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1. One More Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The post One More Page appeared first on First Book Blog.

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

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

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

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

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

La versión en inglés de nuestra infografía se encuentra aquí

See the English version of our infographic here.

The post INFOGRAPHIC: Books Make a Difference in Kids’ Lives (Now Available in Spanish) appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. Kwame Alexander Q&A: Poetry Provides Possibilities

We recently had the opportunity to talk with author Kwame Alexander about how poetry can draw a reluctant reader into a lifelong love of books and the creative process behind his book, “The Crossover,” awarded the 2015 Newbery Medal for Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children.

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Author Kwame Alexander
Photo Credit: Pilar Vergara

The first thing we noticed about The Crossover: its rhythm. Why did you choose to have Josh’s voice rhythmic in that way?

When I decided the book was going to have a frame of basketball, I knew that I wanted the language to mirror the sport’s high energy and rhythm,

I thought that basketball was poetry in motion – so I created a story on the page that reflected the action on the court. I’ve been a poet most of my life, so it seemed like a good marriage.

How would you describe kids’ reaction to the book?

You want to impact young people. That’s the goal. That’s the only goal. You want to get them reading. The response initially came from librarians and teachers – they were loving it.

I thought, “Wow, how cool is that?”?

Then teachers started getting it to their students. My, my, my – the reaction from the students blew me away. There were quite a few boys who had never showed much interest in reading  before. Their teachers and librarians contacted me and said, “They couldn’t put your book down.”

That’s pretty remarkable right there. That’s why I’m doing this.

Have you ever seen anyone perform a page from the book?

Yes! There was a school in Illinois – Granger Middle School – and the entire school read the book. They brought me in for the day to see some presentations, and the kids all crossovermemorized the poems. It was so awesome. Each kid – girl, boy, black, white – they all felt like they were the characters.

That’s all you really hope for from a book –  that it’s going to resonate with young people and empower them in some way. I believe poetry can get kids reading.

Why is it so important to get kids reading?

Inside of a book, between the lines, is a world of possibility. The book opens it up.

Why is it important for kids to open books? Because they can see themselves and they can see what they can become… Open a book and find your possible.

Click here to browse First Book’s collection of ALA Award-winning books.

 

The post Kwame Alexander Q&A: Poetry Provides Possibilities appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. Happy National Reading Month!

Lifelong love of reading graphic FINALMarch is National Reading Month, and the educators and programs leaders we serve hope their kids will develop a love of reading that lasts a lifetime.

93 percent of respondents in a recent First Book survey* hope their kids will gain a lifelong love of reading from the books they access through First Book.

*n = 977

The post Happy National Reading Month! appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. Books to Start A Dialogue About Disabilities

Today’s guest blogger is Leslie Anido, a special needs teacher in California. She first connected with First Book as a member of long-time partner Pi Beta Phi Fraternity. She now receives books and resources for the children she serves through First Book.

Leslie
Leslie Anido and her students with one of the many books that have helped encourage understanding within their school.

“Books have helped our students look beyond their differences and discover their similarities, regardless of appearance or skills,” explains Leslie.

Leslie’s students’ physical, medical and communication abilities mean many use assistive technologies to aid their learning. Though they learn differently than their peers, they have the same interests, dreams and love of books.

Books from First Book have helped start a dialogue about disabilities at Leslie’s school. Most recently, the students read “Out of My Mind,” by Sharon Draper, featuring a main character who uses an augmentative communication device, which three of Leslie’s students also use.

Her students have been able to relate to these characters on a very personal level. Their peers have also gained a greater understanding of what life is like for kids who rely on learning tools and assistance. They are now initiating and engaging in conversations with Leslie’s students more frequently. These books have served as more than just an educational resource. They’ve become tools for developing an understanding of community and inclusivity within the school.

“The lives of our students have been truly enriched by the availability of these books,” says Leslie.

The post Books to Start A Dialogue About Disabilities appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. Our Five Favorite Books This February

This month on Five First Book Favorites you’ll find books that help kids understand civil rights and fair wages, explore different cultures… or even explore the moon!

For PreK – 1st (Ages 2-6)

yakyuTake Me Out To The Yakyu By Aaron Meshon

The narrator of this delightful book is a boy who loves baseball – in two different countries! He goes to games in the U.S. with his American grandfather (pop pop) and games in Japan with his Japanese grandfather (ji ji). Bold, colorful illustrations show, side-by-side, the trip to each stadium. It’s a wonderful invitation for kids to compare and contrast two different experiences and also reflect on the countries and cultures of their own families.

For Grades 1-3 (Ages 5-8)

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ brave_girlStrike of 1909 written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Clara Lemlich immigrated to New York with nothing aside from her family, clothes, and a few words of English. When her parents were unable to find work, she took a job as a garment factory worker – earning a few dollars a month for countless hours bent over a sewing machine. With a blend of vivid watercolors and stitched fabrics, this book tells the story of how Clara led her coworkers on strike to protest their horrendous working conditions. Bosses of the factories paid for Clara to be beaten and arrested repeatedly, but nothing could stop this gritty, five-foot tall woman from securing a better life for millions.

For Grades 2-5 (Ages 6-10)

moonshotMoonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca

The moment Apollo 11’s Eagle touched down on the Moon, it became a defining moment for a nation that had lived up to a President’s lofty goal. With stunning illustrations,  this poetic story allows you to join Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin as they prepare for liftoff, follows them at every stage of the mission, and doesn’t let go until they are safely back home. Brian Floca has created a work of art worthy of inspiring young readers to dream beyond what is easy, and strive for what is hard.

For Grades 5+ (Ages 10 and up)

port_chicago_50

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

Loading 500-pound bombs into a Navy warship is, to say the least, a dangerous job. On July 17th, 1944, the fears of the untrained men who held this job became reality when an explosion claimed the lives of 320 men, the majority of whom were black. During this time, the Navy, like every other part of the United States Military, was segregated,frequently leaving black men to be treated as second class citizens serving menial roles. This masterfully crafted nonfiction book follows the fifty men who refused to go back to this life-threatening and degrading work, and the court case that followed.

 

For Grades 6+ (Age 11 and up)

okay_for_nowOkay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

There are few characters you will ever root for more than Doug Swieteck. On the surface, he is a good for nothing, skinny thug with a reading disability. Just ask his teachers and they’ll tell you. However in the depths of Doug Swieteck, where this book takes place, you find a boy who is trapped – one brother a bully, one a vacant shell of his pre-war self, and an abusive alcoholic for a father who has left a horrific mark on his youngest son. The secrets Doug is holding back from the reader are gut-wrenching, but with the help of a few strangers-turned-friends and a newfound passion for art, this fourteen-year-old will inspire every person lucky enough to pick up his story.

The post Our Five Favorite Books This February appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. Creating Strong Readers with the Wrestlemania Reading Challenge

Do you know how to exercise your brain? By reading, of course!

First Book has teamed up with WWE to promote the importance of reading through the WWE Wrestlemania Reading Challenge.  WWE Superstars and Divas are on the road visiting schools and showing kids throughout the country the power and strength of being a reader.

Just last week, WWE’s Jimmy and Jey Uso visited Johnson Elementary School in Denver, Colorado to share the joy of reading.  Check out the video below to see their fun-filled visit.

The post Creating Strong Readers with the Wrestlemania Reading Challenge appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. Q&A with Mary Mazzio: Underwater Dreams documentary filmmaker

poster-fullWe had the privilege of speaking with Mary Mazzio – an award-winning filmmaker and creator of Underwater Dreams, a documentary film chronicling the inspirational story of four teenage boys, each the son of Mexican immigrants, who enter a sophisticated robotics competition and defeat the likes of engineering powerhouse MIT.

In addition to exploring STEM topics, this film sheds light on the lives of immigrant families and the struggles they face living in America.

Underwater Dreams is now available for free on the First Book Marketplace thanks to generous support from 3M.

Q: What made Underwater Dreams such a special story to tell? 

A: Four high school boys from Phoenix, AZ building an underwater robot from PVC parts and chewing gum – and then defeating MIT – was an incredible David and Goliath story, particularly given their lack of resources and money. What I did not anticipate was the degree to which their win catalyzed and inspired their community. Since that win in 2004, Carl Hayden High School, where about 90% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, has sent more engineers to Arizona State University than athletes.

Q: What role did teachers at Carl Hayden High School play in helping their students achieve their goals? 

7A: Underwater Dreams shows firsthand the mentorship and leadership that teachers invest in their students. The involvement of teachers Fredi Lajvardi and Allan Cameron was at the heart of the success of the Carl Hayden team.  They encouraged their students, documented and undocumented, to think, to reach out to experts across the country, and most of all, to believe that they could figure out a way to solve a problem themselves.

Q: How has the film positively influenced young people, specifically Latino youth? 

A: By witnessing the story of these students, other Latino youth view their own destinies differently, with more hope. They see that anything is possible, regardless of the impediments of poverty or status of documentation.

One middle school student in California told us that because of his culture, she didn’t think she could be anyone until she saw the movie. Now she believes he can do something important. Similarly, a group of undocumented immigrant students at MIT galvanized together and publicly revealed their identities for the first time after seeing the film.

4Q: When it is all said and done, what would you like to see happen in this country as a result of Underwater Dream’s success? 

A: If Underwater Dreams can change one young person’s conception of what might be possible, it was all worth it. There are so many bright, capable students in zip codes that we as a country overlook. One of those students could start the next Google.

First Book believes in the potential of all students and wants to ensure each and every one have the resources necessary to pursue their dreams. Watch the Underwater Dreams trailer and encourage educators serving kids in need to grab a copy on the First Book Marketplace.

The post Q&A with Mary Mazzio: Underwater Dreams documentary filmmaker appeared first on First Book Blog.

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9. 5 Books to Celebrate Black History Month

February is Black History Month and to celebrate we’re sharing five of our favorite books that honor the history and legacy of African Americans.

If you work with kids in need, you can find these and other great titles to celebrate Black History Month on the First Book Marketplace.

wilma_unlimited_krullWilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull

Before Wilma Rudolph was five years old, polio had paralyzed her left leg. Everyone said she would never walk again. But Wilma refused to believe it. Not only would she walk again, she vowed, she’d run. And she did run—all the way to the Olympics, where she became the first American woman to earn three gold medals in a single olympiad. This dramatic and inspiring true story is illustrated in bold watercolor and acrylic paintings by Caldecott Medal-winning artist David Diaz.

martins_big_wordsMartin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier

This picture book biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. brings his life and the profound nature of his message to young children through his own words. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the most influential and gifted speakers of all time. Doreen Rappaport uses quotes from some of his most beloved speeches to tell the story of his life and his work in a simple, direct way. Bryan Collier’s stunning collage art combines remarkable watercolor paintings with vibrant patterns and textures.

bad_news_outlawsBad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Sitting tall in the saddle, with a wide-brimmed black hat and twin Colt pistols on his belt, Bass Reeves seemed bigger than life. Outlaws feared him. Law-abiding citizens respected him. As a peace officer, he was cunning and fearless. When a lawbreaker heard Bass Reeves had his warrant, he knew it was the end of the trail, because Bass always got his man, dead or alive. Born into slavery in 1838, Bass had a hard and violent life, but he also had a strong sense of right and wrong that others admired. When Judge Isaac Parker tried to bring law and order to the lawless Indian Territories, he chose Bass to be a deputy U.S. Marshall. Bass would quickly prove a smart choice.  The story of Bass Reeves is the story of a remarkable African American and a remarkable hero of the Old West.

chains_andersonChains by Laurie Halse Anderson

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

angelou_caged_bird_singsI Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age–and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns about love for herself and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

*Book descriptions shown are publisher descriptions and have not been written by First Book.

The post 5 Books to Celebrate Black History Month appeared first on First Book Blog.

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10. 40,000 Books for Kids In Syracuse

“So many of our kids have access to books at the library, but rarely do they have a book of their own.  In many homes, a book would represent a real luxury item.” – Kevin Ahern, President, Syracuse Teacher’s Association

With 85 percent of students in the school district eligible for free or reduced lunch, it’s no surprise that Kevin Ahern, President of the Syracuse Teachers Association, was thrilled when presented the opportunity to provide 40,000 free books to his community. All he had to do was sign up 2,000 local teachers and program leaders with First Book.

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Luckily, Kevin had plenty of help. Throughout the month of October, the Syracuse Teachers Association, along with local educators, reached out to schools, community centers and the United Way of Central New York to spread the word about First Book – and the chance to receive free books.

Jennifer Horn, a First Grade teacher at Webster Elementary in Syracuse, led the charge to encourage everyone at her school to sign up. “I was knocking on people’s doors, handing them flyers, saying ‘I don’t care if you’re not a teacher, you work with our kids! These are free books, just sign up!’”

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The Syracuse Teacher’s Association successfully signed up 2,000 educators. And when 40,000 books arrived, the community rallied together to unpack, sort and distribute. At one point, the show of support was so impressive that there were more volunteers than work to do.

At 8:30 a.m., those who signed up, along with community members and parents streamed through the doors of the civic center. By 11:00 a.m. only one title was left.

“I wish we had a video of the piles of books. They just dwindled and vanished. Kids were picking out books and teachers were getting collections for their classrooms. It was impressive,” said Jennifer.

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Jennifer’s excitement and motivation to help stemmed from her students and their families’ need for books. At Webster Elementary, one out of six students does not speak English. In total, 68 languages are spoken through the school, adding an extra challenge to teachers and students alike. In Jennifer’s 14 years of teaching, books have bridged the gap for students like hers.

“The kids love books even if they aren’t able to read the words. They like the pictures, they love tracking words and get really excited when they learn a few words and can recognize them in print!” she shared.

Jennifer allowed her students to choose their favorite book to take home and used some of the books to teach lessons on sharing and honesty.

“One little girl kept giving her book back to me. I said ‘no you can take it home, it’s yours.’ She pointed to her backpack and I told her ‘Yes! You can put it in your backpack and take it home!’”

The post 40,000 Books for Kids In Syracuse appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. Our Favorite Books for January

It’s a new year, and that means we have more glorious books to rave about!  This month’s picks will spark creativity, help kids understand the experiences of others and take them on journeys to secret underground caves.

For Pre-K to 1st Grade (Ages 1 – 6)

Not_A_BoxNot a Box written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis

How can you write a whole book about a box? Because it’s not a box – it’s so much more! The rabbit in this cleverly simple board book is asked repeatedly why it is sitting in, standing on, spraying, and wearing a box. Each page reveals what the rabbit’s imagination has turned the box into, from a mountain to a race car to a hot air balloon. This entertaining story is perfect for an interactive read aloud to help inspire kids to use their own imagination. Just make sure you have an empty box ready after you finish!

For Grades 1st – 3rd (Ages 5-8)

black_book_colorsThe Black Book of Colors written by Menena Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faría

What would it be like to be blind? This inventive book helps children think about how they might experience the world and its colors if they used only their senses of touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Readers can run their hands over the raised black drawings printed on black paper, and feel the braille letters stamped into the page. They hear about the taste of red, the smell of brown, the feel of blue, and so on. A unique and richly rewarding reading experience!

For Grades 3 – 5 (Ages 7-10)

Lion_ArmThe Lion Who Stole My Arm written by Nicola Davies

This is the wonderfully suspenseful story of a boy in rural Africa who loses his arm in a lion attack. His goal is to find and kill the lion who took his arm. Then he meets a team of researchers who teach him how they use science to track lions and change his understanding of the lions’ relationship with his village. Short and satisfying, this is an engaging story (great for reluctant readers) about adapting to life with a disability and understanding the value of species and habitat conservation.

For Grades 6+ (Ages 11 and up)

fourth_downFourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football’s Make or Break Moment written by Carla Killough McClafferty

The knowledge that playing football can cause serious brain injury is not new. In 1905, no less than nineteen football players died from playing the sport and anti-football sentiment almost wiped it out of play. So, how and why did it continue on, becoming America’s most popular sport? This eye-opening work of nonfiction helps readers understand how football gained the popularity it has today and why it’s still the subject of heated debates about safety. A fascinating mix of science and history!

For Grades 6+ (Ages 11 and up):

SecretofPriestsGrottoThe Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story written by Peter Lane Taylor and Christos Nicola

Underneath the fields of Western Ukraine, a dark labyrinth of caves crisscross back and forth for 340 miles. The passages contain an astonishing story of despair, loyalty, and ultimately, survival. This captivating piece of nonfiction follows a team of modern cave divers as they unearth the previously unknown story of several Jewish families who lived within the cave system for over a year during Nazi occupation and the holocaust. Along with harrowing narration from the actual survivors, readers can follow the explorers underground and into the past, to witness one family’s extraordinary fight to survive.

The post Our Favorite Books for January appeared first on First Book Blog.

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12. Disney Imagicademy App Available for Free!

Do you work with kids in need? We’ve got great news for you!

Disney Imagicademy Launch

© Disney

Our friends at Disney recently launched an innovative learning experience that encourages kids to learn by interacting with their favorite Disney characters and stories – inspiring a lifelong love of learning and creativity. The app and tools are available now to program leaders and educators serving children in need for free through the First Book Marketplace.

For some time, we’ve heard from our network of 150,000 educators and program leaders that web-based tools and interactive learning programs are incredibly important to helping the children they serve read, learn and achieve. We’ve worked hard to meet this need. And today, thanks to Disney, the programs and classrooms we serve have greater access to innovative learning apps and tools at the same time it is available to the general public.

To further support learning for kids ages 3 to 8, Disney will provide a three-year, $55 million product donation to First Book. This donation over the next three years is First Book’s largest gift targeting early childhood programs.  Specifically, the commitment will provide $5 million in Disney Imagicademy apps and tools to First Book and other non-profit organizations.  Disney announced its commitment on December 10 at the White House Summit on Early Education.

Teachers and educators will be able to receive free download codes from the First Book Marketplace to use the new Disney Imagicademy math app.  As parents are an ever-important part of successful learning, educators will also have the opportunity to share these download codes with the families of the children they serve, allowing families to bring lessons home and be even more involved and engaged in their child’s learning.

mickeys_magical_math_worldThe first app available through the First Book Marketplace is Mickey’s Magical Math World, which includes five app-based experiences in one large app that immerses children in key math-focused activities and games, including count along, sorting, add and subtract, shapes and problem solving.

Parents AppThe companion app for parents, Disney Imagicademy Parents, which is free on the App StoreSM, enables them to see what their children create through the apps, send digital high-fives back to their kids, ask questions to spur conversations about their child’s work and get ideas for more activities to reinforce and encourage their child’s learning.

Do you work with children in need?  Sign up with First Book today to gain access to Disney Imagicademy apps and tools, along with many other books and resources!

In-App Purchases  may be sold separately. Terms and conditions apply. This offer must be redeemed on an iPad, and, if and when available, an iPhone or iPod Touch. 
This is a promotional code and is not for resale, has no cash value, and will not be replaced if lost or stolen. Valid only on United States iTunes Store. Requires iTunes account. Must be 13+ and in the United States. Terms and Apple Privacy Policy apply, see http://www.apple.com/legal/itunes/us/terms.html. Compatible products and services required. Apple, the Apple logo, iTunes, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch are registered trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. iTunes Store is a trademark of Apple Inc. App Store is a registered service mark of Apple Inc. Apple is not a participant or sponsor of this promotion. Content is free for a limited time only and subject to availability.     

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13. Books to Kids, One Cupcake At A Time

IMG_20141112_094925890Nicole, Ian, and Ashley from Blackboard Inc., were up to their elbows in books when they noticed some young, eager faces peeking through the windows of the school gym.

“The kids wanted to know what was going on. They kept coming over to look at the books and asking if they were going to get one,” said Nicole Marsh, Manager of Operations for Blackboard Somerset.

Nicole, Ian and Ashley were just a few of the employees from Blackboard at Hopkins Elementary that day.  Over 30 volunteers were sorting, organizing and distributing over 3,500 books to children in need in their community.

Throughout September, Blackboard, which delivers technology solutions that help re-imagine education for students from pre-K through lifelong learning, had each Educational Services division compete to raise money to get books into the hands of kids through a First Book Virtual Book Drive. The site that raised the most money won the opportunity to distribute the books made possible by their fundraising efforts to area schools.

IMG_20141112_094335918The Blackboard office in the small, rural town of Somerset, KY won the competition, raising enough money for each elementary school and one middle school in Pulaski County to receive 400 books. And they did it one cupcake and crock-pot at a time – holding potlucks and raffling off cheesecakes and a fishing trip.

The schools were incredibly grateful for the books.  Thank you cards have poured into the Blackboard office since the distribution.

“I hope the children in Somerset see that not only do people out there really care about them but want to see their education go further. Education is everything, especially when kids are younger.” said Nicole, “I hope that they will see our effort and want to be involved so we can continue the cycle of events like this for children in need.”

Learn more about how you can start a Virtual Book Drive to get books to kids in need in your area.

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14. Cuddle Up with a Book

The cold winter months are a wonderful time to share books with the people you love! Here are some great read-it-together books from the First Book Marketplace.

If you work with kids in need, you can access these books and many more by signing up with First Book.

snowman_briggsThe Snowman by Raymond Briggs

Sometimes the most magical stories can be told without a single word. That is certainly true of The Snowman, which has been delighting children since 1978. In this picture book, Briggs tells the story of a boy whose snowman comes to life in the night and takes him on an incredible adventure. Even though there are no words to read, the expressive and detailed illustrations make this classic a stellar pick for poring over with a loved one.

lemonade_winterLemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

When Pauline gets an idea in her head, she’s going to do something about it – even if that idea is to sell lemonade and limeade in the dead of winter! Along with her enthusiastic little brother John-John, Pauline counts up her quarters, treks to the grocery store, and sets up a stand on her front lawn. But will anyone really be outside on such a cold day? Jenkins and Karas have created two unforgettable characters that will have readers of all ages giggling (and clamoring to count coins).

iguanas_snowIguanas in the Snow: And Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la Nieve: Y Otros Poemas de Invierno by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez

Winter takes shape differently in different places. In this engaging book of bilingual poetry, Alarcón explores winter in Northern California – from the streets of San Francisco to the majestic redwood forests of the Sierras. Collections of simply-written poetry offer a great opportunity for children and adults to take turns as they read and can often inspire children to try their hands at writing their own poems.

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

Alvin, a Chinese-American second grader, 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. Luckily, he has a loving and supportive family who help him be brave, even when it’s tough. This entertaining and endearing chapter book also features charming illustrations throughout, making it a perfect choice for reading aloud.

365_days_wonder365 Days of Wonder by R. J. Palacio

In the #1 New York Times bestselling novel Wonder, readers were introduced to memorable English teacher Mr. Browne and his love of precepts, or principles to live by. Palacio has compiled 365 precepts into this inspiring book, celebrating kindness, hopefulness, the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills. Sharing words of wisdom with children is a wonderful way to start discussions, share values, and encourage each other.

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15. Thanks To You, I’m More Motivated Than Ever

Today’s guest blogger is Andrea Brunk, a physical therapist at the National Children’s Center Early Learning Center in Washington, DC.

brunch bunchI work with children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities. The children in my program range from infants to five year olds.

Our families do their best to meet their child’s unique needs, but it can be a challenge. Many are single or foster parents. Others are grandparents or teens. They face balancing their own schooling and long hours at work with supporting their children. They also have few, if any, books at home.

Knowing how critical it is that kids have books at an early age, I created Brunch Bunch. Here families come together to enjoy catered breakfasts and one another’s company. They read with their kids, build attention spans and play an active role in their child’s learning. Each family gets brand new books to take home and read together.

Brunch Bunch has been extremely successful.  Parents stay after our sessions to ask questions about how to work with their child. They are excited to help their children learn.

Thanks to incredible support from First Book, I’m more motivated than ever to grow Brunch Bunch and share our success with other early childhood educators and families in our community.

Please consider making a gift to First Book today to help more children and their families read, learn and grow together. Your gift today will be TRIPLED thanks to Disney.

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16. Feeling at Home this Holiday

Today’s guest blogger is Linette Claudio, Bilingual Coordinator at McAuliffe Elementary School in Chicago, IL.

Chicago classroom CPS

Linette Claudio in her classroom in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.

Remember a book character from your childhood that helped you through a time of growth and change? One that inspired you, helped you feel at home in our own skin and made you realize you weren’t alone.

I believe that every child deserves to experience that kind of connection. I’m grateful that my students have, thanks to you and First Book.

The kids in my Bilingual Transitional Program speak a different language than their peers. Many live in a constant state of flux, having moved cities and schools several times. It’s easy to understand why they sometimes feel like they don’t belong.

But books are their anchors.

Thanks to generous people like you that support First Book’s Stories for All Project, my students have books that celebrate their culture. They see their lives reflected in the stories they read. They’ve discovered characters to guide them and help them create a life all their own.

It’s wonderful for them. And it’s wonderful for their families who hope for a future in which their children have better opportunities.

Please consider making a gift today to give kids something everyone needs – a sense of themselves and their place in the world.

Click here to read more about First Book’s Stories for All project.

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17. Our Favorite Books for December

Our five favorite books for the month of December feature caterpillars, pigs (both large and guinea), and several incredible heroines. All make perfect holiday gifts and can be found on the First Book Marketplace.

PreK-1st (Ages 2-6)

VHC_bilingualThe Very Hungry Caterpillar / La oruga muy hambrienta written and illustrated by Eric Carle

One of the most popular books on the First Book Marketplace is back after a brief hibernation in its cocoon. Eric Carle’s unique illustrations are as charming as they were 40 years ago, but now even more students can count along as our hungry friend eats its way through fruit, junk food, and leaves in this Spanish-English bilingual board book. No matter how many times your students flip through each page, they will stay hungry for more (with minimal risk of stomachaches).

Grades 1-3 (Ages 6-9)

Mercy_WatsonMercy Watson to the Rescue written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

As it turns out, the floorboards in the Watson household are not strong enough to support a grown man, a grown woman, and a hefty pig named Mercy all sleeping in the same bed. With a BOOM and a CRACK, all three Watsons wake up to find the bed teetering over a hole, but it’s Mercy to the Rescue! Or is it? Actually, no. Mercy has snuffled her way over to their elderly neighbors, the Lincoln Sisters, in search of sugar cookies. Luckily, Mercy’s actions still might get somebody to call the Fire Department for help. With delightful illustrations and loveable characters, this Advanced Reader is sure to make any student feel all “warm and buttery-toasty inside” as they cheer along this porcine-wonder.

Grades 2-4 (Ages 8-10)

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

Zounds! Somebody has been stealing Mr. Venezi’s sandwiches from the counter of his pet shop. He suspects the hamsters are the culprits and threatens to send them all away if his sandwich is stolen again, prompting the exceptionally excitable Hamisher the hamster to enlist the help of Detective Sasspants, Guinea P.I.(g). But how is this reluctant pet shop Private Eye supposed to solve a mystery when the hamsters sleep through the crime, the fish are too distracted by their reflections, and Gerry, the most suspicious slithery suspect, won’t cooperate? Jump into this hilarious graphic novel to find out and test your own detective skills along the way.

Grades 5-6 (Ages 10-12)

Mighty_Miss_MaloneThe Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

In 1936, the town of Gary, Indiana, was held fast in the grip of the Great Depression, homelessness, and the ever-present scourge of racism – however, it was also home to a loving family of four uniquely talented people. Readers are given a window into this world through the eyes of the earnest, book-brilliant, and fiercely loyal protagonist Deza, the youngest member of the Malone family. With a father in search of a job and a brother in pursuit of his dream, Deza soon finds her tight-knit family torn apart. She will need every ounce of her unflappable optimism to hold her loved ones together, so they can continue, undaunted, on their journey to that place they call Wonderful.

Grades 7+ (Ages 13+)

Code_Name_VerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity is the ultimate story of friendship and sacrifice, following the stories told by two heroines caught behind enemy lines in Nazi occupied France. Feverishly gripping and expertly plotted, this award-winning novel will make you gasp, cry, and want to go find your best friend and hug him or her right away. Whether told under the influence of horrendous torture or guiltily crammed in the lines of a pilot’s note book, you won’t be able to stop reading these confessions until you reach the stunning conclusion.

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18. Investing in My Students

Today’s guest bloggers is Lindsey Roache, Assistant Principal at University Heights Preparatory Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana.

IMG_1923As a principal, I know that if my students are going to care about school, they have to know their school cares about them. Sometimes this means our school buys clothes, purchases bus passes, provides a Thanksgiving meal or adopts a family around the holidays. It also means we make sure our students have great books.

We do our best, but we have limitations. My school has no library, therefore we have a limited amount of books. Our teachers dig into their own pockets to buy books for their students and we apply for grants. We also have First Book.

IMG_1920Last year, when I delivered brand new books and dictionaries to classrooms, the looks on the students’ faces were priceless. The students were incredibly thankful. They felt their importance. They knew that we were committed to investing in their future and helping them in any way possible.

This holiday season, please help our students and others know we care by giving them brand new books. Join me in creating a generation of invested learners who will read, learn and succeed. Please donate to First Book today — every $2.50 you donate through December 31, 2014 will be matched with an in-kind donation of two books from Disney.

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19. Goodnight Moon: Making a Classic Bedtime Story Available to Bilingual Readers for the First Time

GNM_EngSpan_cFor generations, American families have gathered together to read the cherished children’s book, Goodnight Moon, as part of their bedtime routine. Today, with Harper Collins Children’s Books, we are making the iconic title accessible to millions more families in a bilingual edition for the very first time.

Goodnight Moon/Buenas Noches, Luna is now available through the First Book Marketplace to educators and programs serving children from low-income families. Recognizing the growing need for greater diversity in children’s literature, HarperCollins is offering the book at the retail level as well.

The creation of the English-Spanish board book marks another important milestone in The Stories for All Project, our effort to increase the diversity in children’s books. The initiative is making classic children’s books and books featuring diverse characters, authors and illustrators more accessible to children in need, and, in the process, helping to demonstrate the growing market for culturally diverse books.

Are you an educator or program leader serving kids in need? You can find Goodnight Moon/Buenas Noches, Luna and other outstanding, culturally relevant titles on the First Book Marketplace.

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20. Books for Kids in Ebola-Affected Liberia

20140929090239-classheartSince the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, schools across the region have closed — leaving children without access to traditional education opportunities and the moral support teachers provide during times of crisis.

So when we received a call from our friends at the International Book Bank and the We Care Foundation and Library asking to include books in schooling kits they were creating, we jumped at the chance.  Kids were waiting.  They needed out help.

Within hours, we began a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to send as many books as possible, with a minimum goal of $5,000.

Thanks to generous support from individuals and partners like C&S Wholesale Grocers, Lee & Low Books, The NEA Foundation, Penguin Random House and Townsend Press, we ended up raising enough funds to send more than 40,000 brand new books (with a retail value of more than $320,000) to children in Liberia.

“We know books provide educational opportunities,” said Chandler Arnold, First Book’s Chief Operating Officer,  “But in times of trauma they also provide comforting bedtime stories, moments of family togetherness and the chance for children to temporarily escape from a frightening situation”

students around bookThe books, now on their way to children and families in the affected area, will accompany child-focused information about preventing the spread of the disease.

“When our partner Michael Weah, director of the We-Care Foundation and Library in Monrovia, Liberia, asked us for a donation of books to be packaged up and hand-delivered to children locked out of school for a year or more due to the Ebola outbreak, we couldn’t say no,” said Brigid McDonnell, Program Director at International Book Bank.  “These books not only serve as critical educational tools, but also provide entertainment and escape for kids that desperately need it.  It was a pleasure for the International Book Bank to work with First Book on this donation!”

To continue to help get books to kids in need throughout the country and internationally, donate to First Book today.

 

 

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21. Five First Book Favorites: November

Here are our five favorite books to read this November — a bilingual special edition and one part of a witty and well-illustrated history series are just two of this month’s favorites!

PreK-K (Ages 2-5):

goodnight_moon_bilingual

Goodnight Moon (Bilingual Board Book Special Edition) written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd

Children have been drifting off to sleep to the soothing sounds of Goodnight Moon for over 65 years. And now, we are beyond delighted to offer this classic bedtime story for the first time as a Spanish-English bilingual board book. More kids than ever before will be able to experience the tender warmth of the great green room and say good night to balloons and moons, kittens and mittens, bears and chairs.

Grades 1-2 (Ages 6-8):

I_am_jazzI Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings; illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

“I am Jazz!” This is the proud, bold, and life-affirming statement that begins and ends the story of now thirteen-year-old Jazz Jennings, who explains in simple terms that she was born with a girl’s brain and a boy’s body. Jazz’s story grabbed our attention immediately with its ability to give young students a clear and accurate window into the life and experiences of a transgender child. By acknowledging the realistic lack of understanding from some peers and balancing it alongside the overwhelming acceptance of family and close friends, this warmly illustrated picture book is an ideal way to begin conversations with young readers about accepting differences.

Grades 3-4 (Ages 8-10):

Lulu_duckLulu and the Duck in the Park written by Hilary McKay

In this early chapter book, Lulu rescues a duck egg from disaster by tucking into her pocket, unbeknownst to her teacher!  Her plan to keep the egg safe begins to crack when the duckling decides it’s hatching time. This is the first of several books starring Lulu, each depicting lively adventures and animal friends. While Lulu is best known for her devotion to animals, she is also an adventurous, kindhearted friend, which makes her the perfect companion for any student who’s ready to transition from beginning readers to longer stories.

 

Grades 5-6 (Ages 10-12):

Nathan_HaleNathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy written and illustrated by Nathan Hale

After being swallowed whole by a humongous magical history book moments before he is hanged as a Revolutionary War spy, Nathan Hale delays his executioners by telling them everything he has learned about the future of the new nation. With unmatched wit and engaging illustrations, Nathan Hale (the graphic novelist, no relation to the spy) brings the American Revolution, the Civil War, an unappetizing dinner party at the Donner Pass, and World War I to life. And stay tuned – there’s plenty more history to illustrate!

 

Grades 5+ (Ages 10+):

El_DeafoEl Deafo written and illustrated by Cece Bell

Inspired by the author’s own childhood, this hilarious graphic novel is a warm, sincere invitation into the life of a young bunny who feels isolated by her hearing loss and the humongous Phonic Ear she wears daily to boost her hearing. It is impossible not to root for Cece as she searches for true friendship, and turns often to her super hero alter ego, El Deafo, for confidence while coping with real-life issues like bossy friends and cute boys.  The underlying message here is that we should each embrace what makes us different and understand that the power to define who we are ultimately rests in our own hands (or paws).

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22. First Book & UTR Keep Military Families Connected

“When Rex is deployed there is a very large hole in our family dynamic.  He feels like by not being here and being able to do the things he usually does with the kids, he isn’t as connected to them.”

BoblettsVeronica and Rex Boblett have four children ages four to 11. They call their family “a team.” Rex has served in the United States Navy for almost 14 years as a Master at Arms. He was recently deployed.

For the next 10 months while Rex is deployed his team will miss out on playing with their dad on the playground, roasting marshmallows in the backyard and family pizza and movie night.

Their team story time each night will also be down one member.

But thanks to a partnership between First Book and United Through Reading, the Bobletts can continue their tradition of reading together while Rex is away. United Through Reading’s program allows Rex to record videos of himself reading books and send them to his family. Back home, the kids watch his videos and send video responses back to their dad.

“Our family loves to read and it means the world to us that we can still incorporate Daddy into our regular bedtime routine,” says Veronica. “The kids pile up on the couch with the book that is sent to us and we read along.  He makes silly sounds and voices to keep them engaged.  They love it!”

The videos help the Bobletts stay connected as a family. They also help Veronica and Rex reinforce the importance of reading. Their daughter Annaleigh always loved storytime, but never was one to read on her own. Since Rex started reading to her with United Through Reading, however, Annaleigh flies through books now and has asked her Dad to read chapter books on video.

“The video recordings are a piece of their daddy. They ask to watch them over and over again,” says Veronica.  “If the kids are feeling down or having a bad day, we put in the video and there is an immediate smile as soon as they hear his voice.” For Rex, reading the stories on video makes him feel like he is right there in person, even while he’s in the middle of the ocean.

This Veteran’s Day, First Book and United Through reading would like to thank and honor all the veterans and active service members who serve our country – today and always.

United Through Reading is the nation’s first nonprofit to promote the read-aloud experience for separated military families.  United Through Reading offers service members the opportunity to be video-recorded reading storybooks to their children at home, which eases the stress of separation, maintains positive emotional connections, encourages early literacy and cultivates a love of reading.  At nearly 200 recording locations worldwide, service members can read to their children from units on ships, in tents in Afghanistan, on bases and installations around the world and at 70 USO centers worldwide.

 

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23. Four Ways to Encourage the Spirit of Giving

iStock_000011073366SmallThe holidays are fast approaching.  You and your family can make them a bit brighter for kids in need. Choose from four great ways to get your family excited and engaged in helping others.

1.  Read eBooks for free as a family on www.wegivebooks.org. For every book you read online, a brand new book will be provided to a child in need.

2.  Encourage your kids to donate their allowance in November and December to First Book or a cause of their choice. Help them understand that not all kids will have presents to open this holiday season.

3.  Host a Virtual Book Drive and invite others to join you. Every $2.50 raised can provide a book to a child in need.

4.  Together with your kids, select an item from the First Book Gift Catalog to give to a loved one for the holidays.

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24. Meet the Reading Dogs

Today’s guest blogger is Robyn Douglas from Down East Dog Scouts Troop 159 in Hancock County, ME.

cirra

Cirra with some of her favorite books

I want to tell you about Cirra. In her six years as a reading buddy, Cirra has given hundreds of books to kids. She’s helped dozens of children improve their reading and comprehension. She loves to sit quietly and listen. She is everyone’s best friend.

Cirra is a therapy dog and a member of Downeast Dog Scouts Troop 159. I’m her handler.  Being part of the Children Reading to Dogs program is one of the most rewarding things Cirra and I have ever done.

Many of the kids that participate in our program are struggling readers and are too embarrassed to read aloud, but not with Cirra. When she walks into a school or library, the kids can’t wait to pet her and read with her.

If they stumble over a word or two, Cirra doesn’t mind. I tell them that she would love to learn the troublesome word, and the kids have fun teaching it to her.

dogs

One of the many dogs, like Cirra, who help kids become strong readers

By reading with her, Cirra’s buddies become stronger readers. They build self-confidence, empathy and a love of learning. It’s so wonderful to see them take that leap.

At the end of five reading sessions, kids receive a book of their own from Cirra. One boy was so grateful, he promised to treasure it forever and read it to his own grandchildren some day.

Some kids just need a little something extra to get them reading, and having books is the first step. Your support of First Book makes moments like these possible. Please consider making a gift today.

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25. Thank You For The Books

Throughout the year, we receive countless thank you notes from children across the country who receive books of their very own thanks to generous support from friends like you.  We hope you enjoy this note of thanks from Patricia, a student at Adrian Elementary in South Euclid, Ohio.

On behalf of all our young readers, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday season.

Kid thank you note for pre-Thanksgiving copy

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