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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Impact Stories, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Changing Communities with Books: The Citizen Power Project

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In November, First Book and its partners the American Federation of Teachers and the Albert Shanker Institute presented the Citizen Power Project; a challenge to educators nationwide to identify, plan, and implement a civic engagement project important to their students, school or community.

Fifteen projects received grants to help turn big plans into big impact.

The projects represent a wide range of civic engagement – from teaching empathy and healthy habits to supporting student voices and helping the environment.

So far, the civic impact of these projects has been phenomenal.

In Framingham, Massachusetts, middle school English teacher Lori DiGisi knows her students don’t always feel empowered. “They feel like the adults rule everything and that they don’t really have choices,” she explains. “The issue I’m trying to solve is for a diverse group of students to believe that they can make a difference in their community.”

Using the First Book Marketplace, Lori and her class chose to read books about young people who did something to change the world — books with diverse characters that each student could identify with. Through stories, Lori’s students have begun to understand that they too can make a difference.

From here, Lori plans to narrow the focus onto the issue of improving working conditions. Students will interview custodians, secretaries, and cafeteria workers in their school to understand what their working conditions are like and ask the all-important question: what can we, as middle schoolers, do to make your working conditions better?

claudine-quote_editMeanwhile in Malvern, Arkansas, middle school English teacher Claudine James has used the Citizen Power Project to improve upon an already successful program. In 2011, Claudine visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC and wanted to bring that experience back to her students.

That year her class studied the Holocaust and put together their own Holocaust Museum in their school and opened it to the public.

The reaction to the museum was something Claudine never expected.

“It was very well received by the community and in fact, we had an opening day reception on a Sunday afternoon and there was no room to even stand.”

Claudine has organized project-based learning initiatives like this every year since. The Malvern community has embraced them, and even come to expect them.

This year, powered by the  Citizen Power Project, Claudine and her class are planning an exhibit called, ‘Writers from Around the World’. They are reading books by authors from all over the globe. Her goal is to promote tolerance and understanding among her students and for them to promote those ideas to the community.

“When my students are presented with problems that other people from other cultures have to overcome, they see the world in a new light,” explains Claudine, “then they go home and spread the word.”

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Artwork by one student in Racheal’s class depicting the negative impacts of climate change.

In Newark, New Jersey, kindergarten teacher Racheal Safier has her young students thinking globally. “We wanted to figure out what climate change is,” she explains, “they took a really big interest in how global warming affects animals.”

Racheal has been amazed by her student’s enthusiasm for this topic and the project, but she knows where it comes from. “Books have been the launching point for so many of the ideas generated in my classroom.”

Now that ideas are being launched, Racheal wants to show her class the next step: what actions do we take?

And they have many planned. There will be brochures distributed to parents, a table at the school’s social justice fair, maybe a video, and even letters to the President.

“I want it to be their project — and some of the things they come up with, I am really blown away.”

These three projects are just a snapshot of all the important work educators are doing around the country for the Citizen Power Project. Lori, Claudine, and Racheal are shining examples of the impact that educators can have on their students and their communities.

For educators to create change though students they need access to educational resources. First Book is proud to help provide that access for the Citizen Power Project.

When these 15 projects are completed in early 2017 be sure to check the First Book blog to see videos and pictures, and read more impact stories of impact from across the United States.

 

If you’re an educator serving kids in need, please visit the First Book Marketplace to register and browse our collection of educational resources. Click here to learn more about the Citizen Power Project.

The post Changing Communities with Books: The Citizen Power Project appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. How One College Student is Making an Impact in Her Community

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When Janessa Blythe discovered through a college leadership course that kids in her Waco, Texas community didn’t have access to books, she decided to act.

The junior at Baylor University is launching Waco Up & Read, a program that provides books for kids from low-income communities. “It appalled me that kids didn’t have access to stories and didn’t have access to books in general,” says Janessa, “that sent me on a little bit of a journey — what can I do about this?”

Janessa’s book drive provided each kid at Restoration Haven, a Waco community support organization, with eight books to call their own. For many, those books make up their entire home libraries. Working with Restoration Haven, Janessa is planning to provide more books through a pilot program, and establish Waco Up & Read as a nonprofit.

Her plans are ambitious, but Janessa understands the kind of impact that books can have.

janessa-blythe-2“Stories teach kids that when hard times come, or you hit a brick wall in life, that you can break through – that is a major matter you see in good stories.”

And exposing kids to good stories is important to Waco Up & Read. Janessa plans to use the First Book Marketplace to give kids access to rich and varied content.

“Obviously that includes classic children’s books, but in general I’m looking for books that teach virtue, teach empathy, that teach human issues.”

To do that though, Janessa will need to raise money for Waco Up & Read. One way she is doing that is through First Book campaigns, which makes the fundraising process simple and easy.

All across the country kids in need lack access to books and stories, but the kids in Waco communities have a champion in Janessa. Book drives, fundraising, and eventually a nonprofit organization – that can seem like a lot for a college student but it’s as simple as identifying a need, and meeting it.

And that is something we are all capable of.

 

If you serve kids in need, please visit the First Book Marketplace to explore our variety of educational resources. To raise money and make an impact in your community, start a First Book campaign to provide books to kids in need.

The post How One College Student is Making an Impact in Her Community appeared first on First Book Blog.

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3. All Roads Lead to Learning with Pathway to K

With a waiting list of more than 400 students, Vanessa Osbourne knew she needed to offer another option for the kids who weren’t going to be able to participate in the pre-kindergarten program.

Daniel Dominguez-Carmona shows the actions of a dragonfly to WSFCS Ready Schools Coordinator Eva Phillips in his “Pathway to K” classroom. Image via Winston-Salem Journal.

“We wanted to make sure that if those kids didn’t get a Pre-K experience that we offer something for them before school started,” said Osbourne, program coordinator for Winston-Salem, Forsyth County Schools.

Osbourne developed Pathway to K, a three-week course at the end of the summer designed to prepare kids who wouldn’t otherwise participate in Pre-K for kindergarten and introduce them to the kinds of activities they’ll be doing in school.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Pathway to K is able to access the First Book Marketplace and all that it has to offer. Each classroom has multiple sets of diverse books that aim to reach each and every child. When the program has parent engagement nights, kids and their guardians receive a brand new, high-quality book to take home.

Some of the parents or guardians participating in Pathway to K work multiple jobs and are striving every day to provide opportunities for their children, and it’s not always easy. The opportunity to participate in a kindergarten readiness program is huge for many families.

“We had a grandmother who was so excited when her grandson got in to Pathway to K,” Vanessa said. “She acted like it was a college application. When we told her, ‘Of course he got in,’ she ran around shouting, ‘He got in! He got in!’”

A program like Pathway to K is worth getting excited about. Vanessa uses her 30 years of experience in education to make sure each child is getting a well-rounded experience. During the three-week program children are introduced to books, practice counting and sorting and learn social and emotional skills.

But there is one thing that Vanessa hopes Pathway to K can instill in its tiny participants.

“Building that love of reading.”

Pathway to K was able to receive books through First Book’s partnership with Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. If you work with children in need, you can access books and resources for your organization through the First Book Marketplace.

The post All Roads Lead to Learning with Pathway to K appeared first on First Book Blog.

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4. Celebrating Veterans Day with Stories

To celebrate Veterans Day and honor our United States service members, we would like to highlight First Book’s partnership with United Through Reading (UTR), a nonprofit public benefit organization dedicated to uniting military families through shared reading experiences.

Chief Master Sergeant Mitch Brush, National Guard Bureau, recording a STEM title with United Through Reading. Picture credit: UTR.

Every quarter, First Book’s Concierge Services team works with UTR to develop a bundled collection  of ten titles for a variety of reading levels that relate to a chosen theme—like STEM or the holidays. At an average of around four dollars per book, UTR is able to order enough of these carefully curated collections so that hundreds of Commands across the world are equipped with reading libraries.

First Book ships to Fleet and Army Post Office sites from Europe to the Pacific and once the books are received, service members get camera ready and slip into their storytelling shoes. The brave men and women serving our country bring classic and contemporary favorites to life, intent on performing another very important duty: connecting with their children.

In 2016 alone UTR sites have recorded and sent more than 17,000 video recordings of read-alouds back home to children. And not only that, they receive their very own copy of the book that they can flip through over and over. This sea-spanning bonding experience instills a love of reading by harnessing the power of a secure and loving family– a fundamental basis for a child’s success and desire to learn. First Book’s Concierge Services team is proud to support military families through its partnership with UTR. The partnership has expanded the scope of First Book’s impact and illuminated yet another benefit of reading, together.

First Book thanks all the veterans and active service members who serve our country—today and always.

Learn more about military families’ experiences with UTR here. If you serve children in low-income or other at-risk communities and need a large quantity of books or resources at the best possible price, reach out to First Book’s Concierge Services at concierge@firstbook.org or call the Member Services Team at 866.732.3669 and ask for Concierge Services.

The post Celebrating Veterans Day with Stories appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. How Books Inspire Action: The Citizen Power Project

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All too often, young people feel they don’t have the power to fix problems in their communities.

How can books inspire students to take action and become engaged citizens?

Earlier this year, First Book, along with our partners the American Federation of Teachers and the Albert Shanker Institute, presented educators nationwide with a challenge: identify an issue and a civic engagement project important to their students, school or community. We then asked for proposals on how, with the support of books and resources from First Book, could their students take action to address that issue and show their students that they have a voice and the ability to make positive changes happen.

We called this challenge The Citizen Power Project. Funded by the Aspen Institute’s Pluribus Project, 15 proposals  – five each from elementary, middle and high schools – would be chosen to receive a collection of special resources to help them implement their projects and a $500 grant for use on the First Book Marketplace.

More than 920 proposals were received.

The 15 classroom projects that stood out and won the challenge addressed a wide range of issues, such as:

  • Learning about global cultural perspectives as a way to build compassion,
  • Planning a community garden to promote healthy eating,
  • Combating bullying,
  • Learning American Sign Language and
  • Building a health and wellness library.

We believe these projects, and the books and resources First Book will provide to help them flourish, will help these educators and the young leaders they teach to advance the causes they are so passionate about. And, by sharing stories about the successes of these projects, we hope to inspire others around the country to be change makers, themselves.

With our partners, we’ll be checking in with the inspiring projects through the end of the year to update you on their progress toward creating innovative learning environments, and the impact of the projects on their respective communities.

Stay tuned for more about the Citizen Power Challenge winners! Read more about the Citizen Power Challenge here.

The post How Books Inspire Action: The Citizen Power Project appeared first on First Book Blog.

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6. How Books Inspire Action: The Citizen Power Project

firstbook-tampa-99

All too often, young people feel they don’t have the power to fix problems in their communities.

How can books inspire students to take action and become engaged citizens?

Earlier this year, First Book, along with our partners the American Federation of Teachers and the Albert Shanker Institute, presented educators nationwide with a challenge: identify an issue and a civic engagement project important to their students, school or community. We then asked for proposals on how, with the support of books and resources from First Book, could their students take action to address that issue and show their students that they have a voice and the ability to make positive changes happen.

We called this challenge The Citizen Power Project. Funded by the Aspen Institute’s Pluribus Project, 15 proposals  – five each from elementary, middle and high schools – would be chosen to receive a collection of special resources to help them implement their projects and a $500 grant for use on the First Book Marketplace.

More than 920 proposals were received.

The 15 classroom projects that stood out and won the challenge addressed a wide range of issues, such as:

  • Learning about global cultural perspectives as a way to build compassion,
  • Planning a community garden to promote healthy eating,
  • Combating bullying,
  • Learning American Sign Language and
  • Building a health and wellness library.

We believe these projects, and the books and resources First Book will provide to help them flourish, will help these educators and the young leaders they teach to advance the causes they are so passionate about. And, by sharing stories about the successes of these projects, we hope to inspire others around the country to be change makers, themselves.

With our partners, we’ll be checking in with the inspiring projects through the end of the year to update you on their progress toward creating innovative learning environments, and the impact of the projects on their respective communities.

Stay tuned for more about the Citizen Power Challenge winners! Read more about the Citizen Power Challenge here.

The post How Books Inspire Action: The Citizen Power Project appeared first on First Book Blog.

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7. Why My Students Hide Their Backpacks

Today’s guest blogger is Sheri Dominguez, Media Specialist at Palmview Elementary School in Pompano Beach, Florida.

When the final bell rings at Palmview Elementary, some of my students make one stop before heading home – the bushes outside of school.

That is where they hide their backpacks for the night.

Because they have so few belongings, they take this precaution to keep their books safe. Their living situations aren’t stable. They don’t always know where they will sleep that night.

IMG_0004Books mean everything to our students. They carry books everywhere they go, even asking their teachers if they can skip recess so they can read.

At school, our kids feel secure. They have a quiet place to learn and explore the safety found in the pages of books. And because of First Book, we can provide them with books to treasure.

Please donate to First Book today.

The post Why My Students Hide Their Backpacks appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. The Only Present She’ll Receive This Holiday

Today’s guest blogger is Mollie James, Executive Director of Bruce Irons Camp Fund in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Under glowing lights sits a single gift in crisp wrapping paper. Since it arrived at Carolina’s home a few days ago, her hopes have soared.

For Carolina, the book that awaits her may be the only present she’ll receive this holiday.

Hilda, Faduma, Carolina, Carolina 2The kids in our program – kids like Carolina – take nothing for granted. They are so appreciative of any opportunity to read and learn.

Every year, we give each of our kids a beautifully wrapped book to read during break. By the time they return to school in January, they’ve devoured the books we sent them and are eager for more.

With your help, First Book can provide three times more books to kids like ours this holiday season. Donate today to make sure every child has a gift to unwrap and enjoy.

The post The Only Present She’ll Receive This Holiday appeared first on First Book Blog.

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9. “They line up outside of the library…”

The kids at Herricks Middle School in Albertson, New York love to learn. In fact, every morning many of them line up outside of the library before school starts, eager to trade in their latest read for a new story.

Jodi quoteFor some of the students, the books they receive at school are the only ones they have.

“Our school is very diverse so we service students with varying degrees of need,’” said Jodi Thompson, the school’s librarian. “While the more affluent students may have access to books and support at home, the others face more difficult challenges.”

Many students may only have access to hot meals while at school. Others have parents who work very hard for very long hours or do not speak English, so they cannot help with their school work. Some moved here without their parents and live with relatives just to get an education in America.

But none of these challenges keep Jodi’s students from working hard and doing their best.

Fifty-five of her students from different circumstances come together after school for Book Club. And thanks to a grant from the Guru Krupa Foundation, Jodi was able to obtain the books students most wanted to read together. These included My Most Excellent Year and The Misfits.

20151216_150252“For the past few years, the kids have been asking to do a large group read but we never had enough copies of the same books to do it,” explained Jodi. “They actually cheered when they found out we had enough books to do the whole group read not once, but three times this year.”

“Getting these books for free is invaluable to me and my students,” she says.

The Foundation, based in Jericho, New York, funds initiatives related to education, health and basic sustenance of underprivileged children in India and the United States, and has helped First Book provide more than 75,000 books to children in need in the greater New York, Los Angeles and India in recent years.

“We at Guru Krupa Foundation believe that education is a cornerstone for future success in life,” said Mukund Padmanabhan of the Guru Krupa Foundation. “Supporting initiatives that bring the benefits of education to underprivileged children can lead to enormous future dividends, not only for the children but to society.”

 

The post “They line up outside of the library…” appeared first on First Book Blog.

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10. The Most Important Job She Has

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Jill Botts gives books to the students of Los Molinos Unified School District five times a year. She believes that getting books to these children is the most important job she has.

Educators throughout the country feel the same way.

Together, we can make a difference in kids’ lives by providing books, school supplies and other essentials to help them learn. Thank you for all you do to support First Book and children in need.

Watch this video to find out more about Jill, Los Molinos and the importance of books in her community.

The post The Most Important Job She Has appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. How One Librarian Uses Food to Keep Kids Learning

theresa-4web

Theresa Mai, librarian at Truscott Elementary

“I always tell our kids that they are like cars, motorcycles or trucks,” says Theresa Mai, the librarian at Truscott Elementary in Loveland, Colorado. “We talk about their parents getting fuel for their car – how it can’t run without the right fuel. Their bodies are the same way. Food is their fuel and we have to keep them going so they can learn.”

Theresa Mai provides books, games, activities, and all kinds of resources from the First Book Marketplace for the students at her school. But without food, the kids don’t have the basic caloric intake to benefit from the resources she supplies.

Much of the non-perishable food the school receives from First Book is used as mid-day snacks to keep kids alert and engaged. Some is used after school to feed kids in Book Club, Garden Club or Running Club. Many of the snacks are just available for kids when they get hungry.

Theresa even uses the food as a learning tool. While reading stories about zoo animals, Theresa’s students play with animal crackers. They break them apart and combine the animal’s characteristics to inspire imaginative play, learning the benefits of different animals’ biological traits.

Global Institute student reading with Love Child 3“I would combine any animal with a chicken because then my family could eat the eggs,” said one student. He then explained to Theresa that his family was out of money and almost out of food.

This isn’t an atypical experience for the students at Truscott. Because of this the school provides snacks to their students regardless of need or ability to pay. Many of their kids come to school without breakfast and don’t go home to a meal awaiting them. Others stuff their pockets with snacks to bring home to their siblings who don’t attend the school.

“I am often in awe by how appreciative the kids are of food,“ explains Theresa. “Most of us have access to food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But for those who do not have easy access to food, it is the kind of gift that lights up a child’s face.”

If you’re an educator or program leader serving children in need, you can find non-perishable food and other basic needs on the First Book Marketplace.

The post How One Librarian Uses Food to Keep Kids Learning appeared first on First Book Blog.

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12. Books Gave Him A Sense of Home – Even When He Didn’t Have One

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Today’s guess blogger is Melissa Spradlin, Executive Director of Book’em in Nashville, TN.

I want to tell you about Ben.

From our first meeting, Ben had an extraordinary connection with books. Every time we met to read together, he chose one to keep. He was exceptionally grateful for each one. I could tell the books had a special effect on him.

Ben’s family was homeless. They had been evicted from their home. Sometimes they lived with relatives, sometimes in a shelter.

Ben kept all of his belongings in his backpack, including his books. He carried them with him everywhere he went. He treasured his books – they were among his few possessions. The sturdy spines and crisp pages gave him a sense of home, even when he didn’t have one.

There are so many kids like Ben who cherish the books they receive from First Book. They rely on them as familiar friends during tough times.

If you work with children in need, you can find books and essentials for your students on the First Book Marketplace.

The post Books Gave Him A Sense of Home – Even When He Didn’t Have One appeared first on First Book Blog.

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13. One Campaign. A Lasting Culture of Reading.

Cottage Kids Read

Six years ago, Sue Resnick and Liz Frankel started the Cottage Kids Read program at the Pleasantville Cottage School. While volunteering at the school they noticed something that struck them. There weren’t any books for pleasure in the cottages where the students lived.

Located in Pleasantville, NY, the residential treatment facility serves kids who have been neglected, abused, or whose families are unable to care for them.

Sue and Liz knew books could be a solace for kids who may lack a source of calm in their daily lives. Reading stories or poems that interest them could open up new worlds. After they identified the issue, Sue and Liz went to the school’s Therapeutic Arts Director, Dee Hanbury, to find a solution.

Three years ago Dee, Sue and Liz discovered First Book campaigns. Since then, volunteers and staff have had great success raising the money they need to purchase books through First Book. They’ve used First Book campaigns to not only fill the cottages with books, but to expose kids to new ideas and help them dream big.

Now, when kids see Sue and Liz on campus, they ask for books by name. The kids have their favorite authors. Liz and Sue have created a culture of reading that not only helps kids grow, but has therapeutic benefits as some work through complex emotional challenges.

“They say that reading gives them an escape when they need to get away from bad memories or from their peers to get some space,” says Dee.

The volunteers and staff see the impact books have on kids’ lives — it’s why they work tirelessly to raise more money each year. And with First Book campaigns, their work can go even further.

Start your work today.

The post One Campaign. A Lasting Culture of Reading. appeared first on First Book Blog.

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14. Sit, Stay, Read: Kids & Canines Learning Literacy Skills Together

Girl with dog

The canine volunteers at Sit, Stay, Read visit classrooms in some of Chicago’s most troubled neighborhoods. The elementary school students they meet often juggle more responsibilities than most kids their age, so learning to read can seem like an extra chore.

“If you feel stressed about reading, like some of our little guys do, reading to a dog makes them feel more comfortable, more ready, and more open to the experience of reading,” says Kate McIlvain, Program Director at Sit, Stay, Read.

That is why volunteer dogs like Tilly come to classrooms and listen to students read. The canine companions enjoy any book, but dog-themed titles like Go, Dog, Go or Because of Winn-Dixie are popular choices. Tilly is happy to give her undivided attention and doesn’t mind if her reading partner stumbles on a word or two. Experiencing that kind of support and unconditional love while they read helps kids build confidence in their own literacy skills.

Often they’re having so much fun interacting with their new furry friends that they forget they’re learning.

“We’re really excited that we get to bring our program into schools and provide additional support on top of what the teachers are already doing to help make a fun, safe, comfortable, caring learning environment for our kids,” says Kate.

When the school year ends, Sit, Stay, Read holds a “Keep Reading Celebration” at every school they visit. At the party, the kids receive books and school supplies to bring home to encourage them to continue building their literacy skills throughout the summer.

Boy with dog

This year, thanks to support from long-time First Book partner KPMG, Sit, Stay, Read was able to use the First Book Marketplace to increase the number of books that kids took home over summer break.

Unfortunately, the dogs can’t go home with the kids, too. But they will always remember their four-legged reading buddy and the excitement and the confidence-building they felt reading with them every time they pick up their books.

 

Sit, Stay, Read was able to receive books through First Book’s partnership with KPMG & KPMG’s Family for Literacy – a unique employee engagement program featuring volunteer opportunities, book distributions, celebration events and fundraising efforts that provide books for First Book programs in KPMG communities. If you work with children in need, you can access books and resources for your classroom through the First Book Marketplace.

The post Sit, Stay, Read: Kids & Canines Learning Literacy Skills Together appeared first on First Book Blog.

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15. Books to Forge Friendships

CML TeensThere’s very little for kids to do in the town of Bluefield, West Virginia. But once a week, eighteen students from different walks of life gather to talk about books.

Suzette Sims, the program services coordinator at the Craft Memorial Library, organized the book club a few years ago. It started with three middle school students and has since grown in size and friendship.

But the library doesn’t have money to buy books. When the book club had just three members, they could obtain books through interlibrary loan.  Now, the program has grown and the book club needs almost twenty copies of books per week to keep it going – an almost impossible task.

Through First Book, Suzette can find enough copies of the books her students love to read.  The students debate, learn and forge friendships.

CML Teens2“This is somewhere they can meet and see their friends once a week,” says Suzette. “It’s a mix of the groups. Some are friends, some didn’t know each other beforehand.”

Along with providing a safe and supportive environment, Suzette hopes to give her students the opportunity to discover their interests and passions.

“The more I can show them about different things – science, art, books – the more they’ll be able to figure out what they’re interested in and what they want to do,” explains Suzette. “I have a lot of hope for these kids. They have such a spark in them – if they want to, they can go anywhere.”

The post Books to Forge Friendships appeared first on First Book Blog.

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16. These Children Saw Themselves in a Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But this is me!” said one child.

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

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

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

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

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17. The Right Book at the Right Time

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

Today’s guest blogger is Melissa Spradlin, Executive Director of Book’em in Nashville, TN.

First Book supporters provide 33,000 new books to kids in needHaving the right book at the right time can make a difference in a child’s life – sometimes forever. That is why having a variety of books to choose from is so important to our program.

Every day I work with Book’em in Nashville to make kids and teens owners of books, helping them discover the joy of reading.

Our public schools serve over 80,000 students of different ages and different backgrounds. They represent more than 100 different countries, many different ethnicities, races and languages.  They are creative, giving, curious, caring, amazing kids.

Because we have such a diverse population, it is extremely important to showcase diversity in the books we have available for our children. You never know what book might turn a child into a reader, but books that speak to their experience get enthusiastic readers  even more excited and inspire  readers who are a bit more reluctant.

Being able to choose from a variety of diverse books allows our kids to see themselves represented in ways they can relate to. It also helps broaden our students’ horizons and pave the way for a more inclusive future.

We are grateful that First Book’s Stories for All Project™ has allowed us to provide diverse, inclusive books to the children we serve.

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18. This is a Life He Never Imagined

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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20. 300,000 Books for Kids to Take Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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21. Shelves Filled with Books of All Sizes And Colors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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22. A Heartfelt Thank You

Letter from Euclid OhioLetter from Euclid OhioLetter from Euclid OhioOne of the best things about working at First Book is receiving thank you notes from the educators and kids we serve.

Cathy Stang, a Learning Resource Teacher from Adrian Elementary School in South Euclid, Ohio, recently sent a HUGE stack of silly, sincere and sweet notes from her students. She even included a note from a parent of one of her students:

Dear Mrs. Stang,

I just wanted to write you a note and thank you for your work at Adrian, especially with First Book. Caleb has grown so much in his love of books and reading this year. Since receiving his first Mo Willems’ book, Caleb fell in love/became obsessed with the Gerald and Piggie characters. He now owns 11 of them. He has used his own allowance money, asked his grandparents and basically any way he could think of to get more. When he gets a new one, he will bring it everywhere he goes and read it to all his friends. I am not even exaggerating. Thanks for making a difference in life of a kid.

We’re grateful to Cathy and all the wonderful educators and kids who share their notes and their love of reading with us. You are OUR heroes!

Want to see your story or thank you note featured on our blog? Share it with us here.

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23. Her Students Were Missing This Critical Resource

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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24. Changing the Lives of Families

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When you support First Book, you also help hundreds of thousands of schools and programs across the country. Meet one of them.

Smart from the Start supports families, engages communities and prepares children for school. They work to prevent the academic achievement gap among young children living in the lowest income communities.

By working together, we change the lives of families like these. Take a look.

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25. Books for Babies

Today’s guest blogger is Veronica Creech, Director of Partner Engagement at First Book.

MadelineR2When you open a book for a baby, their eyes light up. They’re fascinated by the contrast of the colors. They marvel at words as you read to them.

What these little ones don’t know is that books will also shape their future.

Book Babies is one of many wonderful programs my team at First Book supports. Part of the nonprofit organization Book Harvest, Book Babies helps 150 families in Durham, NC discover the importance and joy of reading together.

The families they serve all have big dreams for their children, but lack books to build those dreams upon.

JesusR2Take 18-month old Ian and his mom for example. Every morning, Ian wakes his mom before sunrise with a new book in his hand for them to read together. Though it’s earlier than she’d like, reading has become a fantastic way for them to connect and start every day.

Before they joined Book Babies, there were no books in their home. They now have over 30.

This holiday season please donate to First Book and give the hope of a bright future to babies and their families.

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