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1. 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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2. 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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3. 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!

 

 

The post Three Big Ways to Celebrate National Summer Learning Day appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. 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.

The post Who Can Sign Up with First Book? appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. 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!

The post Five Tips for Summer-Long Learning appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. 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!

The post Healthy Minds Mean Healthy Lives appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. It Takes Less Than Half An Hour To Change A Child’s Life

First Book provides badly-needed books to kids, but it’s up to educators and parents to help their children open up those brand-new books and become readers. Read Aloud 15 MINUTES is one of the many terrific programs that makes this possible.

Read Aloud board member Jennifer Liu Bryan recently explained how our two missions align and why it’s so important to read aloud for 15 minutes a day, especially to kids in under-served communities.

Q:  How do Read Aloud and First Book work together? 

First Book and Read Aloud for 15 Minutes collaborate togetherRead Aloud:  First Book’s mission provides the essential raw materials: Books. Books for eager young hands to possess, to cherish – to read. Read Aloud 15 MINUTES’ mission provides the marching orders: Engage. Once those reading materials are in hand, there is no better way to prepare a child for reading and learning than to read aloud to him or her every day, for at least 15 minutes.

Read Aloud 15 MINUTES and First Book’s missions join together like two pieces of the literacy puzzle. Approaching the problem from two different angles, both non-profits share the same goal: To grow literacy, improve education and change lives in this country for the better.

The missions intertwine and intersect wherever there are children who yearn to learn and caregivers who want the best for them. In other words, our missions overlap everywhere.

Q:  First Book specifically serves kids in under resourced communities. How is reading aloud to these kids for 15 minutes a day even more important because of that? 

First Book and Read Aloud for 15 Minutes collaborate togetherRead Aloud:  Our message is directed at parents and caregivers everywhere, because it is imperative and applicable to children everywhere. But it is especially critical that our message be heard where the barriers to success are highest, in under-resourced communities.

The disparities are alarming:

  •  By age four, low-income children have heard an average 32 million fewer words than their wealthy peers.
  • By kindergarten, some low-income children have been read aloud to as few as 25 hours while their middle-income peers have been read aloud to as many as 1,000. 

These statistics add up to real life consequences: failure to learn and failure to succeed at school.

Reading Aloud for 15 minutes a day is a small commitment, but for children – particularly in under-resourced communities – it can make a lifetime of difference.

To learn more about why reading aloud will make a difference in your children’s lives, visit our partner Read Aloud for 15 MINUTES

The post It Takes Less Than Half An Hour To Change A Child’s Life appeared first on First Book Blog.

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

STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children's Lives

CLICK THE IMAGE TO SEE A BIGGER VERSION.

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.

The post [INFOGRAPHIC] STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children’s Lives appeared first on First Book Blog.

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9. 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.

The post How STEM Books Make a Difference to Girls in One Dallas Afterschool Program appeared first on First Book Blog.

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10. 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.”

The post In a Haitian School, 50 Books for 250 Students appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. How First Book Works with Pi Beta Phi to Support Girls Everywhere

Today’s guest blog post is from Ann Shaw, Director of Philanthropy for Pi Beta Phi Fraternity. Ann has held this volunteer role for the past six years. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Arkansas and her Master’s in Education from the University of New Orleans. Ann taught for over 25 years as an early childhood teacher and is passionate about literacy.

Ann Shaw, The Women of Pi Beta Phi and First Book Partner to End Illiteracy

Ann Shaw, Director of Philanthropy for Pi Beta Phi Fraternity

In 1987, the U.S. Congress designated March as Women’s History Month to ensure that the history of American women would be recognized and celebrated in schools, work places and communities throughout the country.

Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women was founded in 1867 by 12 students at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois who were the pioneers of the women’s fraternal movement. While our country was rebuilding after the Civil War, few women attended college. The women of Pi Beta Phi were visionaries of their time not only because they founded the Fraternity and patterned it after the men’s fraternal organizations of that time, but also because they were philanthropically minded and wished to better society.

Pi Beta Phi members continued their philanthropic interests by creating a school in 1912 in the remote Appalachian Mountain hamlet of Gatlinburg, Tennessee to provide formal education. In November 2012, Pi Beta Phi members celebrated 100 years of literacy service in Gatlinburg. From their original mission to the continuing legacy of Pi Beta Phi Elementary School and the Arrowmont® School of Arts and Crafts, Pi Beta Phis are proud of their commitment to literacy not only in Gatlinburg but across the United States and Canada.

Kyle Zimmer, The Women of Pi Beta Phi and First Book Partner to End Illiteracy

Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book, reads to girls at a local DC program

In the next 100 years, Pi Phi’s Read. Lead. Achieve.® literacy platform will continue to provide direction for Pi Phi’s mission “to lead the way to a more literate society” through its partnership with First Book, Champions are Readers program, Arrow in the Arctic, Fraternity Day of Service and local initiatives.

Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book, is a visionary too, as she had the dream to put books into the hands of undeserved children through the inception of First Book. Both organizations work to end illiteracy and realize the importance of reading and how it is a predictor of success in school and life.

Both organizations work to end illiteracy and realize the importance of reading and how it is a predictor of success in school and life.

Pi Phi strives to lead the way to a more literate society and has supported First Book’s mission financially and through the volunteer efforts of our members. First Book and Pi Beta Phi are making a difference in the lives of children through their philanthropic efforts to create rich literacy environments, improve interest in reading and encourage children to be readers.

The Women of Pi Beta Phi and First Book Partner to End IlliteracyWhile we celebrate the accomplishments of women during National Women’s History Month, let us remember not only the women who have made significant accomplishments to better society but those women who read to their children, surround their children with books and encourage their children to love reading.

Pi Phi recently made a special edition of the title, Remember the Ladies: 100 Great American Women available to First Book’s schools and programs. If you work with kids from low-income families, sign your program or classroom up with First Book.

 

 

 

 

 

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16. First Book Supports 50,000 Local Schools and Community Programs. (Yes! 50,000!)

50,000 Local Schools and Community Programs in the First Book NetworkLast year First Book made it a goal to reach more kids in need by doubling the number of local schools and community programs in our national network, from 25,000 to 50,000.

We’ve reached that number! Over 50,000 Title I classrooms, early childhood education programs, afterschool programs, museums and libraries, housing authorities, faith-based organizations, military family support programs, health clinics and others are signed up with First Book, and every one of them now has permanent, ongoing access to a steady stream of brand-new, high-quality books and educational resources.

First Book Supports 50,000 Local Schools and Community ProgramsThat’s terrific news, and we’re grateful to all the partners and supporters that helped us get there.

But we’re not knocking off work just yet. There are 30 million children in the United States living in low-income homes, and access to books is scarce for far too many of them. There are over 1.3 million programs and classrooms still waiting for us, and we need to reach them all.

Help make that happen! If you know someone who works with kids from low-income families, tell them about First Book. Forward them this blog post, or send them to our website, where they can sign up.

It’s quick, it’s free, and we have brand-new books just waiting for them.

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17. One Million Books Available Now for Schools and Programs in States Affected by Hurricane Sandy

One Million Books from First Book for Victims of Hurricane SandySince Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast last fall, First Book has been working to help local schools, community programs and families rebuild their lost libraries.

Now, thanks to our friends at Random House, we have the resources to rebuild tens of thousands of home and classroom libraries: over one million brand-new, high-quality kid’s books.

We just need to get the word out.

Help us by sharing this blog post with anyone you know who works with children in need, and tell them to sign up with First Book today.

Recognizing the wide-ranging impact of this storm on many aspects of children’s lives, schools and programs do not have to have been physically damaged by the storm to apply for books. Any school or program that was affected by the storm or serves children in need in one of the 13 affected states is encouraged to sign up to receive books.

NOTE: The books are available to schools and programs in the 13 states designated by FEMA as being affected by Hurricane Sandy: Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, DC.

The post One Million Books Available Now for Schools and Programs in States Affected by Hurricane Sandy appeared first on First Book Blog.

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18. The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color

Our guest blogger today is author Tony Medina, whose book “DeShawn Days”, from Lee & Low Books, is part of First Book’s Stories For All Project.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color“As a child in the Throgs Neck Housing Projects in the Bronx, I did not grow up with books. The only person I saw reading was my grandmother, who occasionally read mass-market paperback fiction and her Bible that was as big as a phone book. If the Bible fell from the top of the dresser where she kept it, it could take your kneecap off and crush your foot in the process! The only time I recall being exposed to children’s books was at school when the teacher took us to the school library and the librarian allowed us to take out Curious George books.

It was as an adult that I really began to appreciate children’s books. I remember being fascinated by the marriage of art and text. The stories and poems were depicted so beautifully and richly that it seemed as if they blended together seamlessly, creating a world by which even adults would be captivated. I knew right then that I wanted to be part of that magic. I thought, if I as a grownup can be taken with the majesty of these portable art galleries and museums, children must truly love them.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of ColorSoon after, I began buying children’s books and taking some out from the library. I not only found myself interested in the wonderful stories and poems, I wanted to teach myself how to write them—by reading them. The more I browsed through shelves in bookstores and libraries, the more I noticed that many of the books I came across did not speak to or from the point of view of a kid like me from the projects. I yearned to read about what a child from the ’hood had to say about his life and his world. I remember reading an interview with the African American novelist and Noble Prize-winner Toni Morrison, She said she wrote the books she wanted to read. That nugget of wisdom stayed with me as I made my way to fulfilling my dream of becoming a writer.

By the time I decided to write my own children’s books, a child’s voice began to present itself in my mind. It The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Colorbelonged to a kid named DeShawn Williams, and he was talking about his life growing up in the projects. Not surprisingly, his words seemed to mirror my experiences as a child. Poems in DeShawn’s voice began to take hold of me and I began to write them down. Before I knew it, DeShawn was telling me about the people he loved and lived with: his mother, who was in college; his grandmother, who helped raise him; his uncle, who stood-in for his absent father; his cousin Tiffany, who was like his sister, even though they fought like crazy; and his best friend from school, Johnny Tse, who taught him Karate, which he assumed was from China, but finds out was from Japan. Thus, DeShawn Days, my first book for children, was born.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of ColorThere was no greater feeling than to see the publication of DeShawn Days, which was initially embraced in manuscript form by my editor and subsequently published by multicultural children’s book publisher, Lee & Low Books. At that time, no books like DeShawn Days were around. The only thing that topped seeing DeShawn Days out in the world was sharing it with children, particularly children who came from a world similar to DeShawn’s. I remember encountering a youngster who had the same name—DeShawn—who was also being raised by his grandmother. This boy exclaimed about me, the author, “How does he know about my life?”

This experience made me realize in a real way, outside of my own literary aspirations, the power of books: how they can matter and make a profound difference in a child’s life, especially when they speak to and from the child’s own experiences and validate his or her life.”

To learn more about our awesome Stories For All Project partner, Lee & Low Books, check out their blog.

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19. What I Learned from Bill Clinton: How to Prepare Yourself for the Future

“If you can do one thing to prepare yourself for the future… you should spend as much time as you can with people who are different than you”. — President Bill Clinton

I recently had the opportunity to join Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and CEO, at a special event for the Thea Foundation. Founded by Linda and Paul Leopoulos shortly after the untimely death of their daughter Thea Kay, the Thea Foundation connects young people to the power of visual art, dance, drama, and creative writing across Arkansas and beyond.

At First Book we’re eager to learn from the success of the Thea Foundation and we hope to work with Linda, Paul and others to help bring the arts to life for all students, regardless of their economic situations, including the hundreds of thousands of children in First Book’s national network of low-income classrooms and programs.

Thea Kay Leopoulos

Thea Kay Leopoulos (photo from theafoundation.org)

We know that it can make a profound difference. Paul and Linda shared Thea’s story — a typical one for many 17-year-old girls, making C’s and D’s and disliking school.

But by the end of her junior year, Thea was making A’s and B’s in difficult subjects (an A in Trigonometry!) and loving school. As they came to terms with losing their daughter, Linda and Paul sought to understand what happened in Thea’s life that caused such a drastic academic transformation.

The answer: her new involvement in visual art, dance, drama and creative writing. This made all the difference for Thea; an idea strongly supported by research.

Chandler Arnold and Kyle Zimmer of First Book with Bill Clinton

Chandler Arnold, Bill Clinton & Kyle Zimmer celebrating the Thea Foundation

Among the educators, entrepreneurs, and arts supporters that night was President Bill Clinton, a longtime supporter of the powerful organization. Over dinner Kyle and I were able to speak with the President about a range of topics, from Thea (who the president knew well) to the Clinton Global Initiative.

The thing I’ll remember most? The President’s advice to an eight-year-old over dinner: “If you can do one thing to prepare yourself for the future… you should spend as much time as you can with people who are different than you”.

Wise advice for all of us; eight-year-olds and grown-ups alike.

Kyle also asked him if Hillary would be running for President in a few years, but we’ll keep his answer to ourselves.

NOTE: We are grateful for the generosity of Dr. Martha Bernadett of the Molina Foundation for making our participation in this event possible.

Chandler Arnold is First Book’s executive vice president.

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20. Lack of Diversity in Kids’ Books and How to Fix It

The lack of diversity in children’s literature is a problem that affects all children, especially children from low-income families, who rarely see themselves, their families or their communities in the stories they read.

Lack of diversity in kids' booksThe problem is real. In a study last year, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed thousands of kids’ books, and found that:

  • only 3.3 percent were about African-Americans
  • only 2.1 percent were about Asian-Pacific Americans
  • only 1.5 percent were about Latinos
  • a mere 0.6 percent were about American Indians.

The teachers, librarians, mentors and program leaders we work with tell us time and again that one of the biggest challenges they face in helping kids become strong readers is the lack of stories featuring heroes and experiences they can relate to.

First Book's Commitment to ActionToday, at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) meeting, hosted by President Bill Clinton, I announced First Book’s commitment to create a sustainable solution to this problem by dramatically expanding the market for diversity in children’s literature through The Stories for All Project.

First Book aggregates the voices — and purchasing power — of thousands of educators and program leaders who serve families at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Through The Stories for All Project, we’re showing the publishing industry that there is a strong, viable and vibrant market out there for books like these.

One more important thing: This isn’t just about kids from African-American or Hispanic families being able to read stories about characters who look like them. All kids should have access to stories featuring diverse characters, to see the world in all its true rich variety.  We’re creating this market in order to make diverse content available to kids from low-income families, but once that content exists, it’s available for everyone.

First Book is truly eager to collaborate with everyone interested in  really changing this landscape for all kids.

Add your name to First Book’s email list to recieve occasional updates about The Stories for All Project and other ways to get new books into the hands of kids in need.

The post Lack of Diversity in Kids’ Books and How to Fix It appeared first on First Book Blog.

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21. Biscuit, Gravy and a Boatload of Books for Detroit: First Book’s Partners Combat the Summer Slide

First Book and our corporate partners take summer slide seriously. And we all should! It accounts for two-thirds of the achievement gap between poor children and affluent children in the communities we call home.

Two of our corporate partners, CBS EcoMedia and Bob Evans, recently took to Detroit to battle summer slide. Together they provided 2,500 new books to schools in Detroit through EcoMedia’s EducationAd program. EducationAd repurposes CBS advertiser dollars to fund projects that benefit education within local communities.

To celebrate the donation, employee volunteers from Bob Evans served up breakfast and books at Gompers Elementary – reading with students and providing each 2nd grader with two new books to take home. CBS EcoMedia President and Founder Paul Polizzotto and Bob Evans’ mascots Biscuits and Gravy attended to share their love of reading with students.

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22. Mary Pope Osborne supports First Book through Classroom Adventures

Mary Pope OsborneMary Pope Osborne, longtime friend and partner of First Book, is offering her readers the opportunity to apply directly for free collections of her beloved titles through her very own Classroom Adventures Program. These books are provided for by grants which Ms. Osborne awards through her Gift of Books Program within Classroom Adventures and through the deep discounts First Book is able to negotiate with publishers.

Titles in Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series come with non-fiction Fact Trackers, allowing students to experience historically and scientifically significant facts throughout the storyline. Jack and Annie, the two main characters, travel through time and experience various places and historical events. This creates a fun and effective environment for educators to teach these events to students while achieving multiple core standards across the subjects. Teachers report back that using the Magic Tree House series in this manner truly inspires students to read and enjoy learning!

In 2011, Ms. Osborne provided Magic Tree House books to every 4th grader in Newark and has recently donated thousands of books to 3rd and 4th graders in other cities as well. Her Gift of Books program through First Book has provided more than 800 grants and 220,000 books to students across the country.

Teachers can access lesson plans and other free resources on the Classroom Adventures website that may be used with Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House titles and then receive those titles at steep discounts from First Book.

A new partnership with Share My Lesson, featuring free lesson plans developed by educators, program leaders, and available to all, will also continue to expand First Book’s outreach to under-served populations.

Click here to prevent Summer Slide

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23. Ellen Galinsky: Reading Time’s a Missed Opportunity for Life-Skills Learning

The following is a guest blog post by Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and author of ‘Mind in the Making’. This post also appears today on The Huffington Post.

 Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen GalinskyFor a long time, we’ve been told, “read to children!” As important as this message is, it has frustrated me. It’s not JUST reading to children that matters; it is HOW we read to children that has benefits for us and for them.

This may sound like a guilt-trip, but it’s not! There are simple ways to read to children that make it more fun for us and for children and that promote their learning even better. These don’t cost money or take lots of time. I certainly know from my research on work and family life that time is something we all feel starved for.

So what do I mean?

One of the enduring findings from child development research is the importance of what researchers such as Jack Shonkoff of Harvard call “serve and return”. This involves a back and forth interaction between you and your child. Like a game of ball: One of you says or does something (serves) and the other responds (returns). It is important to listen and then to build on and extend what your child says or does and to keep this going for as long as your child is interested.

'Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs' by Ellen GalinskyHere is an example. While reading the book Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes…(based on the song) to your child, you can point to your head and say: “Here’s my head. Where’s your head?” Then point to the child’s head: “There’s your head!” Wait for your child’s response and respond back. That is the essence of serve and return. It doesn’t matter if you don’t finish the book–having the conversation is what counts.

As Catherine Snow of Harvard says:

The book creates a platform on which the conversation takes place. [The adult is there to] interpret, to name the pictures, to describe the action, to explain what’s going on. This is one of the reasons why research shows that families in which children are read to regularly are families whose children are more likely to arrive at school ready to learn, with bigger vocabularies and a greater capacity to participate effectively in classrooms. [It's] because they’ve had this kind of focused conversation with adults.

Another important finding from child development research is the importance of promoting executive function life skills. And that sounds like a mouthful too, but it isn’t. These are skills that emerge along a developmental timetable in children. However, they emerge often unnoticed, and as such are typically not consciously promoted, but when they are, children are more likely to thrive in the short- and long-term. That’s why I call them life skills.

All of these life skills are based, in one way or another, in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and we use them to “manage” our attention, our emotions and our behavior in order to reach our goals. So they are executive function life skills.

As Adele Diamond of the University of British Columbia says:

If you look at what predicts how well children will do later in school, more and more evidence is showing that executive functions … actually predict success better than IQ tests.

Here is an example, using the book, Elmo Says, based on the game Simon Says. This book promotes the executive function life skill of Focus and Self Control. Focus and Self Control includes being able to remember rules. It also includes the ability to not just make a quick response, but also to pause and choose a response. Playing games and reading books that require children to remember Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needsand not go on automatic, but to exercise self control, are what promotes executive functions. You can play the game as you read the book with your child. Like the game of Simon Says, your child is not supposed to follow the directions unless the book states: “Elmo says!”

My years of research into executive function skills and the critical impact they have on young children led me to create the book Mind in the Making, a set of seven essential life skills that every child needs. And what better time to promote those skills in children than when you’re sitting down reading with them?

In order to make this a reality, especially for low-income children, I’ve been collaborating with First Book — a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and educational materials to children in need — to translate this understanding of why HOW we read to children makes the biggest difference. We’ve put together collections of beloved, iconic children’s books as well as new books that are sure to become classics- for multiple age ranges – that teach these valuable lessons. For programs serving low-income children, these books are available at a very low cost on the First Book Marketplace, an online store available exclusively to classrooms and programs serving children from low-income families.

We’ve also created a set of support tips: simple games and techniques for each book that a parent or educator can use to reinforce one of the seven essential skills. These are freely available for everyone on the Mind in the Making website, and anyone ordering any of the titles through the First Book Marketplace will receive them automatically.

By reaching more educators, clinics, and community programs with the message of teaching life skills early on, we’re helping to ensure that all children find success in the classroom, the workplace and life.

The post Ellen Galinsky: Reading Time’s a Missed Opportunity for Life-Skills Learning appeared first on First Book Blog.

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24. First Book and Mind in The Making’s Ellen Galinsky: Reading Time as a Missed Opportunity for Life-Skills Learning

The following is a guest blog post by Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and author of ‘Mind in the Making‘. First Book and Mind in The Making have partnered to bring you book lists and tip sheets for seizing the opportunities for life skills learning available in reading time with your children.

This post also appears today on The Huffington Post.

 Mind in the Making and First Book partnership: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen GalinskyFor a long time, we’ve been told, “read to children!” As important as this message is, it has frustrated me. It’s not JUST reading to children that matters; it is HOW we read to children that has benefits for us and for them.

This may sound like a guilt-trip, but it’s not! There are simple ways to read to children that make it more fun for us and for children and that promote their learning even better. These don’t cost money or take lots of time. I certainly know from my research on work and family life that time is something we all feel starved for.

So what do I mean?

One of the enduring findings from child development research is the importance of what researchers such as Jack Shonkoff of Harvard call “serve and return”. This involves a back and forth interaction between you and your child. Like a game of ball: One of you says or does something (serves) and the other responds (returns). It is important to listen and then to build on and extend what your child says or does and to keep this going for as long as your child is interested.

 Mind in the Making and First Book partnership: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs' by Ellen GalinskyHere is an example. While reading the book Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes…(based on the song) to your child, you can point to your head and say: “Here’s my head. Where’s your head?” Then point to the child’s head: “There’s your head!” Wait for your child’s response and respond back. That is the essence of serve and return. It doesn’t matter if you don’t finish the book–having the conversation is what counts.

As Catherine Snow of Harvard says:

The book creates a platform on which the conversation takes place. [The adult is there to] interpret, to name the pictures, to describe the action, to explain what’s going on. This is one of the reasons why research shows that families in which children are read to regularly are families whose children are more likely to arrive at school ready to learn, with bigger vocabularies and a greater capacity to participate effectively in classrooms. [It's] because they’ve had this kind of focused conversation with adults.

Another important finding from child development research is the importance of promoting executive function life skills. And that sounds like a mouthful too, but it isn’t. These are skills that emerge along a developmental timetable in children. However, they emerge often unnoticed, and as such are typically not consciously promoted, but when they are, children are more likely to thrive in the short- and long-term. That’s why I call them life skills.

All of these life skills are based, in one way or another, in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and we use them to “manage” our attention, our emotions and our behavior in order to reach our goals. So they are executive function life skills.

As Adele Diamond of the University of British Columbia says:

If you look at what predicts how well children will do later in school, more and more evidence is showing that executive functions … actually predict success better than IQ tests.

Here is an example, using the book, Elmo Says, based on the game Simon Says. This book promotes the executive function life skill of Focus and Self Control. Focus and Self Control includes being able to remember rules. It also includes the ability to not just make a quick response, but also to pause and choose a response. Playing games and reading books that require children to remember  Mind in the Making and First Book partnership: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needsand not go on automatic, but to exercise self control, are what promotes executive functions. You can play the game as you read the book with your child. Like the game of Simon Says, your child is not supposed to follow the directions unless the book states: “Elmo says!”

My years of research into executive function skills and the critical impact they have on young children led me to create the book Mind in the Making, a set of seven essential life skills that every child needs. And what better time to promote those skills in children than when you’re sitting down reading with them?

In order to make this a reality, especially for low-income children, I’ve been collaborating with First Book — a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and educational materials to children in need — to translate this understanding of why HOW we read to children makes the biggest difference. We’ve put together collections of beloved, iconic children’s books as well as new books that are sure to become classics- for multiple age ranges – that teach these valuable lessons. For programs serving low-income children, these books are available at a very low cost on the First Book Marketplace, an online store available exclusively to classrooms and programs serving children from low-income families.

We’ve also created a set of support tips: simple games and techniques for each book that a parent or educator can use to reinforce one of the seven essential skills. These are freely available for everyone on the Mind in the Making website, and anyone ordering any of the titles through the First Book Marketplace will receive them automatically.

By reaching more educators, clinics, and community programs with the message of teaching life skills early on, we’re helping to ensure that all children find success in the classroom, the workplace and life.

The post First Book and Mind in The Making’s Ellen Galinsky: Reading Time as a Missed Opportunity for Life-Skills Learning appeared first on First Book Blog.

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25. Stories For All: Todd Parr – It’s Okay to be Different

Author, illustrator, and macaroni and cheese aficionado Todd Parr, uses humor and bright illustrations to celebrate the differences that make us all unique. Most of Todd’s books are now available on the First Book Marketplace.

First Book recently interviewed Todd about his inspiration for writing so many books that make a difference in children’s lives.

Todd Parr's books are now available through First Book

Todd Parr (Photo Credit: Jeff Fielding)

Todd Parr:  Yes, in second grade I was placed in a slow reader class because I could not keep up with the rest of the class. I also couldn’t read in front of the class. It made me feel very different because I was made fun of. This was a big part in my writing It’s Okay To Be Different.

The Family Book was somewhat inspired by losing my mom at a young age and feeling like my family was different.

Q:  Have there been any children you’ve met along the way that have inspired you to tackle such issues? 

Todd Parr:  All the time. I never dreamed these two books would lead my awareness of the need to help kids and families feel good about themselves no matter what they were dealing with.

Q:  Why is it important for children to be reading about diversity issues at such a young age? 

Todd Parr:  Because I believe it is important for kids to see that everyone is different. And that is what makes everyone special and unique.

Q:  In your experience, how have children reacted to reading these books? Do they understand the nature of what they are reading? 

Todd Parr:  Yes, I think it’s my art style that helps with the delivery of the message (kids think they can draw just like me – and they can). Also, humor and unpredictability helps a lot.

Todd Parr books available on First BookQ:  What is your goal when writing children’s books that address these topics? 

Todd Parr:  To present things that may be very complicated to understand in a simple fun way.

Q:  What inspired you to become a children’s author? 

Todd Parr:  It all came about through my art. Megan Tingley (Little, Brown) approached me at the licensing show in NYC and asked if I had ever thought about writing children’s books because I was basically already telling stories through my artwork.

Q:  It’s pretty clear that you love macaroni and cheese. What’s your favorite kind?

Todd Parr:  Can I say I am so easy to please that I will eat any kind of macaroni and cheese, even if it has worms on it. No, that’s not right…

Todd Parr’s books are available on the First Book Marketplace, a website exclusively for educators and program leaders that works with kids in need. 

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