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1. 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.

The post Once a Mentor, Forever a Friend appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. 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!

 

The post Celebrating International Literacy Day appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. 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!

The post Take Action for Kids in Need appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. 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.

 

The post Five First Book Favorites for Back to School appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. 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.

The post Books Strengthen Family Bonds appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. 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.

The post More Than Books for Back to School appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. 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!

The post Share Your First Day with First Book! appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. 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.

The post It’s Back to School We Go appeared first on First Book Blog.

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9. 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.

Shopping 2

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.

The post Three Books to Stay Healthy this School Year appeared first on First Book Blog.

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10. 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.

The post Imagine That! How One Girl’s Imaginary Pet Brought Books to Her Whole Class appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. 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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12. Out-of-This-World Books!

The Apollo XI moon landing celebrated its 45th anniversary this past Sunday. First Book is celebrating this momentous event with some of our favorite space-inspired books:

 1. Almost Astronauts: Thirteen Women Who Dared to Dream
What does it take to be an astronaut? Excellence at flying, courage, intelligence, resistance to stress, top physical shape–any checklist would include these. But when America created NASA in 1958, there was another unspoken rule: you had to be a man. Here is the tale of thirteen women who proved that they were not only as tough as the toughest man but also brave enough to challenge the government. They were blocked by prejudice, jealousy, and the scrawled note of one of the most powerful men in Washington. But even though the Mercury 13 women did not make it into space, they did not lose, for their example empowered young women to take their place in the sky, piloting jets and commanding space capsules. ALMOST ASTRONAUTS is the story of thirteen true pioneers of the space age.

2. Discover Science: Solar System
Solar System is the perfect introduction for young readers to the endlessly fascinating topic of space and the vast, mysterious worlds that make up our solar system. Discover the activity of the flaming prominences of the sun and the bubbling volcanoes of Venus. Examine the apparently lifeless craters on the moon, Saturn’s swirling rings, and giant Jupiter’s great red spot. Marvel at space travelers such as the comet Halle-Bopp, mighty meteorites, and the Spirit and Viking space probes on their missions to Mars. Budding astronomers will be intrigued and enthralled by the strange and diverse worlds that make up our solar system.

3. Out of This World: Poems and Facts about Space
The mysteries of the universe and the science of space exploration are perennially popular subjects, and Out of This World is a wonderful introduction. Amy Sklansky has written evocative poems about planets and stars and rockets and moon landings and satellites. Each poem is supported by additional facts and explanations in the margins. Stacey Schuett brings it all to life with color-soaked skies and beautiful perspectives in her fabulous paintings.

4. Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #6: Space: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #8: Midnight on the Moon
How did the universe begin? How hot is the sun? How long does it take to get to the moon? Find out the answers to these questions and more in Magic Tree House Research Guide: Space, Jack and Annie’s very own guide to the secrets of the universe. Including information on stars, planets, space travel, life on other planets, and much more!

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin and the Apollo 11 crew inspired a generation to reach new heights. Now Buzz is  inspiring readers – young and old. Check out his new science fiction book, “Encounter with Tiber” in this week’s Humble Book Bundle. Special thanks to Buzz Aldrin, Humble Bundle and Open Road Media for their support of First Book.

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13. The Joy of Giving Back

They each shared their reasons for being there – cherished memories of readingjoy brooke1 with a parent, the desire to instill a love of reading in their own kids, wanting to honor a father’s passion for education. It was the first task Joy Brooke, co-chair of First Book’s Seattle volunteer chapter, asked her members to complete.

“Everyone had a story that led them to First Book. And everyone believed in the simple goal of getting books to kids,” said Joy. Joy herself was drawn to the idea of helping put new books into the homes of low-income families. As a teacher and a mother of two who is also earning her doctorate in Education Leadership, she also loves how much flexibility and creativity she has a First Book volunteer.

In the past year, she and the Seattle volunteer chapter held a unique fundraising event a local glassblowing studio, distributed a truckload of 40,000 books to local kids in need and hosted their 3rd Annual Storytime event with local celebrities.

To top it all off, Joy took advantage of a recent family vacation to provide new books to kids in Costa Rica. Her own kids joined her on a visit to a school in the coastal town of Quepos where they toured the library and read stories in Spanish. “The experience,” she said, “was the most rewarding part of the trip. It cost so little and was worth so much.”

First Book is grateful to Joy and all the volunteers who help bring books to kids across the country and around the globe. To join First Book as a volunteer, visit www.firstbook.org/volunteer.

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14. No Kid Hungry: Summer Feeding and Summer Fun

Summer_ReadingFor kids from low-income families, summer doesn’t always mean carefree fun. Many kids have fewer learning opportunities and parents often struggle to find safe, affordable childcare, making summer a time of stress and worry.

For more than 21 million kids who rely on free and reduced price meals during the school year, summer is also a time of hunger. Forty three percent of families that rely on school meal programs find themselves without enough food when school is out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst Book knows kids need to be nourished in body and mind, during the summer and all year-round. That’s why First Book teamed up with Share Our Strength to support the No Kid Hungry campaign.

That’s where First Book and the No Kid Hungry campaign can make a difference. The No Kid Hungry campaign is making great strides to connect more kids with free summer meals in their community. So we teamed up with them to also provide high-quality summer learning opportunities at summer meals sites across the country. Books help site leaders keep kids learning in a safe environment, while incentivizing them to return each day and get ready for the upcoming school year.

First Book 4This summer, First Book and the No Kid Hungry Campaign teamed up to create Summer Fun Starter Kits, available on the First Book Marketplace. These collections of 25 or 50 great books are a fun, easy way for summer meal sites to incorporate books into their programming. All summer meals sites are encouraged to sign up with First Book to access affordable books for the kids they serve.

There are thousands of summer meal sites across the country, and you can find them in your community by visiting www.nokidhungry.org/summermeals. If you know a site in your community, encourage them to sign up with First Book to help kids grow and learn over the summer.

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15. Summer Slide: It Adds Up

Summer_ReadingNow in the thick of hot and sticky summer, the ring of the school bell has long left kids’ minds. And while three months may not seem like much, that time really adds up for kids who don’t have access to books or educational activities. Summer slide sets in, and without access to summer learning resources, kids fall behind.

A study of students in Baltimore, MD showed that kids without access to books over the summer were behind their peers during the next school year. And as years passed, the effect accumulated.  By the end of 5th grade, kids in need were nearly three years behind their peers in reading skills.Summer Slide Adds Up v1 copy

Help stop summer slide by sharing this infographic with your friends. You can also sign up to receive more reading facts, books lists and inspiring stories from First Book this summer and all year long.

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16. Healthy Minds Mean Healthy Lives

SONY DSCGuest Blogger Chris Dobbins became Director of the Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services on July 1 2013. Dobbins is a 20-year veteran of the US Air Force and is the former Health Director of the Gaston County Health Department.

 

teen parenting program 3Health departments throughout the country work diligently to help communities live healthful lives.  The Gaston County Department of Health in North Carolina is no exception.  Promoting fitness, encouraging healthy nutritional practices, preventing teen pregnancy and helping women during and after pregnancy are just some of the services we provide to promote overall well-being.

But, rarely do we have an opportunity to engage in primary prevention, activities that prevent the onset of poor health, that people both need and want.

Books3Research shows children who do well in school are likely to achieve good lifelong health so we teamed up with First Book under the banner of Literacy is Health, in partnership with Gaston County Schools.

Earlier this year, we distributed a 40,000 books from First Book to nearly 2,000 public school teachers, recreation specialists, volunteers at church-based after-school programs, staff at day care centers, and our own employees.  Each of the books given to these individuals made its way into the hands of a child in need.  While getting books into the hands of children and seeing the smiles on their faces is its own reward, we were also able to provide primary prevention to our community.

Child with bookNow, we’re working with community groups to prepare low-income parents to read to their children so they enter school ready and excited to learn.  We believe this will improve our county’s graduation rates, our residents’ prospects for employment and the health of our community. This is an opportunity our health department simply could not pass up – and one that many smiling children love.

If you serve kids in need in your community be sure to sign up with First Book today—I’m sure glad we did!

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17. Success Stories: 45,000 More Books in Alabama

Cathy Gifford, like so many program directors, was on a tight budget. In 2011, the director at Jean Dean RIF (Reading is Fundamental) found herself needing to cut 14,000 books from her program. This meant that many of the children she served in her Alabama town would go without the gift of reading this year.

Cathy came to First Book with her dilemma. Because she needed many copies of a few specific titles, we were able to complete a special order for her – working with publishers to drive down the cost of each book to a DSCF8382 cropped 10x8 Hunleyprice Jean Dean RIF could afford.

msmarymackThe result?  Over the last three years Cathy has been able to purchase 45,000 books to be distributed through Jean Dean RIF for only $114,000.  That’s an average of just $2.50 per book, and  savings of 64% overall.  And most importantly, 25,000 kids every year are getting brand new books – many for the first time – to give them a strong start in life.

Every year, Alabama RIF helps close to 25,000 at-risk young children receive three books in their homes to help them succeed when they get to school, and go on to thrive in life thanks to our partnership and your generosity.

Need more than 1,000 copies of a single title? Reach out to us about a Special Order at pubrelations@firstbook.org.  We look forward to helping you get all the books you need for your kids!

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18. Five Tips for Summer-Long Learning

tchovanecGuest blogger Tina Chovanec is the director of Reading Rockets: the authoritative online source for comprehensive and accessible information about teaching young children to read and helping those who struggle.Reading Rockets is one of five education websites created by Learning Media, a division of WETA, the PBS affiliate in the Washington DC area.

Summer_ReadingWith the call of the swimming pool and the playground, getting kids of all ages to stay interested in learning and reading during the long, hot summer can be a challenge to parents and summer program leaders.  Keeping kids’ minds active during the summer means they’ll be ready for the challenges of the new school year. So, how to rev up the summer learning? Picking one learning activity a week can be a fun way to switch up the normal summer routine.

Try some of these tips and great resources to get kids excited about learning – all are designed to help kids look at some of their favorite subjects in a new way and keep their brains lighting up with new knowledge all summer long. 

Kids in a libraryInvestigate your public library’s summer reading program. Most libraries offer a special program or two during the summer, including lively read-alouds, visits from children’s authors and storytellers, “maker fairs” and science-themed activities. Most are free – plus your child can take home a stack of books to extend the learning!

Listen up! Audiobooks are a great way to engage sometimes-reluctant readers and introduce kids to books above their reading level – helping to build vocabulary and background knowledge. Many libraries have audiobooks available for check out, and an Internet search can turn up several sites, including Speakaboos.com, that offer free audiobooks for children. Learn more about the benefits of audiobooks for all readers.

boy in chairWhere do all the summer thunderstorms come from?  How do fireflies light up?  Summer can lead to all kinds of interesting questions to investigate together.  Pick a question and find an answer!  Visit the library to find fiction and non-fiction books relating to kids’ questions.  Do some Internet research – you can find resources at the American Library Association’s Great Website for Kids.

Go on a learning adventure!  Is your child interested in bugs? Dinosaurs? The Night Sky? Music? Do you have a young detective, explorer or superhero at home? Reading Rockets’ Start with a Book offers 24 kid-friendly themes, with theme-related books, hands-on activities, and awesome apps and website to jumpstart your summer learning adventures.

Write it down. Encourage your child to keep a simple journal or summer diary. Track interesting things like the number of fireflies seen in one minute, the number of mosquito bites on a leg or the different types of food that can go on the grill. Each entry is a chance to be creative.  Your child can record everyday adventures in your local community with Reading Rockets’ Adventure Tracker and log summer reading favorites with Reading Rockets’ Book Tracker!

Sign up to receive more summer learning tips, reading facts and inspiring stories this summer!

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19. First Book’s Summer Book List: Grades 5-6

Summer_ReadingOur favorite picks for summer reading continue this week with a list of the best titles to keep kids in fifth and sixth grade reading during sunny summer days (and cloudy ones, too!)

Sign up to receive more great book lists, tip sheets and summer fun from First Book!

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 publisher descriptions of each book.

For Grades 5 to 6

confetti_girlConfetti Girl by Diana Lopez

Apolonia “Lina” Flores is a sock enthusiast, a volleyball player, a science lover, and a girl who’s just looking for answers. Even though her house is crammed full of books (her dad’s a bibliophile), she’s having trouble figuring out some very big questions, like why her dad seems to care about books more than her, why her best friend’s divorced mom is obsessed with making cascarones (hollowed eggshells filled with colorful confetti), and, most of all, why her mom died last year. Like colors in cascarones, Lina’s life is a rainbow of people, interests, and unexpected changes.

In her first novel for young readers, Diana López creates a clever and honest story about a young Latina girl navigating growing pains in her South Texan city.

turtle_paradiseTurtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

In Jennifer L. Holm’s New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor winning middle grade historical fiction novel, life isn’t like the movies. But then again, 11-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She’s smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it’s 1935 and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle’s mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn’t like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida to live with relatives she’s never met. Florida’s like nothing Turtle’s ever seen before though. It’s hot and strange, full of rag tag boy cousins, family secrets, scams, and even buried pirate treasure! Before she knows what’s happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she’s spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways. Filled with adventure, humor and heart, Turtle in Paradise is an instant classic both boys and girls with love.

one_crazy_summerOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.

When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education.

one_only_ivanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home–and his own art–through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

lawn_boy_paulsenLawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

One day I was 12 years old and broke. Then Grandma gave me Grandpa’s old riding lawnmower. I set out to mow some lawns. More people wanted me to mow their lawns. And more and more… One client was Arnold the stockbroker, who offered to teach me about “the beauty of capitalism. Supply and Demand. Diversify labor. Distribute the wealth.” “Wealth?” I said. “It’s groovy, man,” said Arnold.

If I’d known what was coming, I might have climbed on my mower and putted all the way home to hide in my room. But the lawn business grew and grew. So did my profits, which Arnold invested in many things. And one of them was Joey Pow the prizefighter. That’s when my 12th summer got really interesting.

Looking for a previous week’s book list?  Click below:
Grades K-2
Grades 3-4

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20. Three Big Ways to Celebrate National Summer Learning Day

Summer_ReadingMark your calendars for June 20th! It’s National Summer Learning Day – an annual celebration dedicated to promoting the importance of summer learning for all children and helping close the achievement gap.

This year, we’ve teamed up with our friends at the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to share three BIG ways to celebrate with the kids you serve or your kids at home! You can get involved by organizing your own activities or by joining an event nearby.

Already have something planned? Find local summer learning events on the Summer Learning Day Event Map or add your event to the map to join the fun.

Check out three BIG ways to celebrate National Summer Learning Day.

  • Host a family literacy celebration. Invite the caring adults in your kids’ lives to attend an event focused on the importance of families reading together.

_MG_0131Have kids prepare a performance or a piece of art based on one of their favorite books, or organize fun activities like a healthy cooking demonstrations or a visit from a local storyteller. Consider inviting a local library representative to share information on services the library provides and how parents and kids can get library cards. And be sure to check out First Book’s Best of Summer Book Lists for great summer reading suggestions for kids of all ages.

  • childreExplore new activities, places and cultures. Summer is great time for kids to explore new subjects and develop new skills.

kids in crisisRead a story about gardening and then work with your kids to plant a garden. Research which plants grow best with each other, map out a plan, visit your local nursery and dig in the dirt!

Explore new cultures through the books featured in our Stories for All Project. Make the stories come alive by seeing a play, cooking a dish or visiting a museum exhibit connected to that culture.

  • Truckload of booksBring more books to your community. What better way to share the importance of summer learning than by bringing books to your community?

Set up a Virtual Book Drive to raise funds for your program or programs in your community serving children in need. Simply set up your page, set a fundraising goal and share the page with your community.  A $10 gift brings about four books from the First Book Marketplace to local kids.

For even more ways to celebrate, visit NSLA’s National Summer Learning Day page!

 

 

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21. First Book’s Summer Book List: Grades 7-8

Summer_ReadingLooking of more summer book lists?  This week you’ll find some fantastic tales for readers in seventh and eighth grade.

Sign up to receive more great book lists, tip sheets and summer reading facts from First Book!

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 publisher descriptions of each book.

For Grades 7 and 8

shark girl“Shark Girl” by Kelly Bingham

A teenager struggles through physical loss to the start of acceptance in an absorbing, artful novel at once honest and insightful, wrenching and redemptive.

On a sunny day in June, at the beach with her mom and brother, fifteen-year-old Jane Arrowood went for a swim. And then everything–absolutely everything–changed. Now she’s counting down the days until she returns to school with her fake arm, where she knows kids will whisper, “That’s her–that’s Shark Girl,” as she passes. In the meantime there are only questions: Why did this happen? Why her? What about her art? What about her life? In this striking first novel, Kelly Bingham uses poems, letters, telephone conversations, and newspaper clippings to look unflinchingly at what it’s like to lose part of yourself–and to summon the courage it takes to find yourself again.

monster“Monster” by Walter Dean Myers

While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script as he tries to come to terms with the course his life has taken.

 

 

the_giver“The Giver” by Lois Lowry

Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

 

heistsociety_carter“Heist Society” by Ally Carter

For as long as she can remember, Katarina has been a part of the family business – thieving. When Kat tries to leave the life for a normal life, her old friend Hale conspires to bring her back into the fold. Why? A mobsters art collection has been stolen, and Kat’s father is the only suspect. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

The only solution is to find the paintings and steal them back. Kat’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s history and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

With its glamorous international settings, intriguing suspense, complicated cons, and even more complicated romance, Heist Society is stealing the hearts of Ally Carter fans everywhere.

true_meaning_of_smekday“The True Meaning of Smekday” by Adam Rex

When twelve-year-old Gratuity (“Tip”) Tucci is assigned to write five pages on “The True Meaning of Smekday” for the National Time Capsule contest, she’s not sure where to begin. When her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended on the Earth and the aliens – called Boov – abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it “Smekland” (in honor of glorious Captain Smek) and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod? In any case, Gratuity’s story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo.; a futile journey south to find Gratuity’s mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom; a cross-country road trip in a hovercar called Slushious; and an outrageous plan to save the Earth from yet another alien invasion.

Look for our Summer Reading Lists from previous weeks?  Click below:
K-2
Grades 3-4
Grades 5-6

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22. Who Can Sign Up with First Book?

eligibility graphicWhen the school year ends, so do many support systems kids in need rely on. Thankfully there are thousands of organizations working across the country to help kids in need during the summer months.

First Book is here to support all of them. We don’t just work with teachers; anyone working with kids in need can sign up to get books from First Book!

From health clinics to summer camps, museums to daycare centers, we’ve got books and educational resources for any and all folks serving kids in need, ages zero to 18. First Book also supports programs serving children from military families and children with disabilities.

And there’s no better time to reach them than now – while kids are out of school and relying on their services more than ever.

Think about your community. Are there shelters, health clinics, faith-based programs, soup kitchens or other community-based programs that need educational resources? Encourage them to learn more and sign up at www.firstbook.org.

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23. First Book’s Summer Book List: High School

Summer_ReadingIn the last week of our series of great summer reads, we’re bringing you our favorite titles for high schoolers to dive into as the days become ever warmer.

Be sure to check out our summer book lists from past weeks for great reads for kids of all ages!

Sign up to receive more great book lists, tip sheets and summer reading facts from First Book!

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 publisher descriptions of each book.

mares war“Mare’s War” by Tanita S. Davis

Meet Mare, a grandmother with flair and a fascinating past.

Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied about her age to join the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II.

Told in alternating chapters, half of which follow Mare through her experiences as a WAC member and half of which follow Mare and her granddaughters on the road in the present day, this novel introduces a larger-than-life character who will stay with readers long after they finish reading.

sammy_julianna“Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood” by By: Benjamin Alire Saenz
It is 1969, America is at war, “Hollywood” is a dirt-poor Chicano barrio in small-town America, and Sammy and Juliana face a world of racism, war in Vietnam, and barrio violence. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood is a Young Adult Library Services Association Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Young Adults.

 

absolutely_true_diary_part_time_indian“Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.

maze_runner“Maze Runner” by James Dashner

The first book in the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series–The Maze Runner is a modern classic, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade–a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up–the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

tall_story“Tall Story” by Candy Gourlay

Andi is short. And she has lots of wishes. She wishes she could play on the school basketball team, she wishes for her own bedroom, but most of all she wishes that her long-lost half-brother, Bernardo, could come and live in London where he belongs.

Then Andi’s biggest wish comes true and she’s minutes away from becoming someone’s little sister. As she waits anxiously for Bernardo to arrive from the Philippines, she hopes he’ll turn out to be tall and just as crazy as she is about basketball. When he finally arrives, he’s tall all right. Eight feet tall, in fact–plagued by condition called Gigantism and troubled by secrets that he believes led to his phenomenal growth.

In a novel packed with quirkiness and humor, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the clash of two very different cultures.

 

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24. I Pledge Allegiance

Today’s guest blog post is by Libby Martinez, co-author of the new children’s book “I Pledge Allegiance,” on teaching kids to be proud of the place they were born while being a proud American.

Libby’s book is available at deeply discounted prices on the First Book Marketplace to educators and programs serving children in need.

MoraMartinez-7502“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America….” Every time I say those twelve simple words, I smile because of all the unspoken things they represent—abstract concepts like community, safety, freedom and the American Dream. But how do you explain these concepts to a child who is five or six years old? How do you explain what it means to be an American in a concrete and real sense?

IPledgeAllegianceMy mother and I felt that the answer to these questions was through story—in this case, the story of our aunt who came to the United States during the Mexican Revolution of 1910.  By putting a name and face to the Pledge of Allegiance and by talking about words and phrases like “indivisible” and “liberty and justice for all” in simple and kid-friendly terms, we hope that children will understand more fully this special promise we make as Americans.

We hope they will also understand that they can be proud of the place they were born (even if that place is not the United States) and still proud to be an American at the same time. One of the wonders of picture books is that they allow for the creation of a rich, visual narrative to accompany sometimes complicated and complex topics.

As July 4th approaches and flags are raised across our nation, we are called to ponder what individually and collectively we can all do to continue to “lift [our] lamp beside the golden door“—our enduring legacy as Americans.

If you work with kids in need, sign up with First Book by June 27 and you’ll be eligible to receive a free classroom set (25 copies) of “I Pledge Allegiance” for your students.

Click here to sign up*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. The recipient of the  classroom set will be notified the week of June 30th.

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25. Keep Resources Flowing This Summer

Keep Resources Flowing This Summer

Keep resources flowing this summer!  Whether you serve kids in need, want to encourage summer reading in your own children or are concerned about the issue of summer slide, there are many great ways to keep kids reading and learning all summer long.

  • Work with kids in need?  Sign up with First Book to get access to low-cost books and resources for your summer program or to prepare for the school year to come.
  • Want tips to get your kids reading all summer?  Sign up to receive books lists, learning tips and inspiring stories from First Book.
  • Want to help get books and resources to kids in need?  Give to First Book today.  Each gift of $2.50 brings a new book into the hands of a child in need

Click on the graphic to see a larger version.

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