


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

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3. Is Your Family Up for the Challenge?

52811_CCM_WMRC_SiteGraphicsParents and caretakers play a critical role in kids becoming readers. By enjoying stories together, parents can help children learn to love reading right in their own homes!

First Book is always eager to share opportunities that encourage families to read together. And through February 19, 2016, we’ve teamed up with WWE to do just that.

Families are encouraged to join the WrestleMania Reading Challenge by reading together for 15 minutes a day or more. Each day parents or caretakers can log their minutes and enter to win a trip to WrestleMania in Dallas, TX on April 3.

Here are a few quick tips for reading together as a family:

  1. Show your child that reading is fun! Laugh out loud, make silly sounds and talk about what you’ve read.
  2. Let your child choose. Encourage your child to select books he or she most wants to read. Kids get more excited to read books they’ve chosen.
  3. Create a special reading spot. Pick a space in your home where you can read together as a family. Keep a notepad handy to jot down unfamiliar words or thoughts about each story.
  4. Act out the story. Choose a book your family knows well and have each family member act out a part of the story. Alternate who reads and who acts.

Follow @WWEReads on Twitter for more family reading tips and additional details about the 2016 WrestleMania Reading Challenge.

The post Is Your Family Up for the Challenge? appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. Win 100,000 books for kids in your state

What can 100,000 stories do for children in need in your state?

Disney has donated a record 50 million books to First Book. To celebrate, Disney, ABC and First Book are giving you a chance to bring thousands of books to kids in need by voting for the state of your choice.

State Challenge Map v3-01You can vote as many times as you like through March 31, 2016.

Schools and programs registered with First Book in the winning state will receive 100,000 books. Second and third place states will receive 25,000 and 10,000 books, respectively. See complete rules and information here.


The post Win 100,000 books for kids in your state appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. The Most Important Job She Has

Video 2 email image

Jill Botts gives books to the students of Los Molinos Unified School District five times a year. She believes that getting books to these children is the most important job she has.

Educators throughout the country feel the same way.

Together, we can make a difference in kids’ lives by providing books, school supplies and other essentials to help them learn. Thank you for all you do to support First Book and children in need.

Watch this video to find out more about Jill, Los Molinos and the importance of books in her community.

The post The Most Important Job She Has appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. “They line up outside of the library…”

The kids at Herricks Middle School in Albertson, New York love to learn. In fact, every morning many of them line up outside of the library before school starts, eager to trade in their latest read for a new story.

Jodi quoteFor some of the students, the books they receive at school are the only ones they have.

“Our school is very diverse so we service students with varying degrees of need,’” said Jodi Thompson, the school’s librarian. “While the more affluent students may have access to books and support at home, the others face more difficult challenges.”

Many students may only have access to hot meals while at school. Others have parents who work very hard for very long hours or do not speak English, so they cannot help with their school work. Some moved here without their parents and live with relatives just to get an education in America.

But none of these challenges keep Jodi’s students from working hard and doing their best.

Fifty-five of her students from different circumstances come together after school for Book Club. And thanks to a grant from the Guru Krupa Foundation, Jodi was able to obtain the books students most wanted to read together. These included My Most Excellent Year and The Misfits.

20151216_150252“For the past few years, the kids have been asking to do a large group read but we never had enough copies of the same books to do it,” explained Jodi. “They actually cheered when they found out we had enough books to do the whole group read not once, but three times this year.”

“Getting these books for free is invaluable to me and my students,” she says.

The Foundation, based in Jericho, New York, funds initiatives related to education, health and basic sustenance of underprivileged children in India and the United States, and has helped First Book provide more than 75,000 books to children in need in the greater New York, Los Angeles and India in recent years.

“We at Guru Krupa Foundation believe that education is a cornerstone for future success in life,” said Mukund Padmanabhan of the Guru Krupa Foundation. “Supporting initiatives that bring the benefits of education to underprivileged children can lead to enormous future dividends, not only for the children but to society.”


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7. The Only Present She’ll Receive This Holiday

Today’s guest blogger is Mollie James, Executive Director of Bruce Irons Camp Fund in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Under glowing lights sits a single gift in crisp wrapping paper. Since it arrived at Carolina’s home a few days ago, her hopes have soared.

For Carolina, the book that awaits her may be the only present she’ll receive this holiday.

Hilda, Faduma, Carolina, Carolina 2The kids in our program – kids like Carolina – take nothing for granted. They are so appreciative of any opportunity to read and learn.

Every year, we give each of our kids a beautifully wrapped book to read during break. By the time they return to school in January, they’ve devoured the books we sent them and are eager for more.

With your help, First Book can provide three times more books to kids like ours this holiday season. Donate today to make sure every child has a gift to unwrap and enjoy.

The post The Only Present She’ll Receive This Holiday appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. Why My Students Hide Their Backpacks

Today’s guest blogger is Sheri Dominguez, Media Specialist at Palmview Elementary School in Pompano Beach, Florida.

When the final bell rings at Palmview Elementary, some of my students make one stop before heading home – the bushes outside of school.

That is where they hide their backpacks for the night.

Because they have so few belongings, they take this precaution to keep their books safe. Their living situations aren’t stable. They don’t always know where they will sleep that night.

IMG_0004Books mean everything to our students. They carry books everywhere they go, even asking their teachers if they can skip recess so they can read.

At school, our kids feel secure. They have a quiet place to learn and explore the safety found in the pages of books. And because of First Book, we can provide them with books to treasure.

Please donate to First Book today.

The post Why My Students Hide Their Backpacks appeared first on First Book Blog.

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9. Books for Babies

Today’s guest blogger is Veronica Creech, Director of Partner Engagement at First Book.

MadelineR2When you open a book for a baby, their eyes light up. They’re fascinated by the contrast of the colors. They marvel at words as you read to them.

What these little ones don’t know is that books will also shape their future.

Book Babies is one of many wonderful programs my team at First Book supports. Part of the nonprofit organization Book Harvest, Book Babies helps 150 families in Durham, NC discover the importance and joy of reading together.

The families they serve all have big dreams for their children, but lack books to build those dreams upon.

JesusR2Take 18-month old Ian and his mom for example. Every morning, Ian wakes his mom before sunrise with a new book in his hand for them to read together. Though it’s earlier than she’d like, reading has become a fantastic way for them to connect and start every day.

Before they joined Book Babies, there were no books in their home. They now have over 30.

This holiday season please donate to First Book and give the hope of a bright future to babies and their families.

The post Books for Babies appeared first on First Book Blog.

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10. Changing the Lives of Families

Smart from the Start screen grab 2

When you support First Book, you also help hundreds of thousands of schools and programs across the country. Meet one of them.

Smart from the Start supports families, engages communities and prepares children for school. They work to prevent the academic achievement gap among young children living in the lowest income communities.

By working together, we change the lives of families like these. Take a look.

The post Changing the Lives of Families appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. Books for Growing Healthy Minds

Kids who develop healthy habits have improved outcomes in all aspects of life.

That’s why we’re excited to offer a new collection of titles on the First Book Marketplace to help educators teach healthy habits to kids they serve. Hand-selected by renowned chef Mario Batali, the Healthy Kids Collection features eight books about food and the importance of healthy eating.

Six of the titles are brand-new to the First Book Marketplace.

In addition to sponsoring this collection, The Mario Batali Foundation is helping 250 schools and programs serving kids in need access these resources.

Below are a few of the titles you can find in the Healthy Kids Collection. To view all of the titles visit the First Book Marketplace.

IMG_3764Edible Colors by Jennifer Vogel Bass

With a combination of unusual foods and a kaleidoscope of colors, this concept book shows that not all foods have to look the same way. A banana can be red, broccoli can be purple, and cherries can be yellow and still taste just as delicious.



to_market_to_mcclureTo Market, To Market by Nikki McClure

Known for art that celebrates the virtues of community, hard work, and living gently on the planet, Nikki McClure here explores a topic close to her heart: the farmers market. Alternating between story and fact, this lovingly crafted picture book follows a mother and son to the weekly market. As they check off items on their shopping list, the reader learns how each particular food was grown or produced, from its earliest stages to how it ended up at the market.

Gus, Nellie, and baby Jake can’t wait to go on a picnic! In the morning the family heads to their community garden, then to the farmer’s market and the grocery store to gather vegetables, fruit, meat, and other fresh and delicious foods. Readers follow them through the day as they go home to prepare, cook, and pack up the goodies, then cap their day by eating a yummy meal in the park and flying a kite together.

A special thanks to the Mario Batali Foundation for making this collection possible. We love being able to offer new resources to the educators and program leaders we serve.

The post Books for Growing Healthy Minds appeared first on First Book Blog.

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12. Our Favorite Books of 2015

Each month, we share our book enthusiast’s five favorite books. We’ve thought long and hard about the best of the best and are excited to announce our favorite books of 2015!

In this month’s selection you’ll find just five of the more than 80 titles selected as our outstanding favorites. To see all of our picks, visit the Favorite Books of 2015 section on the First Book Marketplace.

For Pre-K –K (Ages 3-6):

the_bus_is_for_usThe Bus is for Us by Michael Rosen & Illustrated by Gillian Tyler

Small children take great delight in rides—whether by bicycle, car, boat, or plane. But best of all is taking the bus, because the bus is for everyone! Complimented by beautiful artwork from Gillian Tyler, this playful rhyming narrative by Michael Rosen will rev up little listeners to join right in.


For 1st and 2nd Grade (Ages 6-8):

trombone_shortyTrombone Shorty  by Anthony Andrews & Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Andrews has created a lively picture book autobiography about how he followed his dream of becoming a musician, despite the odds, until he reached international stardom. With esteemed illustrator Bryan Collier artwork, Trombone Shorty is a celebration of the rich cultural history of New Orleans and the power of music.


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

mesmerized_ben_franklinMesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Maria Rockliff & illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

Discover how Benjamin Franklin’s scientific method challenged a certain Dr. Mesmer’s mysterious powers in this rip-roaring, lavishly illustrated peek into a fascinating moment in history.


For 5th and 6th Grade (Ages 10-12):

roller_girlRoller Girl Written & Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson

In her graphic novel debut, real-life derby girl Victoria Jamieson has created an inspiring coming-of-age story about friendship, perseverance, and girl power!



Grades 7 & up (Ages 13+)

house_arrestHouse Arrest by K.A. Holt

By turns touching and funny, and always original, House Arrest is a novel in verse about one boy’s path to redemption as he navigates life with a sick brother, a grieving mother, and one tough probation officer.



The post Our Favorite Books of 2015 appeared first on First Book Blog.

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13. Her Students Were Missing This Critical Resource

“Being cold is something that’s hard to camouflage,” says Claudia Averette, Chief of Staff of Chester Upland School District in Chester, PA.

When Claudia started her role, it was very clear to her that her students were missing something very important to their education – coats.

“When you have children coming to ask if you have something they can wear home because their jacket isn’t warm enough, the need is evident,” Claudia says.

Coats pic from claudiaThis is a common problem in cities like Chester where the median income for a family of four is $26,000 per year. Families have limited resources. Between paying rent and putting food on the table coats don’t always take priority. And when kids don’t have coats in cold weather, they can’t make it to school to learn.

“I think we take for granted the little things that families just don’t have,” says Claudia.

As the temperature dropped, her students arrived to school without warm coats. They had no hats, no gloves and no scarves. Claudia turned to Operation Warm, a nonprofit whose mission is to put coats on kids in need, to provide them with coats.

“When you look at the absentee rates, they go up in January and February,” explains Claudia. “I believe that has a lot to do with not having adequate clothing.”

First Book has partnered with Operation Warm to offer coats on the First Book Marketplace so kids can make it to school and learn year-round.

Claudia QuoteThe incredibly warm coats are carefully constructed. The manufacturing is high quality, so kids receive the same quality items as their more affluent peers and don’t need to worry about standing out. The coats have a tag inside for kids to write their names so they know the coat is their own. Kids can play outside with friends. It’s a great relief for their families.

For many students, when they receive an Operation Warm coat, it’s also the first time they’re receiving something new.

“When children feel good about themselves, they do good by themselves,” says Claudia. “When kids have a warm coat, they have a smile on their face. They sit up, they pay attention, they’re more astute because they just feel good about themselves!”

The First Book Marketplace now has winter coats and cold weather items. If you work with children in need, you can access these resources and many more by signing up.

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14. How Educators Use Tablets

71 Tablets Family EngagementTablets provide many opportunities to engage a child in interactive learning. But for educators in under-resourced schools and programs, such technology is often out of reach.

Thanks to a partnership with Blackboard Inc., many schools and programs were able to find affordable Kobo tablets through the First Book Marketplace this year.

How did they use them? Many used the Kobos to engage families in their child’s learning71% of educators and program leaders reported that the tablets helped them achieve family engagement goals. 

Parents and children used the tablets before school, especially if they didn’t have technology at home. Other children showed their parents their favorite activities and websites during a parent meeting. Parents and caretakers now have the games, learning apps and eBooks that tablets provide at their fingertips, allowing them to play an active role in their child’s education.

If you serve children in need, you can find books, tablets, learning resources and other essentials on the First Book Marketplace. Sign up today!



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15. The Impact Report

Your support has a huge impact in the lives of the educators, program leaders and the children they serve. That’s why we are excited to share our latest Impact Report with you.

impact reportIn the report, you’ll learn about the challenges faced by students living in low-income families and how those challenges affect their ability to succeed. You’ll also see just how important books are to kids in need and the success stories your support has made possible.

You can view the report here.

Please take a moment to share the report with friends and family. Invite them to join you in sharing the pleasure and power of reading with kids in need. Together, we make it possible for all kids to learn and grow.

The post The Impact Report appeared first on First Book Blog.

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16. First Book Honored with Literacy Award by Library of Congress

This week, First Book was honored with the David M. Rubenstein Prize for 2015, one of three literacy awards presented by the Library of Congress annually.

0J3A8531The Rubenstein Prize is awarded to an organization that has made “outstanding and measurable contributions in increasing literacy levels and has demonstrated exceptional and sustained depth and breadth in its commitment to the advancement of literacy.”  In addition, the award honors organizations that meet the highest standards of excellence in operations and services.

All of us at First Book are thrilled to receive this prestigious award and recognition – but it couldn’t have happened without you.  Your support makes transforming the lives of children in need possible.

Equally thrilling is that this award comes as First Book reaches another milestone in our history:  we now serve more than 200,000 educators – the largest and fastest growing network of classrooms and programs supporting children in need. Thanks to cross-sector partnerships and tremendous advocates like you, this network has grown 500% in the last 4 years.

We are grateful for your support in helping reach educators of all kinds and further educational equity for millions of children.

Spread the word by sharing the great news on Facebook or Twitter!


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17. How Educators Use Books from First Book

74 send books home


Educators and program leaders have many uses for the books they receive from First Book – filling library shelves, inspiring excitement in reluctant readers and engaging parents in their child’s learning.

They even give children books of their own to keep. 74% of educators and program leaders say the books they get from First Book are sent home with kids to keep. These books give children the chance to re-read their favorite stories and build collections of books at home, allowing them to fall in love with reading.

Do you work with kids in need? Sign up with First Book today to access books to send home with the children you serve.

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18. Monthly Book List: Our Five Favorite Books for October

Have you ever felt frustrated? Have you ever been the new kid in town? This month’s picks are filled with relatable themes like these. You’ll also find books the celebrate a fun tradition between family members, demonstrate the power of belief and explore themes of friendship. For older readers, you’ll find a witty story full of pop culture references that also highlights some heavier topics.

For Pre-K – K (ages 3-6)

bernice_carried_awayBernice Gets Carried Away Written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison

Alison’s pick: “This picture book is a true gem! Superb illustrations and small, relatable moments make it one you’ll pick up again and again. Every kid will connect Bernice’s feelings of frustration and adults will love its themes of feelings, sharing, and friendship.”


For Grades 1-2 (ages 6-8)

im_new_hereI’m New Here Written and Illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Matthew’s pick: “A fantastic book about immigration and assimilation! Anyone who has ever been ‘the new kid’ will identify with the three kids in this story, as they learn to adapt to new languages, new customs, and new friends. I love it!”


For Grades 3-4 (ages 8-10)

sunday_shoppingSunday Shopping Written by Sally Derby & Illustrated by Shadra Strickland

Jenn’s pick: “This sweet story about a Sunday tradition between a loving grandmother and her granddaughter is also a great opportunity for imaginative play! You can hand kids a newspaper or magazine and join them on your own pretend “shopping spree” after you share this wonderful book.”

For Grades 5-6 (ages 10-12)

circus_mirandusCircus Mirandus Written by Cassie Beasley

Alison’s pick: “I didn’t want this story to end! Enchanting, suspenseful, and deeply moving, it’s a rich story about friendship, family, and the power of belief. Pure magic!”



For 7th Grade & up (Ages 13+):

simon_vs_the_homo_sapiens_agendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Written by Becky Albertalli

Matthew’s pick: “I loved this book, and teens will too! A lighthearted, witty coming out story, it’s filled with humor and pop culture references that keep the tone upbeat, even as it deals with heavier topics like bullying, race, class, sexuality, and gender.”

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

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19. Shelves Filled with Books of All Sizes And Colors

Today’s Guest Blogger is Susan Brunecz, an Instructional Coach at Paul L. Dunbar Academy in Cleveland, Ohio.

IMG_3764When our students entered their classes on the first day of school two weeks ago, a roar of excitement erupted! They had just laid eyes on their new classroom libraries. Their shelves were filled with brand-new books of all sizes and colors. What a way to start the year!

But books weren’t always so plentiful. Last year, many shelves were bare. Only a few classes had established libraries.

Being new to this school, my goal was to get as many books as I could into our classrooms. Thanks to generous supporters, every class now has a library of its own.

Many of the children who attend our school move frequently, living with a friend or a relative. Others live in shelters or temporary housing. Our school is the most stable place our kids have and the best way for them to access books. Here they are encouraged to read all that they can.

IMG_9419-editNow, when you peek into a classroom, you’ll find students exploring the pages of books at their reading level. And when they finish, they’ll find a new book waiting to be read.

There are still schools out there whose shelves are bare. They need your help.

Please donate today to help kids start the school year with classrooms full of books. Your gift will be matched.


First Book was able to provide books to the students at Paul L. Dunbar Academy thanks to the support of JetBlue.

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20. Monthly Book List: Our Five Favorite Books for September

First Book’s book experts are back again with our monthly book list – just in time to head back to school.

You’ll find a dazzling autobiography, a story about embracing change and finding friendship, an engaging read-aloud to build imagination and a cliff-hanger with an unexpected plot twist. For teens, you’ll find a book that touches many of today’s important topics – cyber bullying, social media, peer pressure and more.

Pre-K – K (Ages 3-6)

lola_loves_storiesLola Loves Stories by Anna McQuinn and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Kelsey’s pick this month: “My heart is always warmed by the adventures of Lola and her family! Filled with simple, vibrant illustrations, this is an adorable read-aloud that empowers young readers to engage with stories using their own imaginations.”

Grades 1-2 (Ages 6-8)

bear_ate_your_sandwichThe Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

Matthew’s pick this month: “Full of delightful surprises! This charming picture book about the adventures of a bear and a stolen sandwich will have young listeners in suspense and in stitches from the first page to the unexpected plot twist.”

Grades 3-4 (Ages 8-10):

josephine_dazzling_lifeJosephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Miriam’s pick this month: “Inspiring and eye-opening, this is easily one of the most engrossing biographies I’ve ever read. Josephine Baker comes alive through gorgeous paintings and inspired free verse. Prepare to be dazzled!”

Grades 5-6 (Ages 10-12):

unusual_chickensUnusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer By Kelly Jones and Illustrated by Katie Kath

Alison’s pick this month: “How do you care for chickens with superpowers? Kids will love finding out! This is an engaging, empowering, and wonderfully entertaining book about embracing change and finding friendship.”

7th & up (Ages 13+):

goodbye_strangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Jenn’s pick this month: “Rebecca Stead has done it again! Multiple stories intertwine in this powerful, beautifully-written novel that tackles important themes for anyone working with teens – friendship, loyalty, cyber bullying, social media, body image, peer pressure, and more. A perfect book for middle and younger high school students.”



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21. A Heartfelt Thank You

Letter from Euclid OhioLetter from Euclid OhioLetter from Euclid OhioOne of the best things about working at First Book is receiving thank you notes from the educators and kids we serve.

Cathy Stang, a Learning Resource Teacher from Adrian Elementary School in South Euclid, Ohio, recently sent a HUGE stack of silly, sincere and sweet notes from her students. She even included a note from a parent of one of her students:

Dear Mrs. Stang,

I just wanted to write you a note and thank you for your work at Adrian, especially with First Book. Caleb has grown so much in his love of books and reading this year. Since receiving his first Mo Willems’ book, Caleb fell in love/became obsessed with the Gerald and Piggie characters. He now owns 11 of them. He has used his own allowance money, asked his grandparents and basically any way he could think of to get more. When he gets a new one, he will bring it everywhere he goes and read it to all his friends. I am not even exaggerating. Thanks for making a difference in life of a kid.

We’re grateful to Cathy and all the wonderful educators and kids who share their notes and their love of reading with us. You are OUR heroes!

Want to see your story or thank you note featured on our blog? Share it with us here.

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22. Back to Basics

In 23 years, we’ve been committed to educational equality. We’ve seen how books can have a tremendous effect on children’s lives. But sometimes a book just isn’t enough.

An overwhelming number of families struggle meet the basic needs of their children, such as providing food, shelter and clothing. In fact, 79% of educators and program leaders say that meeting basic needs is one of the most common challenges faced by their students.

basic needs stat

A teacher may go through great lengths to help his or her students read and learn. But on a very cold day, if the students don’t have coats or hats, they can’t attend school and fall behind. If kids can’t even remember their last meal, they cannot focus.

Without essential resources, kids simply can’t learn.

We understand that kids need more than just books to thrive. That’s why we provide educators with clothing and nonperishable food on the First Book Marketplace. Together, we can ensure their students have everything they need to show up to class and do their best.

Access the tools you need to help the children you serve succeed. If you work with kids in need, you can find food, clothing, school supplies and more on the First Book Marketplace.

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23. 5 Reasons to Teach with Graphic Novels

Some may not consider graphic novels a teaching tool, but in recent years graphic storytelling has been used as a medium to explore different kinds of stories for broader audiences. Because of this, these books are finding their way into more and more classrooms and libraries.

Why teach with graphic novels?

  • Kids love them – even the most reluctant readers
  • They build visual literacy and require readers to use both sides of their brains
  • They offer visual support that can aid reading and comprehension for English language learners and kids with some learning disabilities, such as Dyslexia
  • They inspire kids to create their own stories
  • They deliver rich stories with terrific art – a winning combination

Looking for just the right graphic novel for your young reader? Here are a few of our favorites:

For Kindergarten – 2nd Grade

toon booksTOON publishes fun comics that early readers can read by themselves or side-by-side with an adult, and each is vetted by literacy experts. With original stories, quirky characters, and plenty of age-appropriate wit, TOON Books enthrall both the emerging and reluctant reader. Every book has been vetted by literacy experts to ensure the language and narratives are appropriate for independent readers.

For 2nd – 4rd Grade

hamster_cheeseHamster and Cheese (Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye Series #1) Written by Colleen AF Venable; illustrated by Stephanie Yue

Ingredients: a guinea pig who solves crimes, a pet shop full of entertaining animals, and a missing sandwich. Put them all together and you get this hilarious graphic novel, the first in a wonderful series. It’s a great pick for readers of early chapter books, animal lovers, and/or detectives in training.

For 4th – 6th Grade

roller_girlRoller Girl Written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson

Yes! A roller derby graphic novel for kids! This delightful book tells the story of a girl who is learning how to stay on her feet – both on roller skates, and in friendship. The story is engaging, the art is super appealing, and adults will love the book’s subtle, underlying advice about how to be a good friend and a good son or daughter.

For 5th – 8th Grade

nathan_hale_underground_abductorNathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor Written and illustrated by Nathan Hale

The newest book in one of our favorite series is a true show-stopper. Just how much do you know about Harriet Tubman? The facts contained in this biographical narrative will blow your mind. It’s captivating, entertaining, and will make your kids eager to learn even more about American history and one of its most remarkable heroes.

For 8th Grade – Adults

march_book_one_lewisMarch: Book One and March: Book Two Written by John Robert Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illustrated by Nate Powell

These remarkable, New York Times-bestselling graphic novels belong in every program serving young adults! Congressman John Lewis recounts his role in the Civil Rights movement, introducing readers to pivotal moments that changed a nation. Readers follow his personal experiences and learn the motivations of the heroic young men and women who waged a war against segregation.
Members of First Book’s community of educators who have used graphic novels in the classroom can attest to the fact that they can reinforce new vocabulary, visual literacy, and reading skills. If you work with kids in need, you can find these graphic novels and more on the First Book Marketplace.

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24. One Teacher’s Wish List

Wish list imageEvery day, educators from across the country connect with First Book. They serve children of different ages, colors and creeds. But all have one thing in common – they need books.

More than 5,000 new educators sign up with First Book every month. Middle school teacher Judi McMahon of Wilmington, CA is one of them.

Ms. McMahon created a wish list of the books she needs to help her students grow as readers this year. On her list are great stories like Romeo and Juliet, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Tomás and the Library Lady, The Fault in Our Stars and The Little Prince.

Please donate today share your love of reading with her class. The more donations First Book receives, the more wish lists we can fulfill.

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25. Using Stories to Make Connections: An Interview with Meg Medina

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we talked with Meg Medina, author of Tia Isa Wants a Car, The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind and many other great stories available on the First Book Marketplace.

Learn why she became a children’s author, how her family heritage influences her stories and a surprising way her book has been used in classrooms and programs.

What led you to become a children’s author?

megThe process of telling story and sharing story was always just part of my family life. It was a beautiful way of connecting me to this larger idea of my family and what had come before.

My family came from Cuba throughout the 60s and 70s. For them, the process of losing country was a traumatic one, so story was used as a way to define and remember home. My grandmother in particular was a natural storyteller. She was my babysitter after school and would fill my head with stories of her own growing up, the first day she saw my grandfather, falling in love.

I ended up being someone who was good at writing, all kinds of writing, journalism and so on.  I really started to feel like I had found my place when I began to weave tales for young kids by accessing my own story.

In what ways does your personal story and the cultural heritage of your family influence the books you write? What else influences your writing?

When you are writing for children, in some ways you are writing for the child that you were. You’re asking the questions you had that lingered. But they have to be universal questions we have about growing up so that stories endure and feel fresh.

I’m not writing the stories directly from my life. I’m exploring the questions that I had that I believe children still have. Then, I overlay issues that are more contemporary. For example, I remember clearly the very laborious process of sending money to Cuba to our relatives so they could survive. Many Latino families here send money back to their home country. So, in Tia Isa Wants a Car, I present that experience to show that we care deeply about those we left at home and we don’t stop being connected to them just because we are here in the United States.

Tia Isa Wants a Car shows a family that works hard to send money back to their family members in their home county. For those children who know this as a common experience, why is it important for them to see this experience in a book? For children who do not know this experience, why is it important for them to see it in a book?

It’s a supreme act of generosity and such a statement about the value of family across the nations of Latin America. Loving and helping your family survive is central to the culture. Any time you see your experience reflected in pages of a book, it’s a validation. It says “I exist. This experience that I have exists; there’s nothing shameful or weird about it. There are people just like me.”

That is really essential. For me it’s important to give a representation of the reality we’re facing.

Understanding across cultural borders is also really important to me. For kids who don’t know this experience, it answers their question: “Really?! You send money to another country? Why?” I think it only increases empathy.

Why is it important to feature strong girls and women as protagonists in your books?

Sometimes the way we characterize Latinas is very one-dimensional. It’s important to represent Latinas as we are.

What I want to give Latina girls is the sense that we come in every shade, in every shape, from every economic group. Some of us speak Spanish, some us don’t, some us speak English really well and some of us don’t. It’s a whole range and it’s all good.

5743__FirstBookReading_100309In Tia Isa Wants a Car, everyone tells Tia Isa that she can’t have a car. She’s supposedly not able to do it, they assume because she’s a lady and because there’s no money, because “that’s just ridiculous.” But she does it anyway. I find that amazing. I have known so many Latina women in my life who have pressed on in the face of everyone telling them “No, you can’t” or “it’s too hard.”

It’s about resilience. It’s about a girl naming who she wants to be, not allowing the boys, or society or TV to define them or their goals. I want to reconnect Latina girls with that sense of strength and pride in themselves.

As you may now know, we used Tia Isa Wants a Car in some tip sheets we created with Understood.org with tips on how to use this book with children with special needs, specifically children with learning and attention issues. Were you surprised to see that your book was used in that way?

Tia IsaI was! It didn’t occur to me. And what’s more, I have a daughter with special needs. For her, reading and learning was difficult and it took patience. The whole notion of patience is such a thread in the book. You do have to be patient as you’re saving and waiting for good things to happen, sometimes you want it now and can’t imagine waiting another second.

I’m so excited that my book is being used this way. When kids see themselves in the book, or a problem they feel, or see a character wrestling with the same thing, it goes miles for reducing their loneliness, their sense that there is something wrong with them.

It’s exciting when educators find some aspect of the book that meets the needs of the kids in their seats.  That’s the magic of books!

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