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1. 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.

The post Cuddle Up with a Book appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. 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.

The post Thanks To You, I’m More Motivated Than Ever appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. 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.

The post Feeling at Home this Holiday appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. 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.

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

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5. 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.

The post Investing in My Students appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. 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

The post Thank You For The Books appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. 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.

The post Meet the Reading Dogs appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. 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.

The post Four Ways to Encourage the Spirit of Giving appeared first on First Book Blog.

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9. 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.

 

The post First Book & UTR Keep Military Families Connected appeared first on First Book Blog.

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10. 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).

The post Five First Book Favorites: November appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. 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.

 

 

The post Books for Kids in Ebola-Affected Liberia appeared first on First Book Blog.

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12. 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.

The post Goodnight Moon: Making a Classic Bedtime Story Available to Bilingual Readers for the First Time appeared first on First Book Blog.

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13. Welcoming We Give Books to the First Book Family

We can’t keep it a secret any longer!

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

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

You can get involved too!

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

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

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

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14. Five First Book Favorites

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

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

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

PreK-K (Ages 2-5):

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

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

 

Grades 1-2 (Ages 6-8):

9781596436039Viva Frida written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

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

 

 

Grades 3-4 (Ages 8-10):

firebird_misty_copelandFirebird written by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Christopher Myers

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

 

Grades 5-6 (Ages 10-12):

brown_girl_dreaming_woodsonBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

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

 

Grades 7+ (Ages 13+):

crossover_alexanderThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander

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

The post Five First Book Favorites appeared first on First Book Blog.

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15. On Creativity and Culture: Yuyi Morales

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

Click here to read this blog in Spanish.

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

3_W6A4783ok

Photo Credit: Antonio Turok

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo Credit: Antonio Turok

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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16. First Book and ALAS: Better Serving Latino Youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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17. Great Ways to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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19. A Birthday Surprise: 420 Books for Kids

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

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

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

where the wild things are

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

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

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

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

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

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20. 187 Reasons Why a Teacher Needs Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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21. Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early Childhood:

very_hungry_180The Very Hungry Caterpillar  by Eric Carle

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

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

 

Lower Elementary:

click_clack_1Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin

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

 

 

Upper Elementary:

families_kuklinFamilies by Susan Kuklin

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

 

Middle School: 

out_of_mind_draper_cdfOut of My Mind by Sharon Draper

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

 

High School:

145_street_walter_dean_myers145th Street: Short Stories by Walter Dean Myers

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

 

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

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

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22. Read to Me – Creating Literacy Mentors

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

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

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

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

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

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

frontpagekids

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

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

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

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

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23. Making Math Fun

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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24. A Path Appears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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25. A Library Makeover in Lyman, Wyoming

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

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

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

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

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

tata-books-to-kids

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

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

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

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

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

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