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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: First Book Partners, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 109
1. One More Page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2. 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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3. 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.

The post Welcoming We Give Books to the First Book Family appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. 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.

The post Books to Kids, One Cupcake At A Time appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. 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!’”

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

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6. Creating Strong Readers with the Wrestlemania Reading Challenge

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

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

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

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

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7. 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.

The post No Kid Hungry: Summer Feeding and Summer Fun appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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.

The post Making Math Fun appeared first on First Book Blog.

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12. 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!

The post A Library Makeover in Lyman, Wyoming appeared first on First Book Blog.

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13. 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?

The post Read “Bunny Cakes” on October 21st! appeared first on First Book Blog.

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14. 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.

The post First Book and ALAS: Better Serving Latino Youth appeared first on First Book Blog.

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15. [INFOGRAPHIC] STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children’s Lives

STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children's Lives


Thanks to partners like Lockheed Martin, First Book is helping thousands of kids in need get the books and resources they need. If you work with children from low-income families, sign up with First Book today to get brand-new, high-quality STEM books.

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16. How STEM Books Make a Difference to Girls in One Dallas Afterschool Program

One afternoon last week, a big box of books arrived in Miss Vicky’s classroom. After she explained to her students, who devote each Wednesday to studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), that the books were about “why things work and how they work”, the girls “shot up from their seats and ran over to the books.”

“Some of the younger girls didn’t understand all the words, but they kept reading,” she said. “Working hard to figure out what the book was about.”

Miss Vicky — known to the world outside her classroom as Vicky Hernandez — teaches girls, ages 6 to 18, at Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, and she strives to help them be strong, smart and bold.

[INFOGRAPHIC] STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children’s LivesHer students come from the surrounding West Dallas neighborhoods, an area known for high crime and struggling schools. Their parents have chosen to pay $5 every month so the girls can participate in tutoring and educational programming and receive a full, healthy meal each night after school at Girls Inc.

Recently, Miss Vicky received a grant from First Book, made possible by our generous corporate partner, Lockheed Martin. “We had some books,” she said, “but not STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] books.”

Despite the lack of resources, STEM is central to the curriculum at Girls Inc. They believe studying STEM improves their students’ chances for successful college and career placement.

And they’re right. By 2018, there will be over 8 million STEM jobs in the United States, but only 5 million people qualified to fill them. Women in STEM careers also make more, with median annual earnings in selected STEM occupations nearly doubling that of women workers overall.

“STEM books are so valuable, because they teach specific concepts while helping the girls develop their reading skills,” Miss Vicky said. “It’s not just reading to read, it’s reading to grow a greater knowledge base.”

First Book is grateful to our friends at Lockheed Martin for making it possible for us to provide books about science, technology, engineering and math to students like Miss Vicky’s across the country.

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17. In a Haitian School, 50 Books for 250 Students

In A Haitian School, 50 Books for 250 StudentsFour years ago this week, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti. The tragedy left 1.5 million citizens displaced from their homes, hundreds of thousands dead and devastated an already depressed economy.

Today, Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas. And while much has been done to aid Haiti’s recovery, a staggering eighty percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Poverty keeps millions of children from accessing the world of knowledge that books provide. First Book is committed to changing that, by bringing badly-needed books and educational materials to children in countries like Haiti. Last month we had the opportunity to deliver books to kids in Haiti’s capital city of Port au Prince, a donation made possible through First Book’s longstanding partnership with Jet Blue.

At Ecole Herve Romain, a local school in the Port au Prince “red-zone” of Bel-Air known for high crime and extreme poverty, 250 students previously had to share 50 books between them. Now they have a library of 500 new titles to read and explore.

In addition to providing books, First Book staff met with representatives from USAID and other global and national NGOs in hopes of creating partnerships that lead to more educational resources for Haiti’s kids in need.

“We believe that one book can change the world,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “But we also know that building relationships with partners in Haiti and around the globe will be critical in to achieving our goal of providing books and educational resources to 10 million children in need worldwide by 2016. We want to understand local needs and connect the dots so that kids in need all over the world can read, learn and rise out of poverty.”

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18. David J. Johns: The Importance of Literacy Among African American Youth

Welcome to First Book’s celebrity blog series. Each month we will be connecting with a powerful voice in education and hearing their suggestions for books to use in the classroom, all of which are available on the First Book Marketplace.

This month we hear from David J. Johns, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, on the importance of literacy among African American youth.

David Johns on the importance of readingA love of reading is crucial for increasing achievement among African American students and, consequently, for closing persistent achievement and opportunity gaps. Any student who picks up a book is exposed to adventures, life experiences, and characters that help cultivate voice and agency, and contribute to developing a strong sense of self. Since many students depend on books as their primary method of learning beyond the confines of the classroom, African American children are uniquely challenged when the majority of characters in the literature available to them do not affirm their experience, identity or culture.

The availability of texts reflective of the interests and experiences of African American students, schools and communities is critical – powerful books, such as Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave and Richard Wright’s Native SonThese books depict African American boys leveraging skills cultivated from their life experiences to negotiate racial, class, and historical tensions. The need to negotiate these tensions continues to this day and these lessons apply regardless of the child’s family wealth, home language, zip code, identity, expression, race or gender. Both Frederick Douglass, as he reflects upon his experiences in the autobiography, and Bigger Thomas, Wright’s protagonist, are examples of resilient and intelligent young boys who struggle to learn, grow, and pursue a better life.

Strong female protagonists, like Cassie Logan from Mildred D. Taylor’s The Road to Memphis and Pecola Breedlove from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye support young women in developing a strong sense of agency as well as the strength to persist in pursuing post-secondary opportunities. These books can also help young men understand how to relate to, and engage with, strong women.  The poetry collection In Daddy’s Arms I am Tall celebrates fatherhood and promotes the importance of family in a way that all children can relate to. The stories and images in this important text disrupt and supplant negative stereotypes about absent fathers, reminding us of the tremendous opportunities male mentors and engaged fathers provide.

Additionally, reading about characters who are disabled, children of veterans, English language learners, children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, can help all students mature, develop empathy, awareness, and appreciation for diversity. In Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin describes the experiences of his protagonist, John, in ways that enable readers from all backgrounds to grow in their understanding of the challenges faced by their peers—at home, in school or at church.  The book is a powerful lesson of the role that faith and family play in supporting young people through adversity and is a seminal text for all students searching to find their voice.

Literacy is essential. Individuals without the skills to read or fully comprehend written text or without access to written text at all (including books and other materials that are inclusive, diverse, and affirming) are constrained in their ability to engage in our global society.  For these reasons, The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans supports efforts to increase literacy and encourage diversity within the publishing industry.

By David J. Johns, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Initiative contributes to closing the achievement gap for African American students.  For additional information on ways to support African American educational excellence, please visit http://www.ed.gov/AfAmEducation and follow the initiative on Twitter at @AfAmEducation.

Recommended Books:

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Native Son

The Road to Memphis

Bluest Eye

In Daddy's Arms I am Tall




Go Tell it On A Mountain






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19. 496 Million Women

496 million. That’s how many women in the world can’t read or write even the most simple sentence. Many women never have the opportunity to reach 6th grade, and some don’t get to go to school at all.

Today, we join citizens around the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, and I want to share the stories of Dinah Mwangi and Katie Hendricks, two special women whose lives exemplify the theme of this year’s celebration, “Equality for Women is Progress for All.”

Dinah MwangiDinah makes progress for all in Nairobi, Kenya. While waiting in line at a carwash, Dinah noticed two young boys straining to see what she was reading – a children’s book she had purchased for her niece. When she asked if they would like to join her, the boys lit up.

They read, and laughed and shared stories with Dinah. Then they told her they had no books of their own.

Dinah started buying books with her own salary and recruited volunteers to read and distribute them to kids each Saturday. In less than three months, she had over 500 kids participating. Now she’s pursuing relationships with Kenyan publishers, corporations and funders in order to expand her reach and deepen her impact.

On the other side of the world, Katie makes progress for all by helping girls from low-income families in California’s East Bay bridge the gap between school and home.

Photo from girlsinc-alameda.orgAs a young teacher, Katie yearned to improve all aspects of her students’ lives, inside and outside the classroom. Her holistic approach led her to create Girls Inc. of Alameda County, a program that inspires girls to be strong, smart and bold. Katie and her team reinforce what their girls learn at school, help them become fluent English speakers, provide them with healthy meals and expose them to subjects girls aren’t always encouraged to study, like science, technology and athletics.

By improving the lives of girls in California’s East Bay, Katie also improves the lives of their family members, teachers, friends and classmates.

Dinah and Katie represent what’s possible when women have the education, resources and motivation to make progress for all. Their immediate impact on the kids they serve is immense. Equally powerful, however, is how their spirit and service ripple through entire communities, transform lives and change the future.

In addition to celebrating heroic women like Dinah and Katie, I invite you to join me in recommitting ourselves to becoming a powerful force for equality.

The gender gap has closed significantly over the past few decades, but we still have a long way to go. In some countries, less than a quarter of women finish primary school; 496 million women around the world cannot read or write a simple sentence; and globally, women only reach 93 percent of men’s educational attainment.

I believe the path to equality is through access to quality education. That’s why First Book is equipping educators like Dinah and Katie with brand-new books and resources for the kids they serve, expanding our network to reach women and girls around the globe and lifting up the voices of an unprecedented community of individuals serving children at the base of the economic pyramid.

Please consider a gift to First Book today. Together, we can support the work of heroic women like Dinah and Katie around the world.

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20. Delivering Hope to a School in Detroit (VIDEO)

“The biggest challenge our students face is the simple fact that they’ve been told they can’t do it. And so we charge them to have hope.”

- Jamelle Settles, Assistant Principle, Robert Burns Elementary School

First Book and our friends at JetBlue recently visited one of Michigan’s most struggling schools to provide students with brand new books. Check out the video below for the full story.

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21. 80,000 Books to Help Kids Read, Lead, Achieve

It was only 6:30 in the morning, but over 100 teachers had already lined up outside of the Children’s Museum of Houston – each eagerly waiting to select new books for their students.

Pi Beta Phi“It is hard to describe the lump I had in my throat when I drove up and saw all the teachers who had come at that early hour, from all over Houston,” said Patricia Gres Shuford, a collegiate member of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity.

Patricia volunteered with her New Mexico Alpha chapter to help distribute 20,000 books in Houston as part of Pi Beta Phi’s Fraternity Day of Service, conducted in partnership with First Book. She spent the day sharing stories and loading books into the cars of over 300 Houston-area educators and program leaders serving kids in need.

“The teachers were so excited and grateful,” said Patricia. “Helping distribute these books was such a rewarding experience.”

Cat in the Hat Pi PhiFirst Book, and longtime partner Pi Beta Phi, also touched the lives of kids in need in Baltimore, Long Beach, Calif. and Nashville, Tenn. In addition to the Fraternity Day of Service book distributions, hundreds of kids joined Pi Phi volunteers to enjoy Dr. Suess®-themed story times, visits from the Cat in the Hat and reading with therapy dogs. Across all four cities, local kids are now reading, learning and loving over 80,000 brand-new books.

First Book looks forward to its continued partnership with Pi Beta Phi through the Read > Lead > Achieve® initiative, inspiring a lifelong love of reading and impacting one life at a time.

To learn more about how you can volunteer with First Book, visit www.firstbook.org/get-involved/volunteer.

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22. Three Big Ways to Celebrate National Summer Learning Day

Summer_ReadingMark your calendars for June 20th! It’s National Summer Learning Day – an annual celebration dedicated to promoting the importance of summer learning for all children and helping close the achievement gap.

This year, we’ve teamed up with our friends at the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to share three BIG ways to celebrate with the kids you serve or your kids at home! You can get involved by organizing your own activities or by joining an event nearby.

Already have something planned? Find local summer learning events on the Summer Learning Day Event Map or add your event to the map to join the fun.

Check out three BIG ways to celebrate National Summer Learning Day.

  • Host a family literacy celebration. Invite the caring adults in your kids’ lives to attend an event focused on the importance of families reading together.

_MG_0131Have kids prepare a performance or a piece of art based on one of their favorite books, or organize fun activities like a healthy cooking demonstrations or a visit from a local storyteller. Consider inviting a local library representative to share information on services the library provides and how parents and kids can get library cards. And be sure to check out First Book’s Best of Summer Book Lists for great summer reading suggestions for kids of all ages.

  • childreExplore new activities, places and cultures. Summer is great time for kids to explore new subjects and develop new skills.

kids in crisisRead a story about gardening and then work with your kids to plant a garden. Research which plants grow best with each other, map out a plan, visit your local nursery and dig in the dirt!

Explore new cultures through the books featured in our Stories for All Project. Make the stories come alive by seeing a play, cooking a dish or visiting a museum exhibit connected to that culture.

  • Truckload of booksBring more books to your community. What better way to share the importance of summer learning than by bringing books to your community?

Set up a Virtual Book Drive to raise funds for your program or programs in your community serving children in need. Simply set up your page, set a fundraising goal and share the page with your community.  A $10 gift brings about four books from the First Book Marketplace to local kids.

For even more ways to celebrate, visit NSLA’s National Summer Learning Day page!



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23. Who Can Sign Up with First Book?

eligibility graphicWhen the school year ends, so do many support systems kids in need rely on. Thankfully there are thousands of organizations working across the country to help kids in need during the summer months.

First Book is here to support all of them. We don’t just work with teachers; anyone working with kids in need can sign up to get books from First Book!

From health clinics to summer camps, museums to daycare centers, we’ve got books and educational resources for any and all folks serving kids in need, ages zero to 18. First Book also supports programs serving children from military families and children with disabilities.

And there’s no better time to reach them than now – while kids are out of school and relying on their services more than ever.

Think about your community. Are there shelters, health clinics, faith-based programs, soup kitchens or other community-based programs that need educational resources? Encourage them to learn more and sign up at www.firstbook.org.

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24. 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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25. 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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