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Our intrepid leader, CEO, and co-founder of First Book, Kyle Zimmer, shared some of the wit and wisdom that motivates the First Book Team on a daily basis with a crowd of graduates of St Mary’s College in Notre Dame this Saturday.
Adults Are Not Really Certain of Anything.
“In my own life, it took me far too long to figure this out. When I was young, I got distracted by adults who would swagger or bluster. I assumed that anyone who was that forceful MUST know what they were talking about.”
You Are Going to Fail.
“The truth is that, although you can fail without ever succeeding, it is impossible to succeed without failing. Every famous person who has ever succeeded has failed –- and usually significantly -– before contributing their success to the world.”
Grit Trumps IQ.
“Researchers have been confounded by the fact that having a high IQ does not correlate to success. Finally one woman, Angela Lee Duckworth, started performing wide-ranging analysis and she has discovered that, while it is certainly handy to have a high IQ -– grit is by far the better indicator of potential. She defines grit as ‘perseverance and passion for long-term goals.’ You are all blessed elevated IQs –- which will give you a leg up -– but your task now is to find your passion – and get gritty – and no one will be able to stop you.”
Community Is Everything. Build It and Be A Part of It.
“The institutions you will encounter will likely not have communities that are as strong and supportive as St. Mary’s. They will need you to build them up: at work, at home, with people who are kind and smart and have a great sense of humor. Wait — let me reorder that -– build with people who have a great sense of humor and who also are smart and kind. For heaven’s sake, prioritize the sense of humor. It sustains everyone.”
The Most Powerful Force in the World is Empathy.
“Empathy is powerful because it demands action. This world is a needy place and we cannot afford the luxury of inaction. Pledge yourself to empathy. It will require you — when you can — to take on monumental action on behalf of others, but it also requires you to take smaller actions every single day. Hold the door for the person behind you, smile at somebody who never gets a smile. Just do it. Our world needs you desperately.”
“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 (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, 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.
We had a big year here at First Book! I want to let you know everything we accomplished this year, and ask for your support as we continue our work to transform education by bringing new books to children from low-income families.
First Book celebrated two big milestones this year – our 20th anniversary and the distribution of our 100 millionth book. We also expanded the First Book network to bring brand-new books to a lot more teachers, librarians and local program leaders; 22,000 new schools and programs signed up in 2012, an increase of 92%.
On top of that, we delivered 11.2 million books, started local First Book volunteer chapters in a dozen new communities, and started offering critical new categories of books that teachers tell us are badly needed: anti-bullying books, healthy living books, bilingual/non-English titles and more.
But I don’t want to overwhelm you with numbers and statistics.
What all those things mean is new, high-quality books into the hands of kids from low-income families, the books they desperately need to succeed – in school and in life.
I will share with you a comment we received recently from Sue Carnes, a librarian at Kate Bell Elementary in Houston, about working with First Book to get new books for her students this year:
“First Book is the light at the end of the tunnel, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I wish you could have seen the smiles on the faces of the kids and teachers. Our students are never without a book now, even when the library is closed. Sometimes when things sound too good to be true, they are both good and true.”
Thank you so much for your support of First Book and the children who are counting on us.
“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.” — President Barack Obama
I was grateful to hear the president talk about early childhood education tonight, and the enormous impact it has on our nation.
Lack of access to education and resources for America’s most vulnerable children is a national crisis, every bit as serious as immigration reform, gun control and the national debt. But unlike so many other complex problems, this is one we know how to solve.
We have been talking about these children for generations. All that’s lacking is the political will.
Although the issues we face are complex, we know that early childhood education is the most straightforward solution; every study shows that there’s nothing more valuable than turning a child into a reader at an early age. They enter school with greater knowledge and vocabularies; they do better not just on reading tests, but on math tests. They have the foundation they need to succeed — in school and in life.
We know what happens otherwise. As President Obama alluded to, kids who drop out of high school are far more likely to be jobless, become teen parents, or end up in prison, and far less likely to become informed, engaged citizens. While we debate endlessly, an entire generation of leaders, thinkers, engineers, artists and writers is being lost to us for lack of opportunities and resources.
Children from low-income neighborhoods are the most vulnerable. 80 percent of the preschools and after school programs serving children in need do not have a single book for the children they serve. In some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country there is only one book available for every 300 children.
First Book, the organization I lead, is committed to helping the 30 million American children living in low-income neighborhoods become success stories. We work with local educators and community leaders across the country to supply them with new, high-quality books. They understand the needs of the children and families in their community, and First Book provides them with the books and educational resources they need.
At First Book, we want to see all kids become strong readers, the critical step to succeeding in school and in life. But all too often the children we work with have books with characters and stories that aren’t relevant to their lives. And that makes it harder to turn them on to reading.*
So today we’re taking an extraordinary step toward remedying this problem: The Stories for All Project.
We are not the first people to complain and worry about this issue. So we knew if we were actually going to make a difference we needed a market-driven solution. In short, we needed to put our money where our mouth is.
We reached out to the publishing industry with the offer to purchase $500,000 worth of books featuring voices that are rarely represented in children’s literature: minorities, characters of color, and others whose experiences resonate with the children we serve. The response was overwhelming. In fact, we received so many great proposals that we decided to double our commitment, purchasing $500,000 worth of new titles from both HarperCollins and Lee & Low Books — $1 million worth of books altogether. We’ll be able to offer hundreds of thousands of new books to the kids we serve.
With these major purchases, First Book is continuing to harness market forces to create social change; by aggregating the untapped demand for books and resources in thousands of low-income communities, we’re helping to create a new market for the publishing industry. When that happens, they respond by publishing more titles with more relevant content. Everyone really does win, and that’s how you make real, systemic change both possible and sustainable.
This is an exciting step! But it’s just the beginning. The Stories for All Project will include more titles reflecting diverse communities, including minorities, LGBTQ and special needs populations. We’re also convening a leadership council of noted authors, illustrators and other leaders to help us create content, and reach out to even more schools and programs so that we can reach the children and teachers who are waiting for us..
Join us! If you work with children from low-income neighborhoods, or know someone who does, sign up with First Book today. We have books for you too.
* In a recent survey of more than 2,000 educators from First Book schools and programs, 90 percent of respondents agreed that the children in their programs would be more enthusiastic readers if they had access to books with characters, stories and images that reflect their lives and their neighborhoods.
Kyle Zimmer is the president and CEO of First Book.
At First Book, we work hard to make an impact: we put over 8 million new books into the hands of kids in need across the country this year. And we’re mindful of how many amazing organizations there are out there, both nationally and locally, that could use your support.
So we were pleased to see the New York Times Opinionator blog list First Book today as a nonprofit that is making a major difference while staying on the difficult path towards self-sufficiency, describing our work as a “particularly good use of charitable dollars” (we agree) and “proven to work” (also true).
Commenting on the way First Book’s model marries “altruism and profit”, Tina Rosenberg writes:
If you give books to children who don’t have them, good things happen — they become interested in reading, and they read more. Having lots of books in the home is as good a predictor of children’s future educational achievement as their parents’ educational levels.
But good things also happen to the publishing industry: First Book has harnessed its large network of education programs to create a guaranteed market and persuade publishers to make low-cost versions of some 2,000 titles — allowing publishers to reach the 42 percent of American children who were not in their market before. Fifty dollars buys 20 books for a child who has none.
We hope you’ll support First Book this holiday season. Every $2.50 you give provides one new book for a child in need. It’s a great way for you to make sure your hard-earned and well-considered donation goes to support something that works.
A social entrepreneur is someone who sees a social problem — like hunger, homelessness or lack of access to clean water — and looks for ways to solve it. Unlike more traditional business entrepreneurs, who are trying to generate profits, social entrepreneurs are trying change society. Long-term change is important, not just solutions to the immediate problems.
At First Book, the problem we’ve been working on for twenty years is the unbelievable lack of books and other educational materials faced by children from low-income families. Books are painfully scarce for many of these kids; one study that never fails to shock showed that there is only one book available for every 300 children in some of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the country.
First Book works by giving the teachers, librarians and local program leaders that work with these kids ongoing access to the new, quality books they need to do their jobs. Giving a child a new book of their own is a powerful thing, but the real impact comes from making sure they have books throughout their lives, from before they enter kindergarten until they graduate — with honors — from high school.
So we were pleased to see ourselves listed as one of the five examples of nonprofits around the world providing “innovative yet pragmatic approaches to solving social problems” in a new report from the respected financial services company Credit Suisse.
The report, “Investing for Impact: How social entrepreneurship is redefining the meaning of return”, was just released at the World Economic Forum in Davos. You can learn more about it, and download a copy for yourself, online here.
In it, the Credit Suisse analysts have this to say:
[T]he potential of growing efforts to deliver entrepreneurial solutions to global problems is bigger than ever before – as are the opportunities to channel private capital toward social and environmental issues.
The report also quotes Mark Kramer, the co-founder and managing director of social impact consulting firm FSG:
Many investors and philanthropists are turning to impact investments as equally valid and in some cases even more effective vehicles for social change than pure charity. To complement this growing interest, a number of new innovations are emerging in the field, ranging from new financial tools to better metrics for social impact to new impact investing funds.
All that may sound a little dry, but it’s actually really exciting stuff. First Book, and groups like it around the world, are charting the way to better and more equitable societies.
But doing so requires support and funding on a large scale, so it’s a big deal that the international investment community is paying close attention to the work that we’re doing and the impact that we’re having.
Over twenty years ago I was volunteering every week at a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C., where I met the most amazing children and families. As I got to know them, I saw how much they had to struggle, but I also saw how bright they were and how motivated they were to succeed.
I also learned that most of them didn’t have a single book to call their own, and that broke my heart.
So, along with two good friends, I started First Book, to make sure those kids, and kids like them all across the country, would have brand-new books of their own, and to make sure that the teachers and program leaders working with these children every day would have the books and resources they need to do their jobs.
Twenty years later, First Book has distributed over 90 million books to kids in need, we work with a national network of over 25,000 schools and programs and we have local volunteers raising money in over 150 cities. Volunteers, corporate partners and publishers, working hand-in-hand with teachers, librarians and local nonprofit leaders … it humbles and amazes me how much we’ve been able to accomplish together, and how many lives we’ve been able to change for the better.
But we’ve only just scratched the surface. There are 30 million children living in low-income households in the United States, and we’re only reaching a fraction of them. They’re waiting for us, and they can’t wait any longer.
So we’ve got some big plans to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Before this year is over, we’re going to distribute another 10 million new books, recruit local volunteers in 30 additional cities, and double the number of schools and programs that are connected to First Book’s resources, from 25,000 to 50,000.
We’ve come so far together, and have made so much progress, but there’s more to be done. Join us!
Donate: Every $2.50 pays for a brand-new, high-quality book for a child in need.
Volunteer: Work with other members of your community to get books to local schools and programs.
Spread the word: If you know a teacher, librarian or volunteer who works with kids from low-income families, in any kind of program, help get them signed up with First Book. We’ve got books for them!
We’re proud to announce that First Book has earned a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the highest possible ranking from America’s premier charity evaluator.
“We’ve been putting new books into the hands of children and teachers for twenty years. The work that we do helps transform the lives of kids in need, and we’re delighted to be recognized by Charity Navigator. We want our donors to feel confident that we’re putting their hard-earned gifts to good use, and this rating proves that.”
– Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book
Charity Navigator rates nonprofit organizations to provide donors of all levels with reliable data about the impact, efficiency and fiscal health of the organizations.
At First Book, we work hard to make sure we’re creating the greatest possible impact as efficiently as we can, and we’re proud to have earned this distinction. We’re grateful to all of you for supporting our work, and we’re glad to show you that we’re using your donations responsibly.
Click here to donate! 95 cents out of every dollar donated to First Book goes directly to putting news books into the hands of kids in need in communities across the country.
Exciting news! First Book will now be offering Cricket and other award-winning kid’s magazines to the 27,000 schools and programs in our national network.
Thanks to our friends at ePals, we’ll be able to offer their full range of children’s magazine titles, including Cricket, Ladybug and Spider. These magazines are terrific; they’ve won pretty much every award possible, and they are loved by teachers and kids.
“This is exactly the sort of content First Book strives to bring to kids in need, so they’ll have the same great opportunities to fall in love with reading as more affluent children,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “We’re really excited about being able to offer these magazines to the schools and programs we work with.”
The magazines will be available through the First Book Marketplace, our website available exclusively to teachers and program leaders who work with children from low-income families. An annual classroom subscription – 30 copies of each issue – retails for $1,018, but is available through First Book for $513.
If you work with children in need, sign up with First Book to get these great magazines for your kids. We also carry over 2,000 book titles at deeply-discounted prices, and distribute millions more every year – free of charge – to the programs in our network.
“We’re taking a stand with our friends at the American Federation of Teachers to make sure kids in Cincinnati get the help they need — from all of us — to succeed. More than anyone, teachers understand the transformative power of books. By working together with teachers, First Book is ensuring that Cincinnati’s kids have new books of their own.”
– Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president
First Book is teaming up with local teachers to bring new books to kids in Cincinnati public schools for their summer reading program. Every one of the 3,000 kids in the program will get three brand-new books of their very own throughout the summer.
We kicked things off yesterday at Ethel M. Taylor Academy in Cincinnati with a great event featuring teachers, kids and children’s authors – all our favorite people.
This new partnership is just one of many new programs springing up around the country, thanks to a new partnership between First Book and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). We’re excited to be working with the AFT; they represent hundreds of thousands of teachers, librarians, school support staff and early childhood educators around the country. Exactly the sort of people that First Book wants to connect with, so we can help them get a steady supply of new books into their programs and classrooms.
This is our new challenge. Today I am calling on AFT members to partner with First Book to distribute five million new books this year to students in need.
– Randi Weingarten, AFT president
First Book was in Detroit over the weekend, attending the annual convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions.
Teachers are some of our favorite people; more than anyone, they understand the importance of books and reading, and why an ongoing supply of quality books is so important for turning kids into strong readers and successful students.
We’re especially excited to be working with the 1.5 million teachers, librarians and school staff that make up the AFT. Over the past year, we’ve completed successful pilot projects together in over 20 cities across the country, putting nearly 250,000 new books into the hands of children from low-income families.
Now the AFT is stepping up to do even more. At the convention, AFT president Randi Weingarten challenged the assembled educators to distribute five million new books over the next year.
“By working with our friends in the AFT, we’re able to reach thousands more schools serving kids in need,” said First Book president Kyle Zimmer. “The dedication of these educators is inspiring. Everyone at First Book is proud to be able to help them make a difference in their students’ lives.”
Any teachers, librarians or school staff working with children from low-income families can sign up with First Book to access a steady stream of new, quality books.
Click below to see a video of Kyle talking to the assembled AFT educators about our work together, and about her memories of Mrs. Evans, her own unforgettable first-grade teacher.
“There is a great deal of noise on the stairs but nobody comes into the room.”
– John F. Kennedy
President Kennedy was referencing a Chinese proverb when he said that, making the point that it was easy to talk about problems, but much more difficult to fix them.
Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and CEO, is in China herself this week, addressing the World Economic Forum’s ‘Annual Meeting of the New Champions’ in Tianjin, the foremost gathering of business and nonprofit leaders in Asia. She’s there to talk about subjects near and dear to our hearts – social entrepreneurship and social impact investing.
Social entrepreneurship is a new way of doing business, a hybrid of traditional nonprofits and for-profit companies that uses market forces to create social change. (Click here to read a recent blog post by Kyle where she explains what social entrepreneurship is and how it can change the world.)
Social impact investing is a related concept; the idea of channeling investment toward mission-driven businesses and entrepreneurial nonprofits that are working to solve social problems.
Fundamentally there are holes on both the investor side and the social entrepreneur’s side of the aisle.
On the investor side, there is far more talk than there is traction. Certainly, a few funds have been established that focus on social investment, but it is difficult to see these as more than traditional charity, dressed up as investment.
Creative new designs in the financial category to address this need have been discussed for years, but few have made it to market. This lack of significant innovation by the investment community has been a major roadblock to the expansion of the social sector. Enterprises reach a certain level of growth and then choke from the lack of capital.
Like any new idea, there’s a lot of work to be done. But Kyle is hopeful about the future, saying: “There we were all in a room at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions – financial institutions and representatives of the social sector — talking about the challenges, which is a great step toward a cure.”
At First Book, we’re working towards a new kind of solution to an old and intractable problem – how to ensure that the 30 million kids in the United States living in low-income families get the books and resources they need to succeed. Click here to learn some ways you can get involved.
Every now and then, something great comes along for First Book, and we really feel shiny and proud. Of late, our co-founder and President, Kyle Zimmer, trekked down a few blocks in DC to the site of the 2008 American Marketing Association Nonprofit Marketing Conference where she picked up the honor of being the first-ever Nonprofit Marketer of the Year!
Kyle and First Book were one of two recipients of the brand new 2008 AMA/AMAF award highlighting the importance of leading edge marketing strategies in the nonprofit world. The theme of the conference was storytelling - something we at First Book know a little bit about.
In her remarks, Kyle shared “I believe that storytelling is the most important thing we do. From the moment we began drawing pictures on the walls of our caves – we separated ourselves from our fellow primates. Still everyday stories are what change the course of history and how we view history. At First Book we are obsessed with storytelling. We know that books and stories inspire, they give hope. We also know that instilling the skill of reading those stories determines whether that person will become employable at a living wage, whether they will participate in their communities – or whether we will lose their talents.”
Congratulations to Kyle, and a big thank you to the AMA/AMAF for this honor!
Last Thursday, June 25th, I was lucky enough to join the President, the First Lady, and hundreds of Congressional family members to prepare 15,000 backpacks with books and other items for the children of servicemen and women. With the incredibly generous support of Random House Children’s Books and Disney Publishing Worldwide, First Book was able to donate 30,000 books (two for each backpack!) with a retail value of almost $250,000.
The service event highlighted ‘United We Serve,’ President Obama’s call to all Americans to engage in service projects and create meaningful impact in their towns and communities. The ‘United We Serve’ summer service initiative began June 22nd and runs through the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11th. The initiative is being led by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency dedicated to fostering service in communities across the country.
Curious about the books the President and the First Lady helped us pack? Here’s the list — full of great choices for your own summer reading!
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee
Magic Tree House #28: High Tide in Hawaii by Mary Pope Osborne
I had the honor to attend a happy and heart-warming celebration of Eric Carle’s 80th birthday and The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s 40th anniversary at a spacious terrace and loft in New York City on September 24. Superb, renowned illustrator Eric Carle is a charming, generous and funny man. When we arrived, Mr. Carle and his wife Barbara warmly greeted everyone. At one moment, I glanced over and saw Mr. Carle bending down graciously to talk with beautiful Alice Provensen, now in her 90s, who had traveled all day on a plane from California to attend and accept the Carle Artist Award. What a legacy of children’s illustrators in the room.
The loft terrace was bathed in light as the sun set on a perfectly warm fall evening. All of Mr. Carle’s friends saluted him and the Museum surprised him with a giant birthday cake shaped like the Very Hungry Caterpillar! Awardees received a precious framed print of a Carle butterfly. It was wonderful to see so many friends of First Book including Laura Geringer, Judith Haut, Lisa Holton, Leonard Marcus and Amy Schwartz, Ned Rust, Susan Katz, Barbara Marcus, to name a few, at the festivities.
Our talented friend and great supporter, Joan Allen, fresh from her riveting portrayal of Georgia O’Keeffe, was on hand to introduce First Book President, Kyle Zimmer, as the winner of the Carle Angel Award. Kyle told a wonderful story of one of our book Recipient Groups who used the Very Hungry Caterpilla to start a reading group among teen mothers and how it brought laughter to their stormy lives.
A great event with kudos and many thanks to Alix, Mo, Rebecca, and all the wonderful Museum staff. What a heritage they are preserving!
Our own social entrepreneur and founder, Kyle Zimmer, joined world leaders in Davos for the World Economic Forum last week. She presented an IdeasLab primer on the First Book Marketplace, in a session moderated by J. Gregory Dees, Professor, Practice of Social Entrepreneurship, Fuqua School of Business, Duke. Watch the presentation below and read more about Kyle’s inspiration for First Book after the jump.
Kyle’s mission is not to fight illiteracy but to end it. She began First Book in 1992 in Washington DC when she realized that children in low-income situations have little or no access to books or reading material. In fact, studies show that in middle-income neighborhoods the ratio of books to children is 13 to one, but in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 book for every 300 children.
According to esteemed researcher, Susan Neuman, Ph.D. University of Michigan, “Access to books and educational material is the single biggest barrier to literacy development in the United States and beyond. If we can solve the problem of access, we will be well on the road to realizing educational parity – a goal which has eluded this country for generations.”
The First Book Marketplace (FBMP) is designed to aggregate an untapped market to provide a steady stream of high-quality books at an affordable price for the first time ever to programs serving children in low-income situations, revolutionizing the way teachers and program leaders can educate these underserved children. At scale, the FBMP becomes self-sustainable and poised to deliver educational books and materials, including digital resources, globally.
Kyle didn’t rest after she found one way to deliver millions of books to children in need through the First Book National Book Bank; she created a true social innovation in the First Book Marketplace and she aims to deliver access to educational resources to the world.
We congratulate Kyle on her success at the World Economic Forum and on delivering nearly 70 million books to children in need.
Check out FOX News’ recent report on First Book and Martha’s Table, the soup kitchen where our president and CEO, Kyle Zimmer, first realized the incredible need for books in low-income communities. The report focuses on how these two organizations are navigating the nonprofit world and continuing to make a difference despite a significant decline in charitable donations.
It is the children, always the children, who give me hope. The ones I've met in gardens, who shared their poems with me. The ones who read Kipling out loud, so loud, that the story became a song. The ones who extended my own vocabulary by giving me elements of theirs.
And so it is a tremendous honor to be asked to join Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Lehigh Valley County Executive Don Cunningham; First Book President and CEO Kyle Zimmer; KIPP Philadelphia Charter School CEO Marc Mannella; and Host Committee Chair Heather A. Steinmiller, among others, for a celebration of the good that books can do in children's lives.
First Book, which was mentioned in this recent New York Times Magazine story, was founded nearly twenty years ago by a corporate lawyer who tutored children at a soup kitchen by night—a lawyer who came to believe that books were critical to the health of families, and of nations, and who has, in the intervening years, overseen an organization that has delivered more than 70 million books to programs serving children in need. KIPP Philadelphia Schools is a network of charter schools born of a nationwide system known as Knowledge is Power Program. The event, which will take place at 1209 Vine Street this coming Wednesday, October 27, at 12:30 p.m., at the location of the KIPP Philadelphia Elementary Academy/KIPP Dubois Collegiate Academy, will kick off the Third Annual Book Bash, which will be held in New York on December 10, during the Pennsylvania Society Weekend.
I've been invited to talk a little bit about Dangerous Neighbors, a book that all 108 ninth graders will be given during the event. You can't imagine how happy that makes me—to be part of a day in the life of a brand new school, talking about a city I love, talking about once and talking about tomorrow. I thank Laura Geringer, Egmont USA, and the good people at First Book for all the convergence that has made this possible.
Today I sat in a teacher's room listening to children sort b's from g's, and pigs from bibs, all under the encouraging eye of a reading tutor. I watched a multi-purpose room take on countless purposes and, shortly after noon, absorb the ninth graders of Philadelphia's KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy. I listened to Kyle Zimmer, president and co-founder of First Book, as she told stories about the revolution that book ownership yields; listened to the mayor of my city compare books to passports; listened as one sponsor after another made promises they plan to keep about literacy, education, and tomorrow. And then I watched as Dangerous Neighbors made its way into the hands of those KIPP ninth graders, stewards of our future, all. There were so many people who made today happen, and key among them is a young lawyer named Heather Steinmiler, who seems to do many things in many ways on behalf of the children of Philadelphia.
My dear friend Jan Suzanne Shaeffer was in the room today, and it is because of her that I have these photos to share. I looked out, saw her sunny face, and took calm from it as I stepped up to the microphone.
Check out the recent New York Time’s article, The D.I.Y. Foreign-Aid Revolution, which focuses on women who have found innovative ways to solve some of the world’s most challenging social issues. Among the social entrepreneurs mentioned is our very own president and CEO, Kyle Zimmer.
“With this grant, our library was able to purchase 100 books for our library collection, as well as provide books for 87 preschoolers from low-income families. With proration hitting so many non-profits, it was truly a blessing to receive this grant for our library. HOOORAY to FIRST Book and Walmart for helping us!”
– Debra Grayson, White Smith Memorial Library, Jackson, AL
First Book was able to distribute over 75,000 brand-new books to teen and young adult readers in Alabama, Florida, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Georgia, thanks to support from the Walmart State Giving Program.
Fifty programs in each of the five states received a $500 credit for the First Book Marketplace, our online store available exclusively to programs serving children from low-income communities. In addition, programs across those states received thousands more books – free of charge – from our National Book Bank.
“In the past we haven’t been able to provide books to older readers to the extent needed,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and CEO. “But that’s changing fast; the selection of young adult titles we’re able to offer to our network of schools and programs is growing, and we’re on track to deliver even more resources to this under-served group this year.”
We know how hard teachers and program leaders are working to get teenagers reading, so we’re excited to be able to offer more books that appeal to older readers, and get them into the hands of kids that need them.
If you work with young adults, get in touch or leave a comment below, and let us know about the books they’re interested in and what we could do to help your program.