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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: First Book Partners, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 121
1. Her Students Were Missing This Critical Resource

“Being cold is something that’s hard to camouflage,” says Claudia Averette, Chief of Staff of Chester Upland School District in Chester, PA.

When Claudia started her role, it was very clear to her that her students were missing something very important to their education – coats.

“When you have children coming to ask if you have something they can wear home because their jacket isn’t warm enough, the need is evident,” Claudia says.

Coats pic from claudiaThis is a common problem in cities like Chester where the median income for a family of four is $26,000 per year. Families have limited resources. Between paying rent and putting food on the table coats don’t always take priority. And when kids don’t have coats in cold weather, they can’t make it to school to learn.

“I think we take for granted the little things that families just don’t have,” says Claudia.

As the temperature dropped, her students arrived to school without warm coats. They had no hats, no gloves and no scarves. Claudia turned to Operation Warm, a nonprofit whose mission is to put coats on kids in need, to provide them with coats.

“When you look at the absentee rates, they go up in January and February,” explains Claudia. “I believe that has a lot to do with not having adequate clothing.”

First Book has partnered with Operation Warm to offer coats on the First Book Marketplace so kids can make it to school and learn year-round.

Claudia QuoteThe incredibly warm coats are carefully constructed. The manufacturing is high quality, so kids receive the same quality items as their more affluent peers and don’t need to worry about standing out. The coats have a tag inside for kids to write their names so they know the coat is their own. Kids can play outside with friends. It’s a great relief for their families.

For many students, when they receive an Operation Warm coat, it’s also the first time they’re receiving something new.

“When children feel good about themselves, they do good by themselves,” says Claudia. “When kids have a warm coat, they have a smile on their face. They sit up, they pay attention, they’re more astute because they just feel good about themselves!”

The First Book Marketplace now has winter coats and cold weather items. If you work with children in need, you can access these resources and many more by signing up.

The post Her Students Were Missing This Critical Resource appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. How Educators Use Tablets

71 Tablets Family EngagementTablets provide many opportunities to engage a child in interactive learning. But for educators in under-resourced schools and programs, such technology is often out of reach.

Thanks to a partnership with Blackboard Inc., many schools and programs were able to find affordable Kobo tablets through the First Book Marketplace this year.

How did they use them? Many used the Kobos to engage families in their child’s learning71% of educators and program leaders reported that the tablets helped them achieve family engagement goals. 

Parents and children used the tablets before school, especially if they didn’t have technology at home. Other children showed their parents their favorite activities and websites during a parent meeting. Parents and caretakers now have the games, learning apps and eBooks that tablets provide at their fingertips, allowing them to play an active role in their child’s education.

If you serve children in need, you can find books, tablets, learning resources and other essentials on the First Book Marketplace. Sign up today!



The post How Educators Use Tablets appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. How First Book & The White House are Transforming Education Today

Barack Obama Education Quote

At the heart of First Book’s mission to help children in need read, learn and succeed is the distribution of educational content. Breaking down the barriers to accessing books and other information can lift the kids we serve and their communities out of poverty and into bright futures.

When President Obama announced the ConnectED Initiative two years ago, he set an ambitious goal to provide 99 percent of American students with access to next-generation broadband internet in their classrooms and libraries by 2018. And this past April, the President followed up on this commitment with the Open eBook Initiative, a program aimed at creating a world-class digital library and making it available to students aged 4-18 from low-income families.

First Book is proud to partner with the White House to support this bold program that will bring all of America’s classrooms into the digital age. Specifically, First Book will help ensure the eBooks library reaches students in low-income families.

Many of the 180,000 schools and educational programs we serve are already working to transform their districts’ teaching and learning in the digital age. We’re excited to support Open eBooks to reinforce their efforts and take strides to ensure all children have a world of knowledge within reach.

The post How First Book & The White House are Transforming Education Today appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. The Best Way to Keep Kids Reading Over the Summer

IMG_1654“Kids will always be more excited about reading, if they can choose what to read,” says Stephanie Phelix, Library Media Specialist at Belle Forest Community School in Memphis, TN.

“If it’s a cookbook or the cheat codes to their video games, it’s still reading. When they’re at the grocery store, they can read the signs around the store. If the boys want to read books about Spiderman or comic books, that’s reading too!”

She believes reading of any kind is valuable for her students. This summer, however, she wanted to give her students the best resource to keep them reading over the summer – books they are excited to read.

IMG_1660Stephanie’s school serves students from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds and goes out of its way to make sure every child is successful.  But as a brand-new school, one thing they didn’t have were  books to send home for the summer. With support from First Book and partner Conn’s HomePlus®, each child was able to choose one book to take home for the summer.

“I tell them, read what you want to read. The books we sent home with them are a great start,” says Stephanie. “Giving them books and other tools at the end of the school year keeps them motivated.”

The post The Best Way to Keep Kids Reading Over the Summer appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. 300,000 Books for Kids to Take Home

Rochester, New York was recently ranked one of the poorest cities in the United States. More than half of its children live in poverty.

IMG_5115(2)But on an early summer day, the students in the Rochester City School District have a spring in their step as they walk down the hallway – they’re getting 10 new books to take home for the summer.

“You get to keep these books!” says one student to one of their new classmates. “You don’t have to give them back, these books are ours!”

“Our kids’ lives are different from the lives of kids in Rochester’s suburban neighborhoods,” says Aimee Rinere, secretary of the Rochester Teachers Association. “It’s not safe for them to go outside.  There are many obstacles our kids face on a daily basis including poor attendance at school, unsafe neighborhoods, and finding their next meal.  They simply don’t have the opportunities, books and resources other kids have.”

IMG_5117The district’s Superintendent, Rochester Teachers Association and the Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals are dedicated to the success of his students and getting them to read at grade level by the third grade, no matter the obstacles. As a way to combat summer learning loss every student has received books to take home for the past two years. Over 300,000 books have been given away in total.

The students in Kindergarten to Second Grade were each given ten books, and this year five were books of their choosing. The older students were able to choose two books to take home.

“Some of the older girls chose the same book. They made plans to meet during the summer to read them together and have a book club,” Aimee explained.

Some students who didn’t want to take books home were met by the protests of their classmates.

“Why don’t you want to read? You should take a book. It will make you a better student,” they said. Without any prompting from the teachers or librarians, the students are now encouraging each other to read.

“We couldn’t put these books into kids’ hands without First Book’s help,” said Aimee. “We’re leveling the playing field for our kids’ with these books, and at the end of the school year we know that, if nothing else, they have the resources we are giving them.”

The post 300,000 Books for Kids to Take Home appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. Shelves Filled with Books of All Sizes And Colors

Today’s Guest Blogger is Susan Brunecz, an Instructional Coach at Paul L. Dunbar Academy in Cleveland, Ohio.

IMG_3764When our students entered their classes on the first day of school two weeks ago, a roar of excitement erupted! They had just laid eyes on their new classroom libraries. Their shelves were filled with brand-new books of all sizes and colors. What a way to start the year!

But books weren’t always so plentiful. Last year, many shelves were bare. Only a few classes had established libraries.

Being new to this school, my goal was to get as many books as I could into our classrooms. Thanks to generous supporters, every class now has a library of its own.

Many of the children who attend our school move frequently, living with a friend or a relative. Others live in shelters or temporary housing. Our school is the most stable place our kids have and the best way for them to access books. Here they are encouraged to read all that they can.

IMG_9419-editNow, when you peek into a classroom, you’ll find students exploring the pages of books at their reading level. And when they finish, they’ll find a new book waiting to be read.

There are still schools out there whose shelves are bare. They need your help.

Please donate today to help kids start the school year with classrooms full of books. Your gift will be matched.


First Book was able to provide books to the students at Paul L. Dunbar Academy thanks to the support of JetBlue.

The post Shelves Filled with Books of All Sizes And Colors appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. Books to Start A Dialogue About Disabilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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8. One More Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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9. Sparking Students’ Interest In Math

counting on 1

Sarah’s students practicing “counting on”

When it’s time for a math lesson, Sarah Richardson’s kindergarten class sits in a group, with one hand on their heads, counting on the other hand in front of them.  They’re learning addition using a method called “counting on”. This can be a very tricky skill for some of Sarah’s students.

After a tough math lesson, the students sit down to enjoy a new story.  She begins to read a book about a builder named Jack who uses different numbers of blocks to build robots, a hot dog stand and the tallest building in the world.  He adds on more and more blocks to create bigger and better structures.

Sarah’s students aren’t just enjoying a new story. As she reads, the students begin to use the skills they just learned to solve the problems in the book.

Math can be tricky for many students. Michelle Evans, a Reading and Literacy Coach at Joseph Keels Elementary in Columbia, SC has observed some of her students being timid and reserved when it comes to participating in math lessons.

“They’re afraid to take risks for fear of not having the right answer,” she says.

class with book editedSarah has noticed similar behavior in her students during math class.  “Some students tend to not participate because they are shy, or feel that if someone else knows the answer first, they don’t need to answer,” she explains.

Michelle and Sarah searched for books to help those who struggled with math concepts. They recently found the MathStart series on the First Book Marketplace. The series is filled with vivid illustrations and fun, real-life stories that represent math concepts.  The books have helped their students gain confidence when participating in math lessons –and they’re more excited about math.

“I’ve witnessed my students become more confident in their mathematical abilities.  The books are helping them have a deeper understanding of math,” says Michelle.

Sarah’s students love to read the books on their own after they’ve discussed them in class.

IMG_4606editSarah and Michelle are not alone. First Book surveyed 89 educators who have used these books with their students and 74% said they used these books to help spark their kids’ interest in math.

Michelle has seen her students select MathStart books during independent reading.  They copy and complete word problems from the books.  They’re choosing to do math problems and understanding the concepts on their own.

First Book was able to bring this collection of books to the First Book Marketplace thanks to the support American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM.) 

Do you work with kids in need?  You can access this great math series, and many other books and resources, by signing up.

The post Sparking Students’ Interest In Math appeared first on First Book Blog.

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10. Parents Value Printed Books

Domtar Infographic Circle v2A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that 9 out of 10 parents of children under 18 say it’s important to them that their children read printed books. The parents in the study value the sensory experience books give to children — the turning of the pages, the cover images, the rich colors of the illustrations and ink.

They also believe that reading printed books helps them to model reading habits for their children.

One parent who participated in the study thought this to be particularly true in our digital culture. “I’m reading…a book [on a tablet] and my children don’t know if I’m reading a book or if I’m playing on Twitter,” they said. “So I think it’s important to have the book so that they go, ‘Oh Dad’s reading’… not just, ‘Oh he’s updating his Facebook page.’ I think there is like a difference in that.”

Want to help bring books into the hands of kids in need? Find out how you can get involved!

First Book is able to provide printed books and other educational resources to children in need thanks to partners like Domtar Paper.

The post Parents Value Printed Books appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. First Book Joins White House to Bring Thousands of e-Books to Kids in Need

iStock_000014235579MediumWe know that access to books – in all forms – is critical for children to develop into readers.

Now, through a new White House-led initiative, First Book is helping connect children in need across the country with access to thousands of e-books. The initiative, announced today by President Obama, is part of a broad effort to ignite kids’ love of reading by improving access to digital content and public libraries.

Through the initiative, called Open eBooks, publishers are providing $250 million worth of e-books for free to children from low-income families. 10,000 of their most popular titles will be included.

The books will be accessible through an Open eBooks app, which is currently being developed by the New York Public Library, the Digital Public Library of America and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Once complete, the app and all the e-books will be available to programs and classrooms serving children in need through First Book.

Know someone working in the lives of children in need? Encourage them to sign up with First Book.

The post First Book Joins White House to Bring Thousands of e-Books to Kids in Need appeared first on First Book Blog.

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12. These Children Saw Themselves in a Book

Today’s blog post is part of our Stories For All Project series, focused on sharing the latest announcements and impact stories about our effort to put diverse, inclusive books into the hands of kids in need.

Cathy Gaudio reads aloud to a group of students in Phoenix, Arizona.  It’s a special day – every child at Sun Canyon Elementary is going home with a book of their own. The book, “Pelitos” by Sandra Cisneros, is bilingual. She reads one page in English, soon echoed by her bright-eyed helper reading the page in Spanish.  The children are thrilled.

“’Pelitos’ talks about how we all have different kinds of hair – showing that everyone’s differences are worth celebrating” explains Cathy.

IMG_0607Cathy, the Program Manager of AARP Foundation Experience Corps Phoenix, is joined by the school’s reading tutors for the celebration.   For an hour every week, 90 retiree volunteers from the program tutor 300 children in ten schools throughout the city. Sun Canyon is one such school.

On this day, the students gained more than reading skills from their tutors.  They saw themselves in the book they enjoyed.

“When these students can see themselves in books, they get more excited about reading, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to inspire in them,” says Cathy. “There’s one reference to very long hair that’s shiny. After we finished reading one little girl went to her book and opened to that page saying ‘This is me!  This is my hair!”

The young girl’s discovery created a larger conversation in the classroom.

“But this is me!” said one child.

“But I have curly hair, so this is me,” said another.

“At that age, they all accept each other and can find something very personal in that book,” Cathy observes.

Every child was able to find a reflection of themselves and they were overjoyed.

The post These Children Saw Themselves in a Book appeared first on First Book Blog.

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13. What Does the Stories For All Project Mean to You?

Today’s blog post is part of our Stories For All Project series, focused on sharing the latest announcements and impact stories about our effort to put diverse, inclusive books into the hands of kids.

On May 6th, we hosted a Twitter chat to talk about how books featuring diverse voices help children learn and grow. Educators from across the country joined publishers, thought leaders, supporters and partners to share their thoughts.

Here are just a few highlights from the conversation. View the entire Twitter chat on Storify.

What does the #StoriesforAll Project mean to you?

Why is it important that diverse books are available to all children?

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14. This is a Life He Never Imagined


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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.


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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. Books to Kids, One Cupcake At A Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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24. 40,000 Books for Kids In Syracuse

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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25. Creating Strong Readers with the Wrestlemania Reading Challenge

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

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

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

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