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1. Cathy Was My Best Friend. Here’s How I Honored Her.

Judy and Cathy 2

Judy Willner is an educator and writing skills teacher for elementary school students in Philadelphia. When she lost her closest friend Cathy earlier this year, Judy decided the best way to honor her would be to set up a First Book campaign. She wanted to celebrate their shared love of reading and children.

Judy wanted to share Cathy’s story in her own words:

Dear Reader,

June 29 would have been my Cathy’s 60th birthday. I had already started planning for it this time last year. We did that kind of stuff for each other – big parties, cards sent sixty days in advance.

Cathy was my best friend. We met in middle school, survived high school as nerdy late-bloomers, and traversed around Mexico together after graduation. I remember how the “older folks” who shared our tour bus loved her so much, how her smile and charm were infectious.

She was a reader, a card-sender, the queen of Facebook, and above all else, the most generous and kind-hearted person anyone could ever hope to be their best friend. I am so happy that for forty-five years I was privileged enough to call Cathy my best friend.

To celebrate and honor Cathy I decided to create a First Book Campaign in her name.

Cathy never had children of her own, but children had a very special place in her heart. Getting books to kids in her hometown of Philadelphia would have sent her over the moon. There would have been pictures all over Facebook of kids with their books!

Now, more than 500 books are going to be put in the hands of students in my classes and other classes across Philadelphia.

Cathy did that. And you can too.

Here’s to Cathy,

Judy Willner
Teacher and Book Lover
Philadelphia, PA

The post Cathy Was My Best Friend. Here’s How I Honored Her. appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. How to Campaign Like a #FirstBookChampion

Ladist13u volunteer with disney book and kid

Being a First Book Champion is all about spreading the joy of reading to kids in need. Starting a campaign is the first step to becoming a champion and you’ve already done that – you’re halfway there!

Now you’re brainstorming – thinking of all the clever ways you can get donors invested in your cause. Lucky for you, we are one step ahead – we’ve got a list of the five best ways to fundraise that will be both fun and effective.

Now – Get Ready, Get Set, (Fun)draise! 


1.Host a Read-a-Thonauditorium filled with kids, parents, volunteers, etc.

Partner with a coffee shop or local business, get some friends together, and read! Vote on a book and set a time limit. Have people donate to participate or to come and listen.

Pick a book everyone will love to hear read aloud like the Hunger Games or a marathon reading of Roald Dahl’s collection. See if the business will donate part of their profits to your campaign – remind them that it is tax deductible!


2. Be Active

Setting a personal goal to align with your campaign goal will keep you motivated and striving for success. Host a walk, run, or bike ride. Train with friends, have fun, and get fit.

Feeling really adventurous? Campaign while you live out your greatest fitness dreams – like hiking the Grand Canyon or rock climbing in Colorado. Ask people to donate when you meet milestones.


59383kirkland0328_First-Book3. Donations for a Special Occasion

Getting hitched? Have a birthday coming up? Maybe a bat mitzvah or a graduation? Skip the gifts and have friends and family donate to help give books to kids who need them. There is no better birthday present than knowing you are putting a big smile on a child’s face.



4. Get Competitive

Nothing fires people up quite like a competition – use that fire to fuel your First Book Campaign. Set up a literary trivia night, a 10-second reading challenge, maybe even a poetry slam competition. Your prize is glory — and knowing your giving the gift of reading to kids in need.


5. Books for Books

When donors make donations to your campaign, give them book recommendations. 1507874_10152120653148894_1055536980_nSet up a give a book, take a book free library, encouraging participants to donate to your campaign. Start a book club. Remind people how much they love reading and what a joy it is to share that love with others.









The post How to Campaign Like a #FirstBookChampion appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. One Fan’s Campaign to Honor Her Favorite Book-Loving Celebrity

KerryThere is one woman who inspires Tesa Brand, a community volunteer and aspiring publicist from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Kerry Washington.

Washington, the star of ABC’s Scandal, is an education advocate and avid reader. For her birthday last January, Washington started a campaign to provide books for kids in need by raising money through First Book. So when Tesa decided that she wanted to celebrate the woman who “inspires her every day,” starting a campaign through First Book in her honor was the obvious choice.

Not so obvious was the amazing response Tesa’s campaign would receive. In just two weeks the campaign exceeded its goal and received donations from all over the world.

Using her network of fellow Kerry Washington fans, or “Kerracters” as they call themselves, Tesa took to Twitter and promoted the campaign. From there, the campaign took off and Tesa could hardly believe the amount of support it received.

In total, Tesa’s campaign raised $4,000 to help spread the joy of reading. Through First Book campaigns, Tesa was able to identify and direct the funds raised to help specific schools and programs. To further honor her hero, Tesa chose three schools and programs that are near and dear to Kerry’s heart, including the Boys and Girls Club that Kerry attended as a child.

For Tesa, it is all about paying it forward and ensuring that kids have the same resources and opportunities she had.

“I loved going to the library. The days we got to go to the library in school were my favorite days,” she says. “Books really are the key to everything in life.”

Whether you’re an aspiring publicist with a love for libraries or a movie star with a passion for storytelling, you can make a huge impact in your community or across the country by starting a First Book campaign today.

The post One Fan’s Campaign to Honor Her Favorite Book-Loving Celebrity appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. Monthly Book List: Our Five Favorite Books this July

Our favorite books this July include the final Elephant and Piggie book. a book to inspire community engagement and creativity, the story of one of your kids’ favorite summertime toys, a captivating novel for animal lovers and a smart and suspenseful novel for mature readers.

Read on to see all the great stories our book experts can’t get enough of this month!

For Pre-K –K (Ages 3-6):

thank_you_bookThe Thank You Book (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems

The 25th and final Elephant and Piggie book will warm the hearts of grown-ups and have kids in stitches! It makes a perfect gift for a friend, a teacher, or anyone to whom you want to say, “Thank you.”’


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

maybe_something_beautifulMaybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy

“Beautiful” describes both the art and the story in this wonderful picture book (inspired by real events!) about the power of art, creativity, and community engagement. It may invite readers to see the potential for creative change in their own neighborhoods.




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

whoosh_chris_bartonWhoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton

Kids will be fascinated to learn how their favorite toy was invented. This lively and interesting biography shows the importance of persistence, passion, and problem solving. It’s perfect for budding scientists and engineers!



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

dogs_way_homeA Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron

Kids (and adults!) will be utterly won over by this terrific, captivating novel. A deeply moving story of a girl separated from her beloved dog, it’s a true “must read” for any animal lover!




Grades 7 & up (Ages 13+):

burn_baby_burnBurn, Baby, Burn by Meg Medina

We love author Meg Medina! Smart and suspenseful, her powerful new novel is a great story of personal strength and family loyalty set in NYC during one tension-filled summer. A great choice for mature teens, it’s sure to prompt dynamic discussions about past and current events.

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

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5. Win Games and Activities to Make Learning Fun All Summer Long!

Blog Image

Looking for creative ways to make learning fun in your summer program? Want to ward off summer boredom? Need activities to keep parents engaged in their child’s learning while school is out?

Simply answer the question “How would you use these activities to encourage summer learning?” by commenting on this Facebook status between July 8 and July 15.

You can enter to win a collection of games and activities like those shown below for your program or school. See rules below .

shape_by_shape_gameShape by Shape

Shape By Shape is an advanced tangram-style game, made more difficult because you also fill in the frame around each shape you make. With 60 challenges, Shape By Shape is a great exercise in conceptual thinking and spatial relationships.



It’s not just bingo. It’s Zingo, a matching game that encourages pre-readers and early readers alike to match the pictures and words to their challenge cards. The Zingo! Zinger dispenses tiles and fun as young minds quickly race to be the first player with a full card and yell “ZINGO!”



roll_and_play_gameRoll & Play

Roll & Play was the first toddler game ever designed. Roll the big plush cube, select a card with the matching color and act out the activity shown: “Make a happy face,” “Roar like a lion.” With every roll, there are endless learning opportunities, including colors, numbers and language skills. This family-bonding toddler game encourages creativity, active play and gross motor skills.


yoga_spinner_gameYoga Spinner

Yoga Spinner is a delightful introduction to yoga that encourages teamwork and healthy physical activity. Give the spinner a whirl and perform the pose on the corresponding Yoga Pose Card. If you can hold the pose for 10 seconds, you keep the card, and the first player to collect a card in each color wins! You’ll need a little luck and teamwork, and a bit more flexibility and balance to win this entertaining yoga game.


*Entries by individuals serving kids in need who are registered First Book will be eligible to win a selection of games and activities like those featured above, up to a $200 value. Eligible educators should enter to win by posting his/her answer to the question “How would you use these in your classroom, school or program?” to this status on First Book’s Facebook page before 12AM on July 16, 2016. A winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries on July 18, 2016 and notified via email. The games and activities awarded to the winner will will be selected for age range of the children served.

If you work with kids in need, you can sign up here.

The post Win Games and Activities to Make Learning Fun All Summer Long! appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. Four Easy Steps to Become a Champion for Kids in Need

Four Easy Steps Infographic

You’ve got a great fundraising idea. You have a goal. You’re excited to provide books and resources for kids in need.

Now what?

First Book Campaigns makes starting an individual or group campaign easier than ever. Follow these four steps and become a champion for children in need today!

Create Your Campaign – Start by going to firstbook.fundly.com and signing up using your personal email or Facebook account. Give your campaign a name and a goal then follow the easy to use campaign creation wizard.

Customize Your Page – Make your campaign stand out! Tell your story and encourage potential donors to give to your campaign. Present facts and statistics about the need for books and resources for kids. Ask directly for donations in specific amounts. Share photos and images. And of course, don’t forget to thank your donors.

Designate Your Funds – Your campaign can support any eligible school or program serving kids in need. All you need to do is verify that the school or program is eligible, be sure the school or program signs up with First Book and then complete the online designation form. The funds raised can also provide books and resources to wherever the need is greatest.

Promote Your Campaign – Spread the word about your campaign. Reach out to friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances using social media, email, flyers and even good old-fashioned word of mouth.

For more information about starting a First Book campaign please visit our campaign resource kit or the First Book campaign site.

The post Four Easy Steps to Become a Champion for Kids in Need appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. This Girl Wrote One Email to Help Kids in Need

Elka v2

For thirteen year old Elka Longstreth, books have always been within arm’s reach, ready to transport her to another world. In fact, books are her world.

Elka has books piling up on her desk and spilling out of the many bookshelves in her home. She’s always been a voracious reader. When she was only in first grade, she read the entire Harry Potter series.

Now, she often juggles multiple titles at once – books for school, recommendations from her parents, her favorite novel – she can’t get enough.
So when it was time to start her bat mitzvah project, she wanted to give books to kids to help them love reading and learning as much as she does.

Elka and her parents started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to provide books and resources to kids in need through First Book. They decided to keep it simple: they shared the campaign via email with friends and family. Elka was completely shocked by the response.

In one short month, Elka exceeded her fundraising goal of $2000. With one email Elka was able to give 685 new books to kids in need.

When Elka celebrated her bat mitzvah, she was overjoyed to know that kids throughout the country would be able to fall in love with the stories she enjoys so much.

You can share the joy of reading with kids in need by becoming a First Book Champion like Elka. Start a First Book campaign today.

The post This Girl Wrote One Email to Help Kids in Need appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. You Have The Power to Change a Child’s Life

Campaign announcement hearder

You have the power to change a child’s life by doing what you love.

By hosting First Book campaigns, hundreds of people have provided books and resources to children in need.

They’ve asked friend and family to make donations to their campaign instead of purchasing  birthday gifts. Others have thrown block parties or hosted reading celebrations in their local libraries to raise funds. Two mighty champions are tackling over 2,000 miles of hiking trails, hoping to put a book in a child’s hand for each mile they complete.

And when they reach their fundraising goals, great things happen. Schools are able to stock their libraries. Summer programs have books for their students to read while school is out. Kids are introduced to stories that will stay with them for a lifetime.

When you start a campaign with First Book you can raise money to provide books for your school or program, for kids in your community or anywhere in the country. Become a champion for kids in need today.

The post You Have The Power to Change a Child’s Life appeared first on First Book Blog.

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9. New Books by our Favorite Authors

Some of our favorite children’s book authors have been very busy in 2016. We are thrilled to share that their latest works are now available on the First Book Marketplace!

todd parr new bookTeachers Rock  – written and illustrated by Todd Parr

From admiring the way teachers foster creativity in the classroom to how they ensure all children’s needs are met, author & illustrator Todd Parr offers an ode to everything teachers contribute to the world. Bursting with positivity about school and the people who make it special, this book is sure to become a classroom and at-home favorite.


sherman alexie yuyi morales picture bookThunderboy Jr. – written by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

What’s in a name? Author Sherman Alexie explores naming rituals and Native American culture in his new picture book, beautifully illustrated by Yuyi Morales. This book is a great read-aloud, celebrating expressions of individuality and the unique relationship between a child and parent.


rick riordan new bookTrials of Apollowritten by Rick Riordan

Being a teenager is tough – especially for Apollo (maybe because he’s actually four thousand years old). In the latest book from author Rick Riordan, Apollo, the Greek god of the sun, is cast down from Olympus to earth after insulting his father Zeus. Without his powers, he must learn to survive in modern-day New York City until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favor.


dicamillo young adult bookRaymie Nightingale – written by Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo’s middle-grade coming-of-age novel follows young Raymie Clarke in her quest to win the 1975 Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw her into an unlikely friendship with two other contestants — and challenges each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.


Have you read any of these new titles yet? Give us your book review in the comments, and take a look at all the new titles on the First Book Marketplace!

The post New Books by our Favorite Authors appeared first on First Book Blog.

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10. Monthly Book List: Our Favorite Books this June

Are you looking for a giggle-filled bedtime story? A book about friendship and the summer Olympics? You’ll find that and so much more in our favorite books this month…

Teach kids to coding this summer with a fun story, learn about the history of jazz musicians in the 1950s or turn through the pages of a historical action book. Read on to find out more about of June favorites.

For Pre-K –K (Ages 3-6):

good night owlGood Night Owl – written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

This funny and charming read aloud makes a perfect, funny read for bedtime or anytime! Kids will enjoy searching for the mouse on every page and laughing as owl attempts to find the source of the squeak that’s keeping him awake. We love it!

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

quickest kid in clarksvilleThe Quickest Kid in Clarksville – written by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison

In this lively picture book about friendship, competition, and perseverance, two girls take inspiration from the same hero – Olympic athlete Wilma Rudolph. This is a great book to read in the lead-up to the summer Olympics! Pair it with the nonfiction book Wilma Unlimited if you want to extend your students’ learning.


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

secret codersSecret Coders – written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang

Comics + coding = this awesome book. Kids will dive easily into the plot of this clever graphic novel, learning the basics of coding and programming along the way. It’s the first book in terrific new series from award-winning author Gene Luen Yang who was a long-time computer science teacher. He knows just how to teach a complex subject in a fun and accessible way.


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

jazz dayJazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph – written by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo

Nonfiction and poetry merge in this fantastic new book that was just awarded the Boston Globe Horn Book Award! Gorgeous illustrations mingle with rich poems focused on a summer day in 1958, when more than 50 great Jazz musicians came together in Harlem for a photo that would become world-famous. Each poem reveals a bit about the musicians, their music, and a key era in our nation’s history.  Truly beautiful!


Grades 7 & up (Ages 13+):

samurai risingSamurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune – written by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated Gareth Hinds

Action, adventure, and fascinating facts fill the pages of this gripping nonfiction book that will appeal to anyone with an interest in history, war, or the ancient world. Pam Turner’s writing keeps the tone light and the plot racing. We couldn’t put it down!


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

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11. This is a Life He Never Imagined


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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12. A Simple Bag of Books Can Help Beat Summer Slide

Books For Keeps smiling girl

Aliyah had always been a reluctant reader.

While other students curled up with their favorite stories during reading time, Aliyah struggled to find books that captured her imagination.

That is until Aliyah was introduced to Books for Keeps, a nonprofit based in Athens, Georgia that offers kids the opportunity to choose 12 new books to keep and read over the summer. Since Books for Keeps’ founding, 240,000 books have gone home with kids at 11 elementary schools in their community.

With their help, Aliyah was able to walk into her school’s media center and find stories she was interested in and excited to read.

“You can put a book in a child’s hands that is on his or her grade level,” says Leslie Hale, Executive Director, “but a very different thing happens when a child picks out the books that they’re excited about.”

Giving kids a chance to choose books that interest them is especially powerful during the summer when they are out of school and at risk for summer slide.

Students from low-income households who don’t have access to books typically see their reading test scores drop over the summer, but the 4,300 kids (and growing) who participate with Books for Keeps actually improve their reading skills during that time.

And Aliyah was one of them.

“I just read all summer,” she told Leslie in the fall, “my brothers would go out and play and say, ‘don’t you want to come outside with us?’ and I would just say no, I want to stay here and read my books.”

After spending the whole summer with her nose buried in a book, reading doesn’t feel like the chore it used to — Aliyah now looks forward to independent reading. And what’s more: Aliyah shared that she now feels more engaged and confident at school.

And it all came from a simple bag of 12 books.

If you work with children in need you can find books and resources to promote summer reading on the First Book Marketplace.

The post A Simple Bag of Books Can Help Beat Summer Slide appeared first on First Book Blog.

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13. Make Time to Play!


Today’s kids are playing less than any other generation.

Play is losing out to TV, recess times have declined and many children in low-income communities lack safe spaces to run, jump and be active.

But play is essential to kids’ learning. Play helps encourage kids to explore and use their imaginations, increases their ability to store more information and can improve literacy skills by building connections by oral and written expression.

As the school year ends and kids have more free time, you can incorporate play into all of your school or program’s activities – even reading and learning!

Try using the books and recommended games below to incorporate play time into reading time.

Wild Things Tag

Players: 10 or more
Space: medium to large
Materials: none

19543First, read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Then, mark off a large area to serve as the Island of the Wild Things. One player, the “King of the Wild Things,” stands in the middle of the island, while the rest of the players (the “Maxes”) line up on either end of the island.

When the King shouts “Let the wild rumpus start,” each Max tries to make it to the other side of the island without getting tagged by the King.If a Max is tagged by the King, he or she becomes a Wild Thing. All Wild Things (except the King) must keep one foot planted on the ground at all times while still trying to tag the Maxes.

The Maxes continue to run back and forth across the island until only one Max is left untagged. The last Max becomes King of the Wild Things and the game begins again.

All Tangled Up

Players: 6 or more
Space: medium
Materials: none

32955First, read Hairs – Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros, illustrated by Terry Ybáñez

Next, have the players stand close together in a circle. Then have each player hold one hand with anyone in the group except the person standing next to him or her.

Repeat with players’ free hands – avoiding anyone standing next to them or with whom they are already holding hands.

Now have the group try to untangle itself without letting go of anyone’s hand. It takes patience and lots of cooperation!

If you have twelve or more people, split into two groups of six and see which group can get untangled first.

Need more playtime ideas? Visit the Read and Play section on the First Book Marketplace to find all of the books and activities created by First Book and Kaboom! to encourage playing to learn.

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14. How To Keep Kids Learning At Your Summer Meal Site

how to use first book at your summer meal siteWant to keep kids’ minds and bellies full while they are out of school this summer?

If you provide summer meals to children from low-income communities through USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, you can access books, basic needs items and other educational resources on the First Book Marketplace.

When school is out, many of the students at your summer meal site may not have books or learning opportunities available to them. Here are some great ways to incorporate books, games and learning activities into your meal program this summer:

Establish a lending library. When kids come to your site, have books available that they can read while they are on site. Or let them “check out” books to take home, then bring back when they visit.

Develop an incentive program. Help encourage kids to keep coming back to your meal site throughout the summer.  Award points each time they attend your meal site. Encourage them to keep collecting until they have enough to earn a book of their own, a game or a craft kit.

Use books to help reinforce healthy eating habits. Stock up on books about healthy eating and healthy living to get kids eating their fruits and veggies. You can even send some healthy snacks home with them!

Throw a Reading Party. Show the kids at your summer meal site that reading is fun with a reading party. Select one book to provide to all the kids you serve. Invite community members and local “celebrities” to read to small groups of kids. Invite parents or caregivers to join the celebration.

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15. Author Kate DiCamillo Finds Summer Fun at The Local Library

This summer, kids can access great books, go on adventures to faraway places and even win prizes – all at their local library.

Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux and the recently released Raymie Nightingale, appreciates the importance of reading – especially during the summer.

As she visits schools throughout the country, answering questions about her new character Raymie and her journey to conquer remarkable things, she’s also letting kids know that all summer long their local libraries offer great opportunities for summer fun as the 2016 Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) National Summer Reading Champion.

We had the opportunity to talk to Kate about what inspired her to become a children’s author, the importance of books and imagination and which books she loved to read during summer break as a kid.

Your books are very imaginative. Why is important for kids to explore their imagination through books?

Because you find that anything is possible – and the feeling of possibility gets into your heart. That’s what books did for me.

As a kid, I was sick all the time and spent so much time alone. It was super beneficial to read because I was convinced that the things I didn’t think were possible actually were! That’s incredibly important for kids in need, but also for all of us.

DisplaypicYour stories are very relatable for children. Why is it important for kids to see parts their lives in the books they read?

I feel this as an adult reader too. Books give me an understanding not only of the world and other people’s hearts, but my own heart. When you see yourself in a story, it helps you understand yourself.

During my school visits, so many kids tell me stories of how they connect with my characters – Despereaux and Edward Tulane and Raymie. It’s so humbling to see that connection.

And when you see other people, it introduces you to a whole new world. I think of a story I read as a kid, which was actually just reissued, called All of a Kind Family. It’s about a Jewish family in turn-of-the-century New York. That couldn’t have been more foreign to me growing up in Central Florida but I loved every word of it.

Did you like to read during the summer as a kid?

Yes! I loved reading. I could spend all day reading. I’d go up into my tree house with books and sometimes didn’t come down until dusk.

If you gave me a book as a kid, I loved it. I read without discretion.  But I did have my favorites I’d come back to again and again: Beverly Cleary’s books, Stuart Little and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books.

It’s so crazy to stand in front of groups of kids and tell them this. There’s always a murmur of “oh, yeah, yeah! I read that!” That’s the staying power of books.

How can kids access books and learning activities over the summer?

That is the beautiful thing about CSLP summer reading programs at public libraries: it makes it easy for parents, caretakers and kids themselves to access all kinds of materials and activities for free.   The 2016 summer reading theme is “On your mark, get set, READ!” and I think that’s an open invitation to readers of all ages to take advantage of everything their library offers.

Want more Kate DiCamillo? Listen to her talk about the fantastic summer fun you can find at your local library!

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16. Books Beat Summer Slide

Books Beat Summer SlideClassrooms packed, desks emptied, another school year is coming to a close. Summertime is on the horizon and for kids, that means three precious months of sweet, sticky freedom.

But when kids from low-income families leave school for the summer, the outlook isn’t always so sunny.  While their more affluent peers may be visiting libraries, attending summer camp and reading their favorite stories every night, kids in need often spend the summer months without access to books and learning opportunities.

Over the years, those months add up – by the end of 5th grade, kids from low-income families are nearly three grades behind their peers in reading skills.

But there’s good news! Books beat summer slide.

Studies show that kids’ reading skills improve when they have access to books over the summer – and this is especially true for kids in need. In fact, children who are given access to books over the course of three summers perform 35-40% better on reading achievement tests than those without.

Together we can fight summer slide by getting books into the hands of kids in need.

If you work with children in need, you can access books, games, activities and other resources to keep kids learning all summer long. Sign up with First Book today!

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17. 770 Pounds of Dreams for His Students

FirstBook at Mary Bethune Elementary School, Atlanta, Georgia

It started with one spelling word. “Beach.”

Malik Ray, a first-time second grade teacher in Atlanta, GA, taught his students their new spelling words by projecting a photo and having students guess the word before putting it in their notebooks.

On this day, Malik displayed a photo of the sand, a palm tree, a little beach ball and the ocean. The classroom went silent. Not one student guessed the word.

They couldn’t recognize the sand; they didn’t know the water was the ocean. They had never seen a tree with what they called “arms.” They did recognize the ball.

This was when Malik realized that his students had never seen a beach. They had never been outside of the Vine City neighborhood where they resided. His students didn’t have what Malik calls “vision” – the ability to see past where they are now and imagine a different life.

But when 770 pounds of books from First Book arrived at their school, that changed.

Malik classroom photo“When the books arrived, I thought, ‘Here are 770 pounds of experience for your children. They are going to dream 770 pounds of dreams,’” says Malik.

Now when they read about faraway places and unfamiliar characters, they ask questions like “How is her hair that way?” “Why do their parents do that when mine do this?”

Students that were reading at a pre-k level when they entered his classroom are now reading chapter books. Their reading assessment scores have improved. They are ready to enter third grade.

And they’ve started to dream.

“We’ve starting to talk about their future in a whole new way,” explains Malik. “Rather than saying ‘I want to be a beautician like my aunt,’ we talk about owning a beauty salon. I want them to be able to dream. These books have given my kids hope.”

Malik Ray’s classroom was able to receive books through First Book’s partnership with Wipro Ltd., a global information technology, consulting and business process services company. If you work with children in need, you can access books and resources for your classroom through the First Book Marketplace.

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18. Find Free Educational Resources on the First Book Marketplace

free resources

Where can you find free educational resources?

On the First Book Marketplace, of course!

You’ll find tips to encourage family engagement, resources for early childhood education, free subscriptions to online tools and programs and much more. For access, you’ll first need to sign up and log in.

Watch the video below to learn how to access, download and use these great free resources:


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19. Why We Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day

Teacher Appreciation v3

A teacher’s job is never done.

Their days are spent solving math problems, analyzing the passages of books,  teaching the great lessons of history and serving as their students’ trusted experts. But when the final bell rings, their day isn’t finished. There are countless pages of homework to grade, lessons to plan and maybe even a sports team to coach.

The National Center for Education Statistics found that the average teacher is required to work 37 hours a week, but actually works an average of 52 hours a week. And only 30 of these hours are spent in the classroom instructing students. They spend 22 hours a week on other school-related activities.

Today is Teacher Appreciation Day (and this week is Teacher Appreciation Week!)

There are so many reasons to thank teachers for their hard work and long work days.  Take a moment this week to thank the teachers around you for  their hard work and the dedication they have for the kids they serve.

You can even send them an eCard to show how much you appreciate them.


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20. Celebrate Mother’s Day: Read a Book Together!

Looking for a great way to celebrate Mother’s Day? Read a book together and try these activities.

The books below are just some of the books identified by Search Institute that model behaviors that make families stronger: collaborating, encouraging and exploring.

Read these books together and use the activities listed after each book to grow together as a family.

Brothers At Bat: The True Story of An Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick; illustrated by Steven Salerno

brothers at bat
The kindness and generosity of the Acerra family helped their twelve sons become the longest-playing all-brother baseball team in history.

This book shows collaborating: learning, growing and solving problems with your child.

Try this after reading:

Your family is like a team. Each person plays a different role and has different talents. To help your family recognize these, sit down as a group and have each person write or draw pictures of a strength they think each member of the family brings to your team. Talk as a family about the work you do to support one another, as well as skills you can teach one another.

Abuela by Arthur Dorros; illustrated by Elisa Kleven

Take flight with Rosalba and her grandmother as they soar in Rosalba’s imagination all over New York City, visiting family and seeing places with special meaning to Abuela.

This book shows exploring: exposing your child to new ideas, experiences and places.

Try this after reading:

Maps offer fun opportunities to talk about and discover places of importance to you.
Talk with your child about familiar locations, like the places where friends and family live and work, then draw a map together that includes those spots. Or, ask your child to invent a world they’d like to travel to, then draw a map of it and pretend you’re visiting that place together. What do you see, smell or hear? Talk with your child about this new world and the things that make it different from your own.

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits; illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Yoon feels unhappy after her family moves from Korea to the United States, until she gets encouragement at home and at school and learns to write her name in English.

This book shows encouraging: praising your child’s efforts and achievements.

Talk and ask questions as you read:

  • Tell your child about a time you felt like you didn’t belong. ASK: Has that happened to you? What did you do? Did someone help you feel included?
  • Yoon’s parents are proud of her when she sings to them in English. Remind your child about a time you were proud of him or her. ASK: What are you proud of?

Educators and program leaders serving children in need can find more books with tips and activities in the Build Strong Families with Stories section of the First Book Marketplace. Developed in partnership with  Search Institute, through generous funding from Disney, each book comes with a FREE downloadable tipsheet with tips and discussion questions like the ones above.



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21. Watch What Happens: Kids Pick out Books for Summer Reading

“This is the best day I’ve ever had!”
“This is the book I’ve always been looking for!”

These are the typical responses heard when Book Harvest comes to a school with their Books on Break program.

Book Harvest seeks to address periods of vulnerability in a child’s literacy development by ensuring books are easily accessible. Summer is one of the most challenging times to keep kids’ reading skills on track.

Once a year, Book Harvest takes over school libraries throughout Durham, North Carolina and covers every surface of the library with books. Each child is given a string backpack preloaded with information for parents about the program. It even includes an invitation for the students to come back over the summer and choose more books.

The children explore the variety of books in the library, filling their backpacks with ten books to take home and read over the summer.

Watch what happens when they pick out their books to take home for summer reading:

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22. Now Faster and Easier to Use: Your First Book Marketplace


Drumroll please… Today, we introduce to you the newly redesigned First Book Marketplace.

Updated with your needs in mind, your First Book Marketplace is now faster and simpler to use. Powerful new search capabilities and an improved navigation menu make it easy to find the great books and educational resources you’ve come to expect from First Book. And now you can access them all from the palm of your hand — the entire site is mobile friendly!

For years, you’ve generously shared the needs facing your classrooms and programs. Your feedback directly influenced every improvement and enhancement you’ll experience on the upgraded site.

On top of the books and learning tools you love, you’ll also find specially-curated collections on popular topics like family engagement, character development, health and wellness, and diversity. First Book’s entire inventory, including school supplies, technology, digital learning materials, basic needs items and educational activities is more accessible than ever before.

Stay tuned all week as we share videos on how to use some of the great new features of your First Book Marketplace. Start here by learning how to navigate and search the newly designed site:

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23. How To Use the First Book Marketplace: Making Purchases, Using Gift Cards and Promotional Codes


You’ve learned how to navigate the newly redesigned First Book Marketplace. You’ve searched for the books, school supplies and basic needs items you need for your classroom or program and want to purchase them.

What do you do now?

First, you’ll want to make sure you’re logged in. The great educational tools and resources found on the First Book Marketplace are only available to registered members who serve children in need. Logging in will unlock all the functions of the First Book Marketplace.

In this video, you’ll learn what to do once you’re ready to make a purchase. You’ll also learn how to apply discount codes, how to use gift cards and how to distinguish between the two.

Watch to learn more:

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24. Monthly Book List: Our Favorite Books For May

The school year is coming to a close and it’s time to stock up for summer reading. We have five great books for you!

This month, our book list features a sweet story about an unconventional animal family, an adorable picture book that celebrates determination, a nonfiction guide to becoming a backyard scientist, and a book that teaches you how to stand up to their fears. For mature readers, the first-ever graphic novel to receive a Caldecott Honor will make for an engrossing read.

For Pre-K –K (Ages 3-6):

little_pink_pupLittle Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby

Get ready to say “Awww!” every time you turn the page! The real-life photos of a tiny little pig being raised by dachshunds is a heart-warming story that promotes acceptance and reminds us that everyone deserves love.



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

balloon_isabel_1A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood

This adorable picture book is both a perfect read-aloud and an ideal graduation gift! It’s a joyful celebration of creativity, determination, and creative problem-solving. We can’t get enough of this one!




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

citizen_scientistsCitizen Scientists by Loree Griffin Burns

Anyone can be a scientist in this kid-friendly, non-fiction gem! Kids will learn how to observe, conduct research, collect data, and be part of four unique scientific discoveries that can happen anywhere — in a backyard, a field, or even a city park.




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

liberation_of_gabriel_1The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going

Warm, wonderful, and unforgettable, this is the terrific story of a boy whose best friend teaches him to stand up to his fears – from spiders to bullies and more. A perfect read for summer!




Grades 7 & up (Ages 13+):

this_one_summerThis One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

Both hopeful and heartbreaking, this beautiful book is the first graphic novel to be awarded a Caldecott Honor. Mature teens will find it captivating and will readily relate to its coming-of-age explorations of complex friendship and family relationships.

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25. How to Use the First Book Marketplace: Wishlists, the Dashboard and Popular Topics

video 1

Once you’ve registered and logged into the First Book Marketplace there are so many new features to explore!

As we’ve shown, you’ll find new navigation and menus.  You can use gift cards and promotional codes. But you’ll also find a new dashboard for account information, a new wishlist feature and a section highlighting topics that are important to educators and program leaders serving children in need.

In today’s video, you’ll learn how to explore the dashboard, how to make a wishlist and learn more about popular topics.



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