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1. 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.

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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.

The post Read to Me – Creating Literacy Mentors appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. 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.

The post Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. 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.

The post 187 Reasons Why a Teacher Needs Books appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. 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.

The post A Birthday Surprise: 420 Books for Kids appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. My Kids Need Books

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

IMG_1745

My students and I during after school study time.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

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

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

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

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

IMG_1694

In the gym with some of my outstanding female students.

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

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

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

The post My Kids Need Books appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. Once a Mentor, Forever a Friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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7. Celebrating International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day is September 8.

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

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

Activities for ages 4-8

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

 

Activities for ages 9-11

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

 

Activities for ages 12-14

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

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

 

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

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8. Take Action for Kids in Need

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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9. Five First Book Favorites for Back to School

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

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

lillys_plastic_purseLilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
by Kevin Henkes

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

tequila_worm

The Tequila Worm
by Viola Canales

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

 

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

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10. Books Strengthen Family Bonds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over the past ten years, the Nassau WIC Program has received approximately 20,000 books from First Book, thanks to grant funding made possible by members of the First Book – Long Island volunteer chapter and the Guru Krupa Foundation. The Foundation, based in Jericho, New York, funds initiatives related to education, health and basic sustenance of underprivileged children in India and the United States, and has helped First Book provide more than 51,000 books to children in need in the greater New York and Los Angeles areas in the past two years.

DSC00612“We at Guru Krupa Foundation believe that education is a cornerstone for future success in life,” said Mukund Padmanabhan, president of the Guru Krupa Foundation. “Supporting initiatives that bring the benefits of education to underprivileged children can lead to enormous future dividends, not only for the children but to society.”

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

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

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11. More Than Books for Back to School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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12. Share Your First Day with First Book!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Send along your favorite photo any time before September 22.

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

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

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13. It’s Back to School We Go

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

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

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

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

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14. Three Books to Stay Healthy this School Year

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

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

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

Shopping 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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16. How Kansas City Kids Beat Summer Slide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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17. Out-of-This-World Books!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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18. The Joy of Giving Back

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

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

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

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

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

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19. I Pledge Allegiance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to sign up*All educators at Title I or Title I eligible schools, and program leaders serving 70% or more of children in need are eligible to sign up. The recipient of the  classroom set will be notified the week of June 30th.

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20. Keep Resources Flowing This Summer

Keep Resources Flowing This Summer

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

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

Click on the graphic to see a larger version.

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21. Five Tips for Summer-Long Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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23. Healthy Minds Mean Healthy Lives

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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24. Summer Slide: It Adds Up

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

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

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

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25. No Kid Hungry: Summer Feeding and Summer Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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