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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: volunteers, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 46
1. The Joy of Giving Back

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

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

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

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

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

The post The Joy of Giving Back appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. Just How Many Books Can Volunteers Get to Kids in One Year?

New homes, a birthday party and a seaplane … what do these have in common?

These are all ways that First Book volunteers got books to kids in need this year. First Book has a network of dedicated and passionate volunteers in hundreds of communities in the U.S. and Canada who support our efforts to provide books and educational resources in fun and innovative ways.

Just last year, First Book volunteers distributed over 613,000 books all across the United States! Here are a few of our favorite First Book volunteer stories:<!--[if gte mso 9]>

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1507874_10152120653148894_1055536980_nTess Reiman, a 9th grader who raised funds for First Book to support Habitat for Humanity in Atlantic Beach, Florida.  While her brother volunteered building houses with Habitat, Tess saw that many of the children moving into new homes did not have any books to fill their newly constructed rooms.

Tess created “Project Storybook” and raised the money needed to help get new books into these children’s hands. She then purchased books from the First Book Marketplace and donated baskets of new books to for their new Habitat homes.  In her first year, she donated over 200 new books to 40 families.

59383kirkland0328_First-BookSeven year old Maguire Brooke loves to read.  This year he didn’t want birthday presents.  He wanted his friends and family to help him get books to kids in need. With the support of First Book-Seattle he created a virtual book drive, raised $500, donated 200 books to two second-grade classrooms and provided a starter library of six books to each child. Titles included some of Maguire’s favorites, including the Magic Treehouse series and The Diary of A Wimpy Kid.

“It was awesome,” Maguire said. “I’m the proudest person on earth.”

Books by dog sled, boat, ATV and seaplane!  Many remote areas in the Alaskan Bush are only accessible via these modes of transportation.  That didn’t stop First Book-Anchorage from distributing 47,000 books to schools in over 55 rural Alaskan communities.  They also distributed approximately 33,000 books in Anchorage.

volunteers01Every child from pre-school to 12th grade received 3 to 5 books each.  To secure these books, the volunteers fundraised, received in-kind support and connected First Book to local programs and classrooms. There are over 85 K-12 schools located throughout rural Alaska that are not meeting their Academic Yearly Progress (AYP) in more than 4+ years in the area of literacy.

We’ve put tons of new books into the hands of a lot of children in need in the last twenty-plus years and we couldn’t have done it without our volunteers. Thank you!

Click here to learn more about volunteering with First Book.

The post Just How Many Books Can Volunteers Get to Kids in One Year? appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. Across America in an RV With First Book

Today’s blog post is by Brenda Berg, who loaded her family into an RV and spent over half a year traveling across the country. They called their adventure the Gump Trip, and along the way they distributed 6,000 brand-new books to kids in need at local schools and community programs in the First Book network.

Have you ever sat in the carpool lane and dreamed about your next vacation? Last year, I decided to make it a reality. The plan – before my daughter entered middle school– was to go from music lessons and organized sports to something real.

Brenda Berg and her children at Glacier National Park

Brenda Berg and her children at Glacier National Park

After months of getting things in order, my kids and I set off on an adventure of a lifetime, traveling to 49 states and two Canadian provinces. (We were also joined by an exchange student from Sweden and my husband joined us about once a month.) In seven-and-a-half months, we traveled over 35,000 miles.

Instead of guitar lessons, we visited the Fender guitar factory and attended live concerts. Instead of indoor climbing classes, we climbed in Alaska and hiked in dozens of national parks. Instead of textbooks, we visited dozens of historic and interesting sites. We definitely got real!

Our commitment to ‘return to real’ extended beyond national parks and factory tours. We were also committed to education and service. In order to reach hundreds of children across the country in a real way, we partnered with First Book to give new, high-quality books to kids in need.

The Berg family and First Book volunteers with local children in New Orleans

The Berg family and First Book volunteers with local children in New Orleans

Of the 200 stops we made along the way, the six First Book events – where we worked with local First Book volunteers gave away new books to kids in need – were our favorite experiences, ones that will change our lives forever. We gave away over 6,000 books and met with hundreds of children to talk about traveling in our amazing country. The smiles from those children were better than the sunrise over the Grand Canyon (and that’s a sight that is hard to beat!).

Most of us look for ways to give back in our communities, but I encourage people to consider giving back as they travel. There are isolated and other under-supported communities all over America that will benefit and you will gain a whole different perspective on America at the same time. And, just like your efforts at home, you will get back far more than you will give.

Inspired? Visit First Book on the web to find out how you can volunteer or raise funds to help kids in need get the brand-new books that will change their lives.

The post Across America in an RV With First Book appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. Hunger ‘For Books’ Games

The creative minds in Memphis took advantage of one of the most teen popular book collections to create a fundraising event so good we had to share it!

winners of the hunger for books games            First Book supporters in Memphis recently held a fundraiser at the Autozone Challenge Center, located within the Salvation Army Kroc Center, to help put new books in the hands of children in need.  Teams competed in a series of mental and physical challenges in theme of the ‘Hunger Games’ books.

            “This event challenged students intellectually and physically, and gave them a fun opportunity to give back to their community,” said Lolly Easley. “We chose the theme because the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy is a favorite series for the younger generation. Teens celebrated their love of this series, while helping children in need and supporting literacy in Memphis.”

            The event raised $1205, enough money to purchase over 480 new books for Memphis area children who need them.

The post Hunger ‘For Books’ Games appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. First Book and Glassybaby Unite for a Night of Fundraising

First Book volunteers in Seattle, teamed up with Glassybaby for a night of giving to raise money for new books for kids who need them in the Seattle – King County area.  Since 1998, Glassybaby has donated over 1.5 million dollars to Seattle based charities and First Book.  First Book fundraising volunteers and guests joined together for a night at the Glassybaby studio to watch professional glass blowers create Glassybabies and share in the joy of giving new books to kids in need.

Glassybaby and First Book fundraiser collage

“We have seen with every event, once people hear about First Book and what we are trying to do they go out of their way to help – whatever is needed; money, venue, food, awareness and always smiles,”  Says Jody Ericson Dorow, Co-Chair of First Book – Seattle.
Guests could pre-order  their own Glassybaby, or purchase one the night of the event with a portion of the sales going to support First Book in Seattle.  The local volunteers work to provide book grants to eligible schools and programs in the Seattle area.

Joy Brooke, Co- Chair of First Book- Seattle, said of the event, “It was truly a team effort by the volunteers to pull this fundraising event together. A goal we set in August was to put on a successful adult-only event that would bring in a whole lot of books to kids, and we did it! It was an amazing evening  watching glassblowing, drinking wine, eating appetizers, shopping at Glassybaby, but most of all sharing the message of the importance of getting books to kids who need them most. We are grateful for all the support First Book-Seattle received that night and look forward to many more fun events in the future that help put books in the hand of kids.”

Thank to the generous support of Glassybaby, First Book volunteers were able to raise over $4,000, which was enough to purchase 1,600 new books for children in the Seattle – King County area.  To learn more about First Book – Seattle visit them online and to learn more about how you can volunteer with First Book visit: http://www.firstbook.org/get-involved/volunteer .

The post First Book and Glassybaby Unite for a Night of Fundraising appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. 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.

The post 80,000 Books to Help Kids Read, Lead, Achieve appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. When Life Gives you Lemons…

You can change the world at any age. Ten-year-old Malaika Abramson has illustrated how she wants to inspire kids to read. The young, savvy entrepreneur created a website entitled “The Reading Lion”, a book recommendation site where purchase links to Amazon are embedded within the content, resulting in a percentage of profit to the site’s creator.

Malaika is on a mission to make an impact Malaika Abramson & Friends show their support to First Book on literacy by donating proceeds to First Book. She is wise beyond her years and told us why she wanted to donate to First Book. “I love reading and I want other kids less fortunate than me to enjoy books as well”, said Malaika.

With the help of a team consisting of family and friends, Malaika graciously contributed funds to First Book raised through a book and lemonade stand. Her tireless support has provided over 30 books to children in need.

She is doing more than just encouraging others to read, she is inspiring us all to make a difference.

 

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8. First Book’s Big Year

First Book's Big Year: We got a lot of books to kids in 2012

* Click on the graphic to see a bigger, snazzier version.

Learn more about how First Book provides new books to kids in need, and how you can get involved, at firstbook.org. Learn more about how First Book provides new books to kids in need, and how you can get involved, at firstbook.org.

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9. 15,000 New Books on the National Mall, Plus Celebrities, Cabinet Secretaries and Cute Kids

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On Saturday, volunteers from across the country joined First Book on the National Mall in Washington DC to celebrate President Obama’s National Day of Service by providing 15,000 brand-new books to DC-area children from low-income families.

Click here to see photos of the event, including pictures of volunteers, political leaders, and even a few celebrities.

First Book was one of seven nonprofits featured at the event, highlighting the idea of community service in such areas as education, the environment and support for military families.

??Each volunteer packed two books into a bag, and decorated bookplates with personal messages.

Screen shot 2013-01-21 at 1.56.04 PM

The books, including “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Doreen Rappaport, were provided thanks to the generous support of our friends at KPMG, the U.S. audit, tax and advisory firm, through its KPMG’s Family for Literacy program.

The bags will be distributed in the coming days to students throughout DC, thanks to First Book’s partnership with the American Federation of Teachers.

signing

Even if you weren’t able to join us on the National Mall, you can still bring new books to kids in need. Click here to donate to our National Day of Service Virtual Book Drive. Every $2.50 provides one new books to a child in need.

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10. First Book Celebrates AmeriCorps Week!

First Book Celebrates AmeriCorps Week!This week, many of our partners and recipient groups are celebrating AmeriCorps Week to recognize the service of the AmeriCorps members working within their organizations to elevate the quality of education for the children they serve. Here at First Book, we’re proud to have some AmeriCorps alums on our staff and as volunteers working to help get more books out to the kids who need them most.

Charlette Kremer was an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC) in Lewiston, Idaho, in 2005. One of her first assignments was to establish a First Book College Advisory Board. Today, Charlette is the director of the Lewis-Clark Service Corps, which is the department where she served, and her staff now oversees First Book-LCSC, which provides books to four counties in Idaho and one in Washington. “Just last week, the Advisory Board met and awarded over $8,000 in books to nine organizations,” she said. “That brings our total to more than 48,000 books in just seven years. It’s a legacy for which I am very proud.”

First Book Celebrates AmeriCorps Week!Jonelle McCoy is a current AmeriCorps member serving in youth mentoring program at LCSC, but because of her experience working with students in the community struggling with literacy, she said she “jumped at the chance to volunteer” with First Book-LCSC. Her AmeriCorps service has given her the opportunity to work directly with students in the community struggling with literacy.

“It’s clear to me that the books we are giving to schools and agencies will make reading more accessible to hundreds of pre-K and elementary students in our local and satellite communities,” Jonelle said. “My hope is that one day soon there won’t be a need for my service, but until that day comes, volunteering with First Book remains a powerful way to impact and support early readers before they become the youth I see struggling in middle school.”

We’re proud to support AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service with access to new, high-quality books and educational resources for the kids they serve across the country!

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11. Lose Ten Pounds & Get More Dates: Five Reasons to Volunteer with First Book

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books to programs and schools serving children in need. Dedicated volunteers around the country (called First Book “Advisory Boards”) raise funds in their communities to provide brand-new books to local schools and programs, and YOU can be a part of that.

Learn New Skills

Volunteering with First Book means you can gain new skills, adding professional value to resumes and college applications. There are a wide range of skills that you can develop, including community outreach, partnership building, fundraising, event planning and grant writing.

Reasons to Volunteer with First Book

Meet New People

When you volunteer, you get to meet new people who share the same interests. Volunteering can lead to networking opportunities or even new friends! You will have all kinds of things to talk about as you discuss why you decided to volunteer with First Book when meeting and interacting with fellow volunteers.

Community Ties

By volunteering your time with a First Book Advisory Board in your community, you are furthering First Book’s mission and getting books into the hands of kids in your local area.  Advisory Board members can impact the quality of education for local programs and classrooms by providing books and resources.

It’s Good For You

When you are looking for something new to do that’s good for you, volunteering keeps you busy and active. According to health and fitness website, Greatist.com, a past study has shown that “People who volunteered for selfless reasons and to create valuable relationships decreased the risk of mortality.” Not only does volunteering give you a sense of fulfillment, but also wellness.

Reasons to Volunteer with First BookYou Make A Difference

If you offer your time and volunteer with First Book then you will be helping us get brand-new books into the hands of more kids in need. Together we can transform the lives of children in need and elevate the quality of education.

 

Find out more information about how you can volunteer with First Book by clicking here

 

 

The post Lose Ten Pounds & Get More Dates: Five Reasons to Volunteer with First Book appeared first on First Book Blog.

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12. Harley Riders Raise Money for Books to Kids

Who knew Harley riders and Harriet the Spy could go together?

On August 10 the second annual Children’s Literacy Motorcycle Run was held, sponsored by Chuck’s Harley Davidson, Coldwell Banker, and the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, among others.  With the campaign slogan “Live to ride… Ride so children can read,” the event raised almost $2,000 for books to kids in Bloomington, IL.

Obviously these volunteers were born to be wild… and get books to kids!

First Book FacebookFirst Book TwittertumblrpinterestNewsletter signup

 

 

The post Harley Riders Raise Money for Books to Kids appeared first on First Book Blog.

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13. The Power of Children’s Books to Change the World

First Book Global: New books to 10 million kids worldwide

In 2012, Malala Yousafzai, age 15, was shot in the face by Taliban thugs for daring to promote education for women and girls in her native Pakistan. She has not only survived, she has taken her cause to the global level. Her speech before the United Nations inspired the world: “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

I think of Malala often; her words and the battle she is waging against forces determined to keep her away from a world of knowledge. We know that one child with one book can change the world. But millions of children are being held back from the knowledge they’re so hungry for, not only by violent fundamentalism but by relentless poverty. This is a battle, and we have to win.

That’s why today at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York, I announced First Book’s commitment to reach 10 million children worldwide by 2016 with the books they need to read, learn and succeed.

First Book Global: New Books to Kids At Home and Around the World

Each year, First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise, connects 2 million children from low-income families in the United States and Canada with brand-new, top-quality books and educational materials. Over the next three years, we will expand our efforts globally, reaching classrooms, programs and NGOs in India, Brazil, Egypt and elsewhere.

Let’s Bring New Books to 10 Million Children Worldwide Our efforts abroad will strengthen our work domestically. One of our core missions is to bring children here in the United States books and digital content that reflects the full diversity of the world. As we expand the market for books and materials in a range of languages, countries, and cultures, the array of content we can offer in the United States will also grow. More stories will be available to all children.

We’ve been preparing for global expansion for a long time. Our team at First Book has already learned from pilot projects around the world with partners including Feed The Children, World Vision and Touch A Life Foundation. We have been in discussions with a variety of potential global partners who are eager to work with us to access new educational resources that have been so scarce for the children they serve.

A Real and Urgent Need

Make no mistake. It will be hard work. The demands on our staff, volunteers and partners will be staggering, and the fundraising needs are daunting.

But we don’t have the luxury of waiting until it’s easy.

Children in poverty around the world are waiting for us, and so are the local heroes working to educate them. They have no supply pipeline for books, calculators, educational games and digital readers. First Book is the missing piece, and they need us now.

Over the next three years, we’ll be building our content, our partnerships and our outreach, and we’ll be asking you to help us fulfill this commitment to children around the world.

Click here to sign up for occasional email updates about First Book and our global expansion, and to learn ways you can get involved.

 

The post The Power of Children’s Books to Change the World appeared first on First Book Blog.

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14. We’re Coming to Your Town Someday… But It Doesn’t Matter

I have been signed up with First Book for several years. I teach kindergarten and first grade at Dayton Public Schools in the poverty-stricken inner city of Dayton, Ohio. I get plenty of emails from First Book, but have never received one book. Most books seem to be located in a warehouse in a large metropolitan area. You would have to drive a truck through states to get there.

– Mary Reed
Dayton Public Schools

Hi Mary,

It sounds like you signed up with First Book to get new books for your students, but we haven’t been able to help you make that happen yet. Let’s fix that.

There are actually two different ways you can get books from First Book.

Two ways to get books from First BookThe First Book Marketplace: Over 5,000 popular and award-winning titles, from board books to college prep, available exclusively to educators serving kids in need. This channel is great for teachers like you, who often need specific titles for their students.

The First Book National Book Bank: The nation’s only clearinghouse for large-scale book donations from publishers. These brand-new books are available free of charge (plus a shipping & handling fee), in carton quantities, and are perfect for educators or program leaders who want to help children start home libraries of their own.

Books from the The First Book Marketplace are available 24 hours a day, while books from the The First Book National Book Bank are available as new donations come in, usually once a month.

When we receive new books from publishers for the National Book Bank, they’re sent to a (borrowed) warehouse and we ship them out to everyone who requested books. We try to hold these local book distributions in different cities around the country, which helps people who can’t afford even the shipping charges.

But you don’t have to wait until there’s a book distribution near you. Once you’re sign up with First Book, you’re eligible for free books from every single distribution, whether the warehouse is in San Diego or Boston.

So the next time you get an email letting you know about a book distribution, check out the title list and let us know which books your kids will love and we’ll do everything we can to help you get them.

And we’ll put Dayton on our list of cities to visit someday soon.

Thanks for writing!

First Book volunteers loading brand-new books

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The post We’re Coming to Your Town Someday… But It Doesn’t Matter appeared first on First Book Blog.

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15. Books, Books, Books, Books, Books! First Book is Working Overtime to Distribute One Million Books by Next Weekend

Yesterday we went to Nashville and picked up 50 cases of books for our organization that serves special needs and will be delivering them tomorrow at our basketball signups.

This is going to be such an amazing thing for these special children and I can’t wait to see the smiles on their faces when they get an early Christmas present of these wonderful books.

Rick Ryan
Challenged Athletes Playing Equally (C.A.P.E.)
Murfreesboro, TN
www.capetn.org

I just can’t believe all the books I got this morning!!!  I do believe I got everything I asked for and more. We know that doesn’t often happen in this game of life.   I’ve gotten books before, but never like  this.  I thank you for offering this opportunity and look forward to some great book clubs and organizing a book give away with our kids at Warner.  We’d love to have you back in Nashville anytime!

On behalf of the students and teachers at Warner….thanks so much!
 
Mona Bruey
Library Media Specialist
Warner Enhanced Option School
Nashville, Tenn.

First Book staff and volunteers distributing one million booksOne of the ways First Book gets new books into the hands of children from low-income families is through the National Book Bank. Publishers donate new books to First Book, and we distribute them to schools and programs around the country.

Our publishing partners have been even more generous than usual lately, so our National Book Bank team is working overtime, traveling to donated warehouse spaces from coast to coast.

Book distributions are one of our favorite things – we get to meet the teachers and program leaders, hear about the kids they work with, and load up their cars (and trucks and school-buses and even horse trailers) with boxes of new books.

First Book loading books into a horse trailer in MissouriBut they are exhausting – a week of 12-hour days spent moving more boxes than you can imagine. Our staff and volunteers give it their all, especially our National Book Bank managers, Katie and Anna, who are in Nashville and St. Joseph, Mo. this week, and traveling (without so much as a day off) to St. Louis and Casa Grande, Ariz.

So thank you to all the amazing local volunteers that show up at warehouses to help get these books to where they need to go, and thank you to all the hard-working educators and community leaders who make sure every book gets into the hands of a child who will take it home and read it again and again.

PS – If you’re on Twitter, drop Anna (@AnnaInTheCity) and Katie (@IAmNotNancy) a note and tell them to keep up the good work!

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16. Reconnecting McDowell: First Book Joins the Effort to Rescue a West Virginia Community

“Our kids don’t get to have dreams, aspirations, hopes. They can’t even think about college; it’s not in their minds. That’s why these books are so important. Books are the beginning of everything. You learn about other places, you learn about the world.”

– Angela Fedele of the WE CAN Program, a statewide program based in Princeton, W.Va., that provides volunteer mentors for at-risk kids

Chandler Arnold, First Book's executive vice-president, talks with local kids in McDowell County, West Virginia

McDowell County, West Virginia, home to about 22,000 people, is one of the poorest counties in the state, and ranked last in education. Which is why First Book has joined a coalition of businesses, labor unions and nonprofits – more than 40 local, state and national groups altogether – who are working to change that.

For our part, First Book has pledged to provide a brand-new book to every student in McDowell County, books chosen by the local teachers and program leaders who work with the kids. And that’s just the beginning: We distributed 300,000 brand-new books in West Virginia in the last few years, and we’re working with almost 500 local classrooms and programs across the state. Every one of those kids is connected to an ongoing supply of new books through First Book.

“We’re here today because we want to level the educational playing field,” said Chandler Arnold, First Book’s executive vice-president, speaking yesterday at the kickoff ceremony in Charleston. “We want to ensure that the children of McDowell County have access to a steady supply of top-notch books and educational resources.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten shares a new book from First Book with a student in McDowell County , West VirginiaLean more about the project, led by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), at Reconnecting McDowell.

Help us get the word out, West Virginia! If you work for a school or program that serves children from low-income families, or if you’d like to help your child’s teacher or program leader get new books, sign up with First Book. And if you’d like to join one of our local volunteer groups, we’d love to hear from you.

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17. Happy Friendiversary! Mo Willems and First Book Join Forces to Bring New Books to New Orleans Kids

Happy Friendiversary! From your friends at First Book

Today is Friendiversary, when we celebrate the anniversary of our friendships. Think of one of your oldest and dearest friends. When did you first meet? How did you meet? That story is the story of your Friendiversary.

First Book is celebrating Friendiversary this week by providing 7,000 new Elephant & Piggie books to second-graders at Title I schools in Louisiana and Massachusetts. The Elephant & Piggie series is written and illustrated by our friend Mo Willems, whose support makes it possible for First Book able to provide these books. Every book includes a special Friendiversary note from Mo, and his publisher, Disney Publishing Worldwide, is also providing activity kits, stickers and posters free of charge to each classroom.

In fact, we’re so delighted with the Friendiversary kit that we also made it available to all the schools and programs in First Book’s national network.

There are Friendiversary parties happening in classrooms and programs all over today … or tomorrow, or last weekend. We’re pretty flexible on when you actually celebrate Friendiversary.

A Friendiversary party at James Singleton Charter School in New OrleansThe biggest party we’ve heard about so far took place in New Orleans, at James Singleton Charter School. (Mo grew up in New Orleans, and has a special place in his heart for New Orleans kids, so making sure they all had copies of his books was important to him.)

Lynetta Rhodes, the chair of the local First Book volunteer group in New Orleans, helped put the party together. She sent us some great pictures, and filled us in on all the details:

  • Every student got two copies of Mo’s books to keep, including There’s a Bird On Your Head, Are You Ready to Play Outside?, Today I Will Fly and Should I Share My Ice Cream?. (“I can’t believe I got two books!” one of the students told Lynetta).
  • There were all kinds of local celebrity guests on hand to read with the kids, including New Orleans city councilmember Susan Guidry, children’s author Robin Washington, Louisiana State Rep. Wesley Bishop and TV reporter Rosa Flores.
  • There was plenty of ice cream.

A Friendiversary party at James Singleton Charter School in New Orleans“The children looked adorable in their ‘Elephant and Piggie’ ears and the costumed characters made the kids shout with glee,” said Dianne de Las Casas, who hosted and helped plan the event. “Friendiversary at James Singleton Charter School was a great success.”

Happy Friendiversary, everyone!

If you work with kids from low-income families, you can be a part of Friendiversary and other great events and opportunities throughout the year. Sign up with First Book to find out how we can help you get new books for your kids.

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18. Creating Success Stories for 20 Years

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.

First Book has been creating success stories for 20 yearsSo, 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.

First Book's Big Plans for 2012So 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!

 

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19. Kids Are Eager to Read: Just Add Books

First Book was part of all kinds of great events across the country for Read Across America Day on Friday, including a tremendous partnership in the city of Newark. Working with some great local nonprofits, we were able to provide almost 17,000 brand-new books — including plenty of Dr. Seuss titles, since Read Across America Day is Dr. Seuss’s birthday — to students at eight Title I public schools in Newark.

First Book visits a school in Newark for Read Across America DayWe got to meet lots of amazing kids at Belmont-Runyon Elementary, along with some of the educators and public servants that do so much and put so much of themselves into their work.

“I’m just so happy that our kids in Newark are getting thousands of books,” said Mayor Cory Booker. “Not put in libraries or in schools, but actually put in their hands for them to own.”

As always, the best part was seeing the looks on the children’s faces when they were given new books of their own to keep. You might think it was just the excitement any child feels when they’re being given shiny new things, but almost every one of those kids sat down to open their new Dr. Seuss books and start reading them — right there on the floor.

Most kids from low-income families have no books of their own at home. A new book is more than just a novelty for kids like the ones at Belmont-Runyon Elementary; it’s a rare treasure. To see how eager they are to read, you only need to hand them a book.

First Book brings new books to Newark kids“The kids love getting these books, they’re really excited about it,” said Lois Myers, librarian at Belmont-Runyon Elementary. “They say ‘We get to keep these books!?’”

First Book doesn’t haul a truckload of books up and dump them on the doorstep. We work carefully with local partners to ensure that the books are part of an ongoing effort to transform children’s lives and elevate the quality of their education.

  • The educators at the Newark schools selected quality titles that they knew their kids would respond to.
  • Community groups like New Jersey After 3 and the Foundation for Newark’s Future brought in authors to read to the children and coordinated a school-wide assembly to celebrate books and reading.
  • Anne Feeley, a generous donor (and Newark native) provided funding to help make everything possible through the Foundation for Newark’s Future’s “My Very Own Library” initiative.
  • Local leaders like Mayor Booker made time to spend the day with the children, to entertain them and to let them know they were important.
  • Volunteers and parents decorated the auditorium with a Dr. Seuss theme that would have put professional set designers to shame.

We were proud to be a part of an event like this, and happy to bring the books.

Just like we’d be proud to work with people and organizations anywhere who care about improving the lives of the most vulnerable children in their community. When we all work together, we make big things happen.

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20. Have You Thanked a Volunteer Today?

This week is National Volunteer Week … so be sure to take a moment to thank your friends and neighbors who volunteer their time and energy to improve the lives of the people in our communities.

First Book volunteersFirst Book was founded twenty years ago on a volunteer model, and our national network of volunteers has grown ever since. Today, there are over 1,000 First Book volunteers in over 160 communities across the country, and we’re adding more all the time. First Book volunteers raise money to provide new books to local schools and programs serving kids from low-income families, and they help First Book’s national offices identify more schools and programs that need our help.

We’ve put a lot of new books into the hands of a lot of children in need in the last twenty years, and we couldn’t have done it without our volunteers. Thank you!

Click here to learn more about volunteering with First Book.

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21. It’s Raining Books in Milwaukee

One Million Books in Just Ten Days

Last week First Book  distributed close to 1 million books in Seattle, Washington and  Minneapolis, Minnesota. This week, we have a team in Milwaukee, Wisconsin distributing 420,000 books to programs and schools that serve kids in need. Of those 420,000 books, more than 100,000 will be distributed locally throughout the Southeastern Wisconsin area.

To make this distribution possible, New Threads of Hope is donating warehouse space and assistance with logistics, and M&I employees are serving as volunteers, assisting with the packing, shipping and pick up of books throughout the week.

We are incredibly grateful for all of the volunteers and support that we have had over the past couple of weeks. Thanks to the help of of our many volunteers and partners,  we are well on our way to distributing 1.2 million books in just 10 days!

Want to learn more? Click here to sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send you photos, video and information about how you can help get books to kids in need. 

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22. One Million Books in Just Ten Days: The Final Reckoning

One Million Books in Just Ten DaysRecently, First Book promised to distribute one million brand-new books to kids in need across the country in just ten days.

Those ten days are up, and we are as good as our word. Better, even … altogether we distributed a little over 1.2 million books to the schools and programs in our national network. Woot!

25,000 of those books went to kids at Title I schools across Montana. Heather Denny, a Title I specialist in Montana who was instrumental in helping First Book distribute the books at a statewide conference of Title I teachers, emailed us this morning to tell us how excited her colleagues were.

Heather Denny, a Montana teacher, on First Book“It was amazing!” she wrote. “You should have seen the smiles on our teacher’s faces. We had a retiring teacher who worked in the book room all day because she wanted to see the young teachers coming in and leaving with boxes of books.”

If that doesn’t warm your heart, you are made of sterner stuff than we are.

First Book volunteers in MilwaukeeThanks to everyone who made this possible, from the hard-working volunteers who spent long, tiring days in warehouses to the generous publishers who provided the books to our nonprofit and corporate partners who provide the support needed, and especially to all the teachers and local program leaders who take these books and use them to turn kids into readers.

Want to get involved in our next amazing book distribution? Click here to sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send you monthly emails sharing stories and letting you know how you can get involved in your community.

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23. Fairy Books and Ice Cream

First Book brings 350,000 books to Vermont kidsThe First Book team just got back from Brattleboro, Vermont, where we distributed 350,000 brand-new books to kids in need. About 100,000 of those books went to local teachers and community leaders, and the rest were shipped out to schools and programs serving kids from low-income families across the country.

The books were donated by our friends at Disney Publishing Worldwide, and included quite a few fairy and princess titles.

“There were four of us, and we worked, worked, and worked,” said Katie Niersbach, who led the team in Vermont. “Fairy books are HEAVY.”

Carolyn Appleton, serving ice cream to First Book staffersThe distribution was made possible thanks to the support of the Vermont Foodbank, who provided warehouse space and volunteers, and also received a large number of books to distribute to the children served by their centers throughout the state.

Also richly-deserving of our thanks is Carolyn Appleton, a Vermont teacher and community activist who signed up over 80 new programs to help them get books from First Book and fed our staff and volunteers ice cream. (She’s also the mother of one of our staffers, but that only makes us love her more.)

So a big ‘thank you’ to Carolyn and to all our friends at Disney and the Vermont Foodbank, and an even bigger thanks to all the educators – in Vermont and everywhere else – who go the extra mile every day to turn their kids into readers.

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24. Volunteers – in their own words

Library volunteers come in all ages, and they do everything from shelving DVDs to holding book sales.  It takes time to train and manage them, but the pay-off is vast.

We’ve had an amazing volunteer program at our library for over 20 years.  The idea is simple – we train adult volunteers to share books and stories with kids at the library.  First called “Grandparents and Books” because our volunteers were older adults, it later became just GAB when we began welcoming younger adults as well.  This July 1st, we’re changing the name again – to Storytelling and Reading, or STAR – so that the theme of the program will be more immediately apparent.

Whatever the name, it has been a spectacularly successful program, and this is due almost entirely to the enthusiasm and passion of our volunteers, many of whom have been with us for 5, 10 and even 15 years.  Every year we ask our 200+ volunteers to fill out a survey – and every year I’m struck anew at their dedication as I read their comments and suggestions.  Here are what volunteers have to say in this year’s surveys, which are still coming in daily.

They see the STAR program as a way to introduce kids to the joy of books, reading and libraries, saying:

“I think children see the pleasure that the reader… takes in reading the books and that pleasure is contagious.” (Susan D., age 63)

“(The program) helps children to read at their own level and they are not pressured.” (Ernestine S., age 84)

“Even the very little ones love to hear a story and point to objects on the pages.” (Carolyn Z., age 78)

“It is very rewarding to see the growth in both interpersonal skills and participation skills of the children… I have often heard from the parents that they are getting the personal attention and interaction time at the GAB storytime that they don’t get at school.”  (Donna G, age 63)

“GAB introduces children to reading in a fun way… There are no rules or requirements – kids get to choose the books they want to read, purely for pleasure and entertainment.” Maria F, age 27)

The volunteers also feel that they are participating in an activity that makes a difference in their communities and is rewarding and fun in itself.

“It’s my playtime… The children are radiant and open to  new adventures.” (Irving H., age 92)

“The experience of having worked as a GAB volunteer has brought an immense sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.” (Lloyd L., age 70)

“I give my heart and soul to my reading with the children.” (Cindy W.)

“It is so rewarding to give back to my community by helping tomorrow’s leaders learn to love reading.” (Florence B.)

“I just turned 80 years old; working with children has always been a part of my life and is now an essential to keeping me young, alert, and alive.” (Barbara A., age 80)

They also comment frequently on the helpfulness and friendliness of library staff.  Any less than positive comments tend to have to do with a lack of kids during their volunteer shift or with the necessity of competing with those ubiquitous library computers.

What is clear is that this program – as with all good library volunteer programs – is important for several reasons.

First, it provides a vital literacy service for the children and families in our communities by offering fun, one-on-one reading time with a caring, safe adult at the library (and yes, we do carefully screen and train our volunteers).

Second, and just as important, it offers a service to adults in our communities by offering a way for them to give back to their communities by sharing their passion for reading and their respect for children.

And third, as you could tell from that tiny sample of comments,

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25. Volunteers in Action: Three Months to Make a Difference

Today’s blog post is from Abby Bartholomew. Abby works for Kenexa Corporation, a company with a stellar philanthropy program allowing recipients to donate their full-time efforts for three months to an organization of their choice. Abby was one of the chosen employees this year and is volunteering in Denver, CO from May through July.

When I heard about this opportunity through work, I was thrilled–and First Book was the first organization that came to mind. A few years ago, I wrote my undergraduate thesis about creating an innovative way to increase youth interest in reading. Part of my research was identifying current organizations promoting literacy and reading, and First Book always stuck out in my mind as a leader in the community.

I contacted the Denver Metro Advisory Board, one of the closest boards to my home in Nebraska, during my application process and they were excited about the possibilities but informed me that they were struggling and might not be around by my arrival. But Kate Fergusson, our Community Development Manager, thought my skills and background would be perfect for revitalizing the board. So in late April my husky and I moved out to Denver!

The board had disintegrated by the time I arrived. Good news? We had the opportunity to start fresh. Bad news? I had basically no contacts or networks to tap into the Denver community. As I wrap up my last couple of weeks here, I’ve been contemplating everything I’ve learned about First Book, advisory boards and myself. I narrowed it down to three major things.

One: Boards are not a one-man show for a reason.

This may seem obvious, but some part of my subconscious thought it would be possible for me to successfully run things solo while working to develop board membership. But boards have members for a reason. My time here helped me indentify some of my personal strengths, but also some of my weaknesses. I learned the value not only of members but of members with particular talents, i.e. ones I don’t have. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been building up the board and I can already see how the Denver board will flourish with the talented folks who are stepping up.

Two: Networks are important.

I feel like I need to bold that, underline it, or maybe have fireworks shooting out of it for the appropriate emphasis. I accomplished some great things when I was working alone, but since members have stepped up I can already see the board’s velocity skyrocketing. From one member’s experience running a local literacy nonprofit for years to another’s experience in the education and library systems, the ideas and connections seem endless.

Three: First Book is chock-full of passionate people.

I never doubted this statement, but I am still surprised by the intensity and drive of everyone I talk to and work with. From the national office to the handful of advisory boards I spoke to, people here really care about getting as many books as possible into the hands of kids. It’s  incredibly inspiring and motivating. That might sounds cheesy, but it’s true!

I’m sad that I have to leave Denver soon, but am excited to get home and start a board in Lincoln, NE. I can’t thank everyone at national and on the Denver board enough for this experience and I hope to always have some kind of involvement in First Book! If you want to see what the Denver board has been up to, check it out on facebook, twitter or our blog. I’m also doing a personal fundraiser to leave behind a little something tangible for the Denver board and our reci

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