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1. Welcoming We Give Books to the First Book Family

We can’t keep it a secret any longer!

iStock_000024504532LargeAs of today, We Give Books has a new home at First Book. The online platform, which features nearly 300 digitally-optimized children’s books, enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in WGB-FB-logothe hands of kids in need, simply by reading online.

This generous gift to First Book comes from The Pearson Foundation along with $1.3M in cash to support We Give Books and help First Book deliver new online programs and services to our growing network of 140,000 classrooms and community organizations serving children in need.

You can get involved too!

Children, parents, caretakers and educators can visit www.wegivebooks.org and select books to read together. Reading on the site also triggers donations of new books to programs and classrooms serving children in need. Launched just four years ago, We Give Books has helped deliver more than 3.25 million books to children around the world.

We could not be more thankful to the Pearson Foundation or more thrilled for We Give Books to join the First Book family, helping us provide even more critical reading opportunities to young people across the United States and around the world.

Learn more about We Give Books joining First Book here. Then check out We Give Books and start reading today.

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2. Five First Book Favorites

Here at First Book, we love books (surprise, surprise) and love sharing great books with friends like you.

Starting today, we’ll share a new list of the books each month that our book enthusiasts on staff can’t stop raving about!  You’ll find books full of rich illustrations, diverse characters and compelling tales that span multiple age ranges.

And if you serve kids in need, you can access these books through the First Book Marketplace by signing up.

PreK-K (Ages 2-5):

fbmp_edition_barefoot_wordsMy Big Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words  written and illustrated by Sophie Fatus

The Palabra family has a busy day ahead of them, and this jam-packed picture book (available as a First Book special edition!) allows readers to follow along while exploring over 700 words, each serving as a label for a corresponding image. There is an infusion of useful vocabulary on each page, but the magic of this book is in the charming illustrations, which transform it into an interactive adventure through a multicultural world.

 

Grades 1-2 (Ages 6-8):

9781596436039Viva Frida written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

You have never read a book like Viva Frida. This sparsely written bilingual picture book employs a unique art style – a mix of painting and photographs of hand-made puppets – to celebrate the life and emotional depth of Frida Kahlo. While not a traditional biography, the author’s profound tribute to the famous Mexican artist will leave readers hungry to learn more.

 

 

Grades 3-4 (Ages 8-10):

firebird_misty_copelandFirebird written by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Christopher Myers

Misty Copeland’s life is a story of its own, from “nonexistence as a young girl,” to the second African-American soloist in the history of the American Ballet Theater. Copeland wrote Firebird in order to empower young girls to follow her example and achieve impossible dreams. Christopher Myers’s dramatic use of color through paint and collage captures Copeland’s bold personality and her unwavering determination in the face of discouragement from critics.

 

Grades 5-6 (Ages 10-12):

brown_girl_dreaming_woodsonBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson was born into the world of the Civil Right movement, raised in the Deep South and then the packed city blocks of New York. She lived her life for the written word, from the first “J” she ever wrote to the stories that became the air she breathes. Brown Girl Dreaming is the story of that life, told in the same verse style as many of her novels. By choosing to share her childhood memories through poetry, Woodson creates a personal story that allows readers to explore her depth, warmth, and uniquely perceptive eye for the beautiful world around her.

 

Grades 7+ (Ages 13+):

crossover_alexanderThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Combining the emotional impact of traditional poetry with the power of modern hip hop, The Crossover is an unputdownable novel sure to engage even the most reluctant of readers. Kwame Alexander gives teens a window into the mind of Josh “Filthy McNasty” Bell: a 13-year-old basketball superstar navigating the social realities of school, the crumbling foundation of his family, and his passion for the game that ties it all together. Few books are able to say so much with so few words.

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3. On Creativity and Culture: Yuyi Morales

To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we had the opportunity to talk with the award-winning author and illustrator Yuyi Morales about why she became an author and illustrator, the role of children’s books in understanding and celebrating cultures and her new book, “Viva Frida.”

Click here to read this blog in Spanish.

What led you to become a children’s book author and illustrator?

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Photo Credit: Antonio Turok

Soon after I immigrated to the USA in 1994, I found myself with my newborn at the doorsteps of the public library. I had never before seen a place with the treasures I saw in there.  Picture books immediately became my passion.

I didn’t know how, but I knew I wanted to create books like those. I started a journey of learning how to write in English, how to create stories, and how paint and make illustrations – a journey I am still on every day of my life.

In what ways does your personal story and your cultural heritage influence the work that you do?

I was inspired to write my stories and share with my son, then a baby who immigrated with me from Mexico.  The only way of living I knew until then were the stories, the customs, the treasures of the land we came from.  Learning to live and thrive in the United States reflected in everything I did, including my writing and the art I was trying to learn to create.

My creations became the amalgam of these two worlds: my country of birth and my country of growth and work, my past and my present, the cultures that formed me, both Mexico and the United States.

What impact do you see children’s books having in the lives of children and their families, particularly first generation immigrant families?

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Photo Credit: Antonio Turok

I can tell you about my own experience as a first generation immigrant because children’s books made all the difference in my life.  It was through children’s books that my son and I created a bond – finding, reading, and delighting in books that I was barely able to understand and that were a great challenge for me to read to my son.  In reading to him, I began making sense of the English language and I was able find a purpose and path.  Through children’s books, I was also able to create a bond with my new country – the USA.

I believe there are many families who share my experience.  Books bring families and communities together. Any family can find a way to grow and strengthen bonds by sharing the experience of books with their children.

What motivated you to tell Frida’s story from her own point of view, and in so few words?

9781596436039One of the things that surprised me here in the USA was seeing how Frida was such a revered artist.  Back in Mexico I had seen very little of her and what I knew of her – her art – was very confusing and sometimes even scary to me. But over the years I became more and more curious about Frida.

I began to learn about her determination to create despite her physical and emotional hardships.  I began to connect with the tragedies in her life as well as her great willingness to live, to create, to play, to laugh.

She became to me a symbol of resistance, of growth, of creativity and of life endurance. I wanted to celebrate Frida by honoring her passion to create and to heal herself through art.  I wanted to celebrate that, like Frida, we all have what it takes to create.

Your use of both two- and three-dimensional art in the book is truly extraordinary. How did you settle on this style, and did it pose any unique challenges?

To me Frida represents creativity and daring to create things out of the ordinary. I wanted to make the book I dreamed of without being scared of whether I was capable of doing it. So I dreamed big!  I thought I could make a book that conveyed how Frida made her own life and identity a work of art.

The combination of two- and three-dimensional art grew from my desire to weave together everyday life and imagination.

Click here to sign upIf you work with children in need, sign up with First Book by October 21st and you’ll be eligible to receive a free set of 25 copies of “Viva Frida” for the kids in your class or program.  For other books and resources of interest, visit the First Book Marketplace.


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4. First Book and ALAS: Better Serving Latino Youth

VR HeadshotVeronica Rivera serves as the Executive Director for the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS), which leads at the national level to ensure every school in America effectively serves the educational needs of all students, with an emphasis on Latino youth.

She recently joined us for a Q&A session to discuss ALAS’s new partnership with First Book, how schools can better serve Latino youth, specifically English language learners from low-income families, and why culturally relevant books play an important role.

Q:  Why is ALAS’s new partnership with First Book valuable to your members?

A:  The majority of the ALAS members are administrators and superintendents working in districts where a large percentage of children are from low-income families and are English language learners. Partnering with First Book provides our members with access to high-quality books and digital resources that increase student interest in literature and enhance academic achievement. Most importantly, First Book makes many of these resources available at very low prices or for free, which is critical in these times of severe budget cuts.

We are excited that First Book will exhibit at the 11th Annual ALAS Education Summit being held in Atlanta, Georgia, October 15-18, 2014. Our members will be able to see First Book’s work firsthand and the immense number of books First Book makes available. 

Q:  What challenges do ALAS members face in helping all children in their school districts become strong readers?

Estrella - Firstbook.org - Photos by Forest ParkerA:  One of the major causes of poor academic achievement and high dropout rates among English learners (ELs), struggling readers and special education students has been limited vocabulary and low reading levels. In many districts, we’ve seen incremental improvements, but many challenges remain due to high mobility rates, new comers with little academic skill in their native language, poverty and long term ELs.

With increased access to age appropriate reading materials and added instructional support, many of their students have shown dramatic increases in proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.

Q:  How will your members use books from First Book in their schools and school districts?

A:  First Book gives students and teachers options by offering books that are both interesting and relevant. This allows teachers to develop differentiated lesson plans and enables students to choose from books that are both on topic and at the appropriate reading levels. Being able to choose the best book for them helps keep students engaged in learning and motivated to tackle more complex texts.

Through First Book, ALAS members are also able to access books of cultural relevance, which is not always present in the day to day lesson plans. Students can connect with the lessons taught with assistance from the books that First Book provides.

Q:  Speaking of culturally relevant books, why do you feel it’s important to share Latino voices with young people in America?

A:  Reading is part of the process of empowering youth to be critical thinkers. Exposing students to Latino voices encourages diversity of thought, culture and language that promotes understanding and appreciation.

In this age of changing demographics and global awareness, it is essential that ALL children, as well as faculty and staff, become more culturally proficient and aware of different languages and lifestyles of the students in their schools and communities.

Check out the First Book Marketplace for culturally relevant books, including our Latino interest titles, for your students. For more information on the 11th Annual ALAS Education Summit go to www.alasedu.org.

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5. Great Ways to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

hhm-nobooksA celebration of culture, Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to teach kids about the value of diversity and to encourage Latino and non-Latino youth alike to take pride in the accomplishments of Hispanic trailblazers.

Over the past year, First Book has cultivated a world-class collection of books featuring diverse Latino authors, illustrators and characters, thanks to support from our friends at Disney. We’ve also connected with more schools and programs serving Hispanic kids in need.

We recently gathered our friends and partners to find out how they are celebrating Hispanic heritage this month and beyond. Here are some of the exciting plans they shared with us:

  • The National Parent Teacher Association created resources for local PTAs to engage Hispanic families and better support them in achieving student success.
  • Reading Is Fundamental put together a calendar of activities in both English & Spanish with book suggestions and creative writing prompts.
  • Publisher Lee & Low Books recommended free Día downloadable tools and activity sheets by the American Library Services for Children to help promote diversity and literacy year round.

For even more fun activities, book suggestions and ways to share Hispanic heritage with your kids and students, check out the highlights of our Hispanic Heritage Month Twitter chat.

Then tell us how you’re celebrating by tagging @FirstBook on Twitter using the hashtag #CelebrateHHM.

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6. Read “Bunny Cakes” on October 21st!

bunny_cakes_1On October 21, millions of children and adults will come together to read a single book for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record®.  The annual campaign celebrates literacy and brings awareness to the fact that children in need start kindergarten 60% behind their more affluent peers.

Participants will also be trying to break the world record for largest shared reading experience. In order to do so, more than 2,462,860 people will need to read this year’s selected book, “Bunny Cakes” by bestselling author and illustrator Rosemary Wells.

We’re helping educators and program leaders serving kids in need celebrate!  If at least 70% of the children in your program are from low income families or military families, you can order the custom edition of “Bunny Cakes” in both English and Spanish through the First Book Marketplace. 

In the last 8 years, Read for the Record has engaged 11.5 million children and put 1.6 million books into the hands of kids in need. We’re excited to help even more kids participate in this year’s celebration. To receive books in time to celebrate on October 21, be sure to order by October 6.  Here’s to breaking a new world record together!

Do you work with kids in need?  Sign up to access “Bunny Cakes” along with other great books and resources through the First Book Marketplace?

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7. A Library Makeover in Lyman, Wyoming

Children in Lyman, Wyoming have a 4-day school week. Shortening the weekly schedule means the school district pays for one less day of electricity, climate control, transportation and staff. But with most parents working 5 days a week, kids from this rural community need a place to go.

“We see those children,” says Suzi Worthen, Branch Manager at the Lyman Branch Library. Suzi loves seeing young patrons flood through the library doors each Friday, but finds it difficult to keep up with the demand for new books.

Two years ago, funding for her library was cut. As the only full-time employee, Suzi frequently digs into her own pocket to purchase the new books and bestsellers that inspire her young patrons to read.

“You have to meet the reader where they’re at,” said Suzi, “and if it takes a superhero book to reach a little boy, so be it.”

When we contacted Suzi to let her know she had received a $1500 grant from First Book, thanks to financial support from Tata Sons and Tata Chemical, she could hardly believe it.

tata-books-to-kids

Kids & Tata employees enjoying the reading party at Lyman Branch Library.

Through the First Book Marketplace, Suzi used the grant to stock her library with recent titles, STEM books, award-winners and new series – ultimately purchasing 450 new books for the children of Lyman.

The library then celebrated their new collection by inviting the town to a reading party. Local families and employees from Tata Chemical gathered to stock the library shelves with new books and read aloud with local kids.

“It’s all been such a wonderful experience, and I’m so grateful to First Book and Tata for making it all possible.”

Want to bring books to your town? Click here to find out how to start your own Virtual Book Drive!

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8. A Path Appears

Kristoff hi-res jacket frontToday’s blog post is an excerpt from A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, the latest book from New York Times’ columnist and best-selling authors Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

In A Path Appears, which was released yesterday by Random House, Nick and Sheryl highlight “some of today’s most successful local and global initiatives to fight inequality.”  The book “makes clear how typical citizens can drive the momentum of worthy solutions to our world’s most pressing social problems.”

We are honored that Kyle Zimmer, First Book president, CEO and co-founder, is one of many social entrepreneurs featured in the book:

“While visiting the homes of those children, she noticed that there were few if any books. When she gave some children books, they would confide: This is my first book. That gave her the idea to found First Book, a nonprofit to deliver books to children living in poverty and then encourage them to read. She started the endeavor with two colleagues originally as a hobby organization, but it turned out to be impossibly tough to hire a good manager for it: “We had about $1.30 in our bank account.” So she quit her corporate law job in 1995 and took on the role of chief executive…

There were plenty of missteps. When First Book started asking [publishers] for book donations, Zimmer arranged for a few trucks to pick them up. “I was sitting here thinking I knew what I was doing, and I started rounds of calls to get books donated,” said Zimmer. “The publishers were wonderfully generous, and the fire hose of books for turned on.” First Book soon was scrambling for pickups, larger trucks – any form of transport. When one employee found a distributor willing to transport the books, Zimmer was delighted. But they had some explaining to do when a truck with a beer company logo pulled up in front of the schools to unload boxes of books…

First Book now distributes books to church groups, libraries in low-income neighborhoods, Head Start programs, homeless shelters, youth outreach center, and pediatrician’s officers through Reach Out and Read. After twenty years – and significant transformation – First Book has distributed some 115 million books to 90,000 organizations.* In 2013, First Book accounted for 2 percent of the children’s books distributed in the United States. Not bad for a nonprofit.

*Since A Path Appears went to press, First Book has continued to grow and expand. To date, we have distributed 120 million new books to a network of 140,000 schools and programs.

Excerpted from A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Copyright © 2014 by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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9. Making Math Fun

Getting kids excited about math can be a challenge.   Because there are expected to be more than eight million STEM jobs in the United States by 2018, math skills are becoming more and more important for today’s student. If today’s student lacks math skills, three million of tomorrow’s jobs may go unfilled.

MathStart is an award-winning series filled with visual representations of math concepts through light-hearted, kid-inspired stories.  Vetted by a team of math teachers, MathStart makes math skills for kids ages three to seven interesting by showing young characters using math in everyday experiences.  Plus, each book comes with teaching tools and activity suggestions for educators.

To inspire kids to enjoy math and to meet the challenge of creating a strong workforce for the future, First Book teamed up with the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) to bring this collection of books to the First Book Marketplace.

The First Book Marketplace now carries two books from each level of the series:

Jack the Builder ThumbJack the Builder (Age 3+):  Jack uses his imagination and all shapes and colors of his blocks to create different creatures and objects teaching kids beginning number operations and counting.

 

Just Enough Carrots ThumbJust Enough Carrots (Age 3+): Join young rabbit at the supermarket to compare what items each character is buying and learn about addition, subtraction, “more,” “fewer” and “the same.”

 

Elevator Magic ThumbElevator Magic (Age 6+) :  Brian rides the elevator at his mother’s work and discovers new things on each floor.  Along the way kids learn the number line and subtraction.

 

 

Tally O'Malley ThumbTally O’Malley (Age 6+):  On a family vacation the O’Malleys start a tallying competition to pass the time, teaching kids how to keep track of numbers as they count.

 

Lemonade for Sale ThumbLemonade for Sale (Age 7+):  The member’s of Elm Street Kids’ club decide to sell lemonade to raise money to fix their clubhouse, tracking their business on a bar graph.  Kids learn gathering data, charting and comparing results.

 

Shark Swimathon ThumbShark Swim-A-Thon (Age 7+):  This fun story about a team of sharks swimming laps to raise funds for camp helps reinforce the skill of two-digit subtraction.

 

Do you work with kids in need?  Sign Up with First Book today to gain access to this great math series.

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10. Read to Me – Creating Literacy Mentors

Today’s guest blogger, Barbara Greenway, is the Founder and Director of The Read to Me Project.
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Students in the Read to Me Project & founder Barbara Greenway.

When I ask the kids in my program how many of them struggle in school, half of their hands raise in the air.

It can be frustrating to spend your day in an environment where you feel you can’t succeed. So it comes as no surprise that kids who struggle in school become disengaged, stop trying and drop out.

We created the Read to Me Project to motivate kids to keep trying – and to break the cycle of low literacy in our community.

With help from First Book, our 4th, 5th and 6th graders check out all kinds of great books to read to their younger siblings at home. Their reading skills improve and their siblings get a head start.

Most of the kids in the Read to Me Project don’t own books. Their families struggle to get by. English is often their second language, and reading is not a common activity at home.

frontpagekids

A Read to Me Project “literacy mentor” and her younger sibling.

With new books to read all the time, our kids blossom. They take ownership of their learning and that of their siblings. They become literacy role models in their families.

I want all kids to love school, to be enthusiastic learners, to have big dreams and the skills they need to make those dreams come true. With books, all things are possible.

Please consider making a gift to First Book today to put more books into the hands of young readers.

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11. Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education

Today’s guest blog post is by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on the importance of ensuring all educators and students have the books they need for back to school. 

Volunteers from the American Federation of Teachers help First Book Book Bank staff pack and organize books for distribution at the First Book National Book Bank Warehouse in Baltimore, MD, December 4, 2013.As an educator, there’s nothing quite like walking into the classroom on that first day of school. The fresh, expectant face of each child looking up at you, their minds like the pages of a new book—waiting to be opened.

Teachers and school staff are in the business of opening minds, and there is no better way to do just that than through reading. Books are portholes to vast, new and different worlds—and, together with First Book, the AFT has put 2 million of those portholes into the hands of students in need.

AFT Alabama 05I am proud to say that, in the three years that the AFT has partnered with First Book, every AFT membership division has gotten involved in communities across the country. We helped to create a library at St. Mary’s Orphanage in Mobile, Ala.; we distributed thousands of anti-bullying books at public school assemblies in Cleveland; we handed out bilingual and Spanish books to students and families at soccer tournaments in Texas; and much more. One of my favorite First Book stories is about a school bus driver in Houston who started a mobile library on his bus to encourage reading outside of school.

This partnership is just one way the AFT is reclaiming the promise of public education and helping to ensure that all children are prepared for school, college, career and life.

Another example is Share My Lesson, the free online platform developed by the AFT and TES Connect to bring educators together to access and share high-quality teaching resources. And now Share My Lesson has teamed up with First Book to provide resources and tools to complement First Book books.

So as the school year gets underway in millions of classrooms across the country, the AFT and First Book aim to ensure that all teachers and school staff have the books they need to open their students’ minds.

I’ve included a list of a few of my favorites, many of which are from the AFT Collection on the First Book Marketplace.  I hope that they will help ignite a lifelong joy of reading.

Early Childhood:

very_hungry_180The Very Hungry Caterpillar  by Eric Carle

All children will enjoy the story of the hungry caterpillar who ate his way to becoming a butterfly.

(For early childhood educators and parents looking to pair specific skills and activities with books to enhance learning and growth in a child’s earliest years, be sure to check out the AFT’s Transitioning to Kindergarten resources and our Mind in the Making section.)

 

Lower Elementary:

click_clack_1Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin

Every budding unionist can learn something from Farmer Brown’s cows, who not only know how to type but also understand the power of collective action. An audio book on CD is included.

 

 

Upper Elementary:

families_kuklinFamilies by Susan Kuklin

Children from 14 families make up the tapestry of this delightful book, which shows the diversity of families in America today. From mixed-race and immigrant families to families of gay and lesbian couples and families with children with special needs, this book celebrates one and all.

 

Middle School: 

out_of_mind_draper_cdfOut of My Mind by Sharon Draper

The story of Melody, who refuses to be defined by her cerebral palsy, will change the way that any reader, young or old, looks at or thinks about a person with disabilities. The author, Sharon Draper, is a former AFT member from Cincinnati who has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking prose.

 

High School:

145_street_walter_dean_myers145th Street: Short Stories by Walter Dean Myers

Set in my hometown of New York City, this collection of stories chronicles one block of the greatest city in the world. From Benny, a fighter on the way to a knockout, to Angela, who starts having prophetic dreams after her father is killed, the characters of 145th Street pull readers in and keep them through every page.

 

Work with children in need?  Sign up with First Book to access these great books and resources!

Randi Weingarten is president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, which represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state and federal government employees; and early childhood educators.

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12. 187 Reasons Why a Teacher Needs Books

Today’s guest blogger, Sarah Kilway, wrote to us after receiving hundreds of new books for her students. We couldn’t resist sharing her story with you.

Davis 9th grade center 7_croppedI teach 187 kids at Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center in Indianapolis, IN. The majority of my students live in poverty. Most have only one parent at home.

Not many of my kids own books, nor were they read to as children. Even as 9th graders, they lack basic common knowledge of fairy tales, fables and iconic book characters.

Our school has many great resources, but when something is lacking, my colleagues and I step in. This often means spending my own money on books and other items for my students, but it’s totally worth it. I also have First Book.

Davis 9th grade centerThanks to First Book, I was recently able to give a new book to every single one of my students – all 187! A few told me it was the first book they’d ever owned. Some said it was the first book they have ever finished. Such a proud moment for me and them – one that I wanted to share with you.

My students now ask me to go to the library on a daily basis.

Please give to First Book today so I can continue helping them discover and enjoy reading, and so other teachers can too. Your support puts a whole new world within their reach.

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13. A Birthday Surprise: 420 Books for Kids

Wendy Moore’s best friends couldn’t wait to give her a special surprise for her 50th birthday. To honor her great love for books, they set up a virtual book drive with First Book and collectively raised over $1200 to purchase brand-new books for kids in Wendy’s hometown of Wilson, NC.

The need for books in Wilson County Schools is high. Located a little over an hour outside of Raleigh, the rural district ranks as Tier One community – a title reserved for the most distressed counties in the state. But Wilson residents like Wendy are committed to their children’s education.

Every year the county hosts a Back-to-School Fair, an event that celebrates education and equips kids with backpacks and school supplies for the upcoming school year.

where the wild things are

Journey received one of the free copies of Where the Wild Things Are at the Wilson County Back-to-School Fair. She said the book is her favorite!

The event draws hundreds of the community’s neediest families, many lining up as early as 10 p.m. the night before the fair in order to receive school supplies.

At this year’s fair, Moore joined staff at the Wilson County Schools booth to distribute the books purchased through First Book with the funds raised by her friends. In less than 90 minutes, all 420 copies of her selected book Where the Wild Things Are were in the hands of excited students.

“Hopefully it will inspire at least one kid to dream and do things that go far,” said Moore.

In your hometown and across the nation, kids need books to foster a love of learning. Click here to find out more about hosting your own virtual book drive.

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14. My Kids Need Books

Today’s guest blogger, Adara Robbins, is 8th grade teacher at YES Prep Southwest, a public charter school in Houston, Texas.

IMG_1745

My students and I during after school study time.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

It’s a tough question. But imagine trying to answer if you didn’t know what your life would look like tomorrow – much less years from now. This my students’ reality.

My 8th graders at YES Prep Southwest face the constant stress of poverty. They can’t be sure where they will sleep tomorrow. They have to take care of younger siblings, leaving limited time for homework. They have few, if any, books at home. With so much uncertainty, it can take a lot of work for them to visualize a future where they will succeed and attend college.

But they will. By the time my students finish high school, 100% of them will be accepted to a four-year college – it’s a graduation requirement.

Many of my students come to me up to five years behind their peers academically. As their teacher, I guide them through a demanding curriculum that brings them up to grade level and inspires a genuine love of learning. Neither could happen without having great books to give them.

IMG_1694

In the gym with some of my outstanding female students.

Because of First Book, my kids have the books they need to become strong, confident, enthusiastic readers. They’ve grown academically. They get along better with one another. They love and constantly ask for more books. My students are simply happier when they start their day reading.

They also work extremely hard. They attend school from 7:30am to 4:30pm, often staying late for extra help. Their tenacity and determination inspires me to do a better job every day.

All over the country, teachers like me face the challenge of helping kids living in poverty read, learn and succeed. Your support of First Book gives us the resources we need to help kids change the course of their lives. Please consider making a gift today.

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15. Once a Mentor, Forever a Friend

It’s been over 10 years since Mr. Wilbert Scott and Cashadell Lewis first met, but both remember it like it was yesterday.

“My name is Cashadell, but you can call me Cash,” said Lewis.

“You call me Mr. Scott. And I will call you Cashadell Lewis,” Mr. Scott replied.

“When I first saw Mr. Scott, I knew he didn’t play,” recalls Cashadell. “And even though I didn’t want it at the time, I knew I needed someone like him.”

Mr. Scott had been paired with Cashadell as a Power Lunch reading mentor with Everybody Wins! Atlanta. The program, now in its 18th year, pairs volunteer reading mentors from local businesses and community organizations with first through fifth grade students identified by their teachers as reading below their grade level. Nearly 90 percent of the 550 students who currently participate in the Power Lunch program live in poverty. Many have no books at home.

Every Thursday, Mr. Scott visited Hope-Hill Elementary School to read aloud with Cashadell over the lunch hour. As weeks turned into years, Cashadell grew into a stronger reader and developed a special bond with Mr. Scott.

Now a mentor and a friend, Mr. Scott sees Cashadell graduating from college and returning to Hope-Hill Elementary as a mentor himself. And when he does, First Book will be there to support him.

Power Lunch photoSince June 2011, First Book has provided Everybody Wins! Atlanta with 10,126 books. The books are used to stock book carts, which hold hundreds of books for reading pairs to choose from, at the 11 schools that participate in the Power Lunch program.  Each Power Lunch student also receives at least three new books to take home every year.

Last year, students got to take home even more books, thanks to our friends at dd’s DISCOUNTS. The local dd’s DISCOUNTS store raised funds to help provide over 700 brand-new books to Everybody Wins! Atlanta.

Help more kids more kids like Cashadell read, learn and succeed. Join dd’s DISCOUNTS in providing new books to outstanding programs like Everybody Wins! Atlanta by making a gift to First Book today.

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16. Celebrating International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day is September 8.

First Book and our friends at the International Reading Association are challenging students and teachers to spend 60 seconds each day for the next 60 days to doing small activities that enhance literacy skills.

Celebrate our love for reading on International Literacy Day with some of these out-of-this-world activities:

Activities for ages 4-8

  • Talk Show.
    After reading a book, ask students  to write a question that they would ask the main character. Each day ask for a volunteer to pretend to be the main character, and give the volunteer 60 seconds to answer one or two questions.
  • Take My Advice.
    Project a picture from a familiar book, such as Little Red Riding Hood walking through the forest. Have students talk to the characters in the book, and give them advice, such as “Little Red Riding Hood, don’t talk to the Wolf. He’s going to try to trick you!”

 

Activities for ages 9-11

  • Vocabulary Space Ticket.
    Provide students with a vocabulary ticket to leave space. Have pairs or trios of students draw an image for each vocabulary word and write a definition so their ticket can be stamped for lift-off.
  • Galactic Mural.
    Make a large mural of space with outlines of the planets. Each day a student brings in one space fact and adds the information to the mural. Once finished, sit back and enjoy your view of our corner of the galaxy.

 

Activities for ages 12-14

  • Word of the Day.
    Take 60 seconds to learn a new word of the day. Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is a great resource. If you have an extra two minutes, check out the podcast that accompanies each Word of the Day. Challenge kids to try to use the new word during the day in conversations in class or with their friends. Create a friendly competition, and see who can use the word the most or the best.
  • Done in 60 Days.
    Get the whole class writing a collaborative story in 60-second bursts. Come up with a first-line story starter. On Day 1, have students write the sentence on the top of a blank sheet of paper. Then, give them 60 seconds to write the next line. Each day, have students rotate the sheets of paper so that in the 60 seconds, they are (a) reading what others have written and (b) writing the next line of the story. At the end of the 60 days, spend some time seeing the different directions taken by stories starting with same first line.

Visit the IRA website and download their International Literacy Day Activity Kit for more fun things to do to celebrate & promote literacy in the classroom and at home!

 

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17. Take Action for Kids in Need

Action Kit coverWhen Melissa Deneen Shipp surprised each of her students with a new book of their very own, their reaction surprised her. “Normally this is the part when they maul me with hugs,” she said. “But instead they just stared. They literally couldn’t believe their eyes!”

She told her students, “Yes, YOU are the owner of that book!” Jumping up and down, her students shouted in reply, “This is mine, this is mine!” It was one of the best days Melissa has ever had as a teacher.

For over 20 years, teachers like Melissa and supporters like you have joined First Book to bring moments of joy, comfort and learning to millions of kids in need.

But there’s so much more to be done. Over 32 million kids in the U.S. live in poverty. In their homes, schools and communities, books are rare.

Action Kit Outside Envelope StampAs our kids return to school this month, we invite you to support them – now, throughout the year and into the future.

How can you make a difference? Volunteer your time, tell educators in your community about First Book or donate to get books in the hands of children in need. Check out our 2014 Action Kit and discover the many ways you can get involved today.

First Book will provide 15 million books to kids in need this year and we believe we can meet this goal because of supporters like you. Take action today!

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18. Five First Book Favorites for Back to School

stack_of_booksIt’s time to go back to school! Get your kids excited about reading with First Book’s five favorite books for the new school year.

If you work with kids in need, you can find these titles on the First Book Marketplace by clicking on the pictures next to the description of each book. Also be sure to visit our Back to School section for more great reads.

lillys_plastic_purseLilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
by Kevin Henkes

Lilly loves everything about school, especially her cool teacher, Mr. Slinger. But when Lilly brings her purple plastic purse and its treasures to school and can’t wait until sharing time, Mr. Slinger confiscates her prized possessions. Lilly’s fury leads to revenge and then to remorse and she sets out to make amends.

 

george_baker_1Mr. George Baker
by Amy Hest, illustrated by Jon J. Muth

George Baker (a hundred-year-old musician with the crookedy fingers) and Harry (a young schoolboy whose shoelaces always need tying) don’t seem the likeliest of friends. Yet, sitting side by side on George’s porch, waiting for the school bus to come, the two have plenty in common. They’re both learning to read, which is hard – but what’s easy is the warm friendship they share. In an inspired pairing, a best-selling author and illustrator pay tribute to the power of language and intergenerational bonds.

 

alvin_ho_look_120Alvin Ho: Allergic To Girls, School, And Other Scary Things
by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Alvin Ho is a Chinese American second grader who is afraid of everything – elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. He’s so afraid of school that, while he’s there, he never, ever, says a word. But at home he’s a very loud superhero named Firecracker Man, a brother to Calvin and Anibelly, and a gentleman-in-training, so he can be just like his dad.

From the author of the ALA Notable Ruby Lu series comes a funny and touching chapter book – perfect for both beginning and reluctant readers – that introduces a truly unforgettable character.

 

guide_not_readingCharlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading
by Tommy Greenwald, illustrated by J. P. Coovert

Charlie Joe Jackson may be the most reluctant reader ever born. And so far, he’s managed to get through life without ever reading an entire book from cover to cover. But now that he’s in middle school, avoiding reading isn’t as easy as it used to be. And when his friend Timmy McGibney decides that he’s tired of covering for him, Charlie Joe finds himself resorting to desperate measures to keep his perfect record intact.

 

tequila_worm

The Tequila Worm
by Viola Canales

Sofia comes from a family of storytellers. Here are her tales of growing up in the barrio, full of the magic and mystery of family traditions: making Easter cascarones, celebrating el Dia de los Muertos, preparing for quinceañera, rejoicing in the Christmas nacimiento, and curing homesickness by eating the tequila worm. When Sofia is singled out to receive a scholarship to an elite boarding school, she longs to explore life beyond the barrio, even though it means leaving her family to navigate a strange world of rich, privileged kids. It’s a different mundo, but one where Sofia’s traditions take on new meaning and illuminate her path.

 

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19. How Kansas City Kids Beat Summer Slide

Summer_ReadingAll summer long, you’ve heard how summer slide – the learning loss that occurs when kids are out of school – adds up for kids who don’t have access to books and other learning opportunities.

But there’s good news – many schools and organizations throughout the country are working hard to stop summer slide.

Take Kansas City, Missouri, for example. Over the last two summers, a coalition of KC-based organizations have been working with First Book to help reverse summer learning loss for kids in their community.

Erica Perl in KC“More needs to be done to address the summer reading loss,” says Brent Schondelmeyer, communications director for LINC. “With First Book, the Kansas City Public Library, the Mid-County Public Library, Turn the Page KC and other local partners, we are taking an intentional approach to summer reading. And we will use our summer experience to expand how we support reading all year long.”

Last summer, First Book provided 10,000 high-quality books to elementary school children in Kansas City Public Schools. The books were distributed as part of a comprehensive reading program led by the Local Investment Corporation (LINC), the Kansas City Public Library and the mayor’s office.

SONY DSCThe students who receive the books showed reading gains, instead of losses. More significantly, students from Title I schools who read over the summer saw higher improvements.

The great work being done in Kansas City confirms: access to books is key to reversing summer learning loss.

This summer, LINC’s game-changing program expanded. More than 30,000 books from the First Book Marketplace have been distributed to 72 schools, all in an effort to keep kids reading and learning while school’s out. The hope is that the gains made last year will continue and that more kids in the Kansas City area will be ready to start the school year off right.

Check out this video to learn more about what’s happening in Kansas City.

Want to learn more ways First Book is supporting organizations like LINC? Sign up to receive stories of impact and inspiration!

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20. Imagine That! How One Girl’s Imaginary Pet Brought Books to Her Whole Class

Karen loves to draw. So when her teacher, Ms. Spezziali, told her class about the Purina® PAWty Challenge, this Garfield Elementary kindergartner was especially excited to participate.

ChicagoFBNBB 018The rules of the challenge were: Draw a pet (or an imaginary pet) for your classroom, name it and write a story describing the pet. Each child in the classroom also received an animal-related book.

Karen excitedly drew the cat she’s always wanted. Ms. Spezziali remembers Karen being thrilled with her picture. It was the writing element that challenged her.

Like 50% of the students in her South Boston school, Karen’s English was very limited. But she was determined to describe her dream pet perfectly, and worked with Ms. Spezziali to spell and sound out words that brought her drawing to life.

A few weeks later, Ms. Spezziali found out that Karen had won the Purina® Pawty Challenge and shared the good news with her students.

“Guess what? Someone from our class won the PAWty Challenge,” she said as she held up Karen’s picture for the class to see.IMG_4776

Her classmates cheered, and Karen, normally a very shy student, beamed. She was so proud to have won a special reading “PAWty” and new books for her classmates.

Karen’s teacher is amazed by how Karen blossomed through the Purina® PAWty Challenge. “She’s a lot more confident as a student now,” says Ms. Spezziali, “She knows she can do [her schoolwork] and tries really hard. My hope is that every child experiences a boost of confidence when they need it most and continue to work hard as a result.”

Karen PawtyFirst Book and Purina® recently teamed up to host the Purina® Reading PAWty Challenge – a celebration of reading and pets. Participating schools in Boston and Baltimore received new books and other creative activities to engage students in reading, writing and drawing.

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21. Three Books to Stay Healthy this School Year

Today’s guest blogger Donna Marquardt, a Registered Nurse with the Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services, talks about healthy habits for the new school year.

Olivia croppedBack to School is just around the corner and that can mean a lot of different things to different people — a new classroom, new friends, new books. To me, a nurse at a local health department, it means educating kids on how to be healthy.

Healthy kids are less likely to miss days of school due to illness and better-equipped to learn throughout the school year. By engaging in simple healthy practices, like hand washing and eating healthy meals, and vaccinations, kids stay well, in school and learning.

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Members of Gaston County Health Department with the books that will be given away at their immunization events.

Vaccinations are a big focus for our health department this year. They’re never fun, no matter your age, but are incredibly important. Thanks to a truckload of books we received from First Book this spring, we are excited to offer an incentive to kids receiving immunizations that will also help them be successful readers: a free book to take home!

Approximately 400 children will be receiving a brand new book at one of our major immunization events. Since kids who do well in school are more likely to live healthy lives, we are thrilled to promote literacy and make getting shots a little more pleasant.

It’s important to teach children healthy habits starting at an early age. And books can help kids learn those lessons in a fun way. Check out these great books that teach kids about healthy living, found on the First Book Marketplace:

bb_go_doc“The Berenstain Bears Go To The Doctor” by Stan and Jan Berenstain

It’s time for a routine check-up with Dr. Gert Grizzly. Sister Bear is brave about her booster shot, and Brother Bear is fine, but—achoo!—is that Papa Bear sneezing? A light-hearted approach to the subject with straightforward information.

 

oh_the_things_cith“Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library: Oh, the Things You Can Do that Are Good for You!: All About Staying Healthy” by Tish Rabe and Aristides Ruiz

With the help of the staff and equipment at a Seussian spa, the Cat in the Hat explains the basics of healthy living, from eating right and getting enough exercise and sleep, to having a positive body image, to the distance and speed of a typical sneeze!

germs_make_sick_berger“Germs Make Me Sick!” by Melvin Berger and Marylin Hafner

Germs are all around us every day – in the air, in food, on everything we touch. You can’t see them without a microscope, but they are there. Some germs are harmless, but viruses and bacteria can make you sick. Your body is constantly working to ward off germs, sometimes the germs win, and you get a cold or infection.

We hope you’ll help spread the word about the importance of starting the school year both well and well educated about simple healthy habits. Best wishes for a safe and healthy school year!

Click here to sign upWork at a health center, school, or an after school program serving kids in need? Sign up with First Book* by August 11th to be eligible to receive five copies of each of these healthy living titles.

*All educators at Title I or Title I eligible schools, and program leaders serving 70% or more of children in need are eligible to sign up. One recipient will be selected to receive the set of 15 books (five copies of each title.) The recipient of will be notified the week of August 11th.

Donna Marquardt has been a Registered Nurse with the Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services in Gastonia, North Carolina for 12 years. She is currently the Charge Nurse over immunizations and is passionate about prevention and ensuring that children and adults receive protection against disease through vaccinations.

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22. It’s Back to School We Go

stack_of_books Another school year is upon us. Teachers are setting up new classrooms for the year – decorating, planning fun ways to teach important lessons and preparing for desks full of new students.

Books, new school supplies, empty notebooks waiting to be filled with knowledge – all icons of a new year full of new possibilities.  But as many teachers prepare, classrooms without these resources are a reality.  On average, teachers spend $480 of their own money on books and resources for their classroom each year.

Book Relief Professional Photos 159This lack of resources doesn’t just affect teachers’ wallets.  It affects their ability to provide a multi-faceted, engaging learning environment for the kids they serve.  Without books to read and materials to help them learn, students at schools in low-income neighborhoods are often at a disadvantage.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing stories of outstanding teachers and program leaders who have used First Book resources to provide books and learning materials to kids in need. We’ll also be sharing some fun ways you can get involved in getting books to kids, and to the teachers and programs that serve them, this school year.

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23. Share Your First Day with First Book!

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<![endif]--> first day first bookThe first day of school is a memorable time for kids, teachers, and parents alike!

We’ve started posting our back to school memories on Instagram, and we want to see yours, too!

Share your pictures of a first day at school through your social media channels. They can be pictures of your class, your children, or a “vintage” photo of yourself!

We’ll re-post your picture on our Instagram account, and every Monday we’ll feature one of our favorite pictures with all our fans on our Facebook page.

If you’re sharing on Instagram, tag FirstBookOrg and hashtag your photo with #firstdayfirstbook.

If you’re sharing on Twitter, upload the picture to your status update and make sure @firstbook and #firstdayfirstbook are in your tweet!

 If you’re sharing on Facebook, simply upload the picture to our wall.

Send along your favorite photo any time before September 22.

We can’t wait to see your first day photos!

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24. More Than Books for Back to School

Yesterday marked the first day of school for many kids across the country. And from Sacramento to Savannah, classroom shelves were stocked and backpacks stuffed to the brim with brand new books from First Book.

For over 20 years, we’ve been in the fortunate position to help teachers get the books their students need to start school off strong. And this year is no different. In fact, we’re now offering more tools than ever before to help kids in need read, learn and succeed. In addition to books, our network of 130,000 educators and program leaders will also be able to access games, bookmarks, school supplies and interactive learning tools for the kids they serve.

Check out some of the cool new tools we’re offering on the First Book Marketplace – just in time for back to school:

KV550_TealBackpacks
How else will kids carry all their great new books?

JuniorHighKit2014Kits for Kidz
Notebooks, pencils, scissors, a ruler – these ready-made kits contain 30 essential items required for an entire school year. Available for primary, elementary and junior high school.

victor_technology_v30_ra_cartonCalculators
Help kids stay on track during math class with brand new calculators. Scientific and pocket calculators available in carton or single quantities.

neon_fanned_neonMark-My-Time Digital Bookmarks
Vibrant digital bookmarks enable kids (and their caregivers) to track their reading time and feel a sense of accomplishment.

coins_count_lmCoins Count!
Coins Count! is a fun board game that helps kids make sense of money and learn the value of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollar bills.

Bug Barn Kitbug_barn_image
This fun viewing barn and tools helps lets do hands-on science explorations and take a closer look at the natural world.

Do you work with kids in need?  Sign up with First Book today to access all these great learning resources.

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25. Books Strengthen Family Bonds

DSC00616Lydia sat with her two children in the waiting room. Her eldest read aloud from his new book, pausing every now and again to teach his mother and younger sister how to say the words in English. His little sister beamed with pride when he let her turn the page.

Andrea Gatewood of the Nassau County (NY) Department of Health knows that providing new books to families like Lydia’s leads to priceless interactions. For the past ten years, she and her colleagues at the Nassau County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program have been giving books from First Book to the local low-income women and children they serve.

Traditionally, WIC programs supply women who are pregnant or recently gave birth and children up to age five found to be at nutritional risk with supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education. But at five WIC sites in Nassau County, families also receive colorful new books.

teen parenting program 3“The books from First Book teach children how to count, the alphabet, the importance of family, other languages, colors, different foods and incentives to promote physical activity,” said Andrea. “They strengthen family bonds, promote diversity and improve literacy.”

Andrea takes great care in selecting books that are both engaging and culturally relevant as nearly 100 percent of the children she serves come from minority households.

“We have distributed books at Christmas, Halloween and to kick off the school year. Our goal is to reach as many children as possible,” Andrea shared. “The partnership between First Book and WIC has allowed thousands of children to receive brand new books and will have a lasting impact on an individual and community level.”

Over the past ten years, the Nassau WIC Program has received approximately 20,000 books from First Book, thanks to grant funding made possible by members of the First Book – Long Island volunteer chapter and the Guru Krupa Foundation. 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 51,000 books to children in need in the greater New York and Los Angeles areas in the past two years.

DSC00612“We at Guru Krupa Foundation believe that education is a cornerstone for future success in life,” said Mukund Padmanabhan, president 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.”

Join the Guru Krupa Foundation in supporting program leaders like Andrea by making a gift to First Book. Just $2.50 provides a brand-new book to a child in need.

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