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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Kyle Zimmer, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 35
1. Using the Power of Pizza to Transform Lives Through Literacy

Kids Reading, Pizza Hut

What could bring together teachers, community organizations and hungry friends of First Book?

Answer: Pizza!

First Book is proud to partner with Pizza Hut and excited to take part in their new 10-year campaign, Pizza Hut: The Literacy Project. When friends, families, and co-workers sit down to eat or order online from Pizza Hut they’ll be able to add a donation to First Book to enable access to books for children in need. The funds raised from each Pizza Hut location will go to local educators so they can purchase books and resources from the First Book Marketplace. The combination of this campaign’s worldwide reach and local community focus will bring the greatest impact.
The funds raised from each Pizza Hut location will go to local educators so they can purchase books and resources from the First Book Marketplace. The combination of this campaign’s worldwide reach and local community focus will bring the greatest impact.


Kyle Zimmer and Artie Starrs

Some of the students at PS 30 in New York City got a “taste” of the Literacy Project on September 8th, when they were treated to pizza, a visit from representatives of Pizza Hut and the United Federation of Teachers. In honor of the occasion Artie Starrs, President of Pizza Hut, and Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO, First Book, read Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin and got a copy of the book to take home.

“The teachers we serve tell us that when a child discovers a love of reading, not only do they unlock their potential, but ultimately the community benefits,” said Zimmer, “But too many low-income communities simply don’t have the resources to provide children with access to books, and teachers in these classrooms and programs often spend hundreds of dollars of their own money to try to provide what students need. Pizza Hut: The Literacy Project will unlock the potential of millions of underserved children and communities.”

Each Pizza Hut location will also be organizing reading-centric events with community partners — fun things ranging from building pop-up reading nooks or bookcases to simply reading with children who are hungry to learn.

And maybe for pizza, too.

If you serve children in need, please visit theliteracyproject.pizzahut.com to learn more about the events in your community and First Book’s partnership with Pizza Hut: The Literacy Project.

The post Using the Power of Pizza to Transform Lives Through Literacy appeared first on First Book Blog.

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2. Creating a Market for Diverse Books: An Interview With First Book CEO Kyle Zimmer

Interview with Kyle Zimmer, First BookIn our new How We Did It series, we shine a spotlight on the people and
organizations doing important work to support diversity in publishing and beyond. Their stories and ideas are a dose of inspiration for all of us as we move forward in our work.

Today we are thrilled to have Kyle Zimmer, President, CEO, and Co-founder of First Book, with us. Here’s how Kyle describes her organization: “First Book supports educational equality by providing high quality, new and relevant books and educational resources to teachers and caregivers serving the millions of children growing up in low-income families.”  Welome, Kyle!

How did First Book begin? Has the organization’s mission evolved since it was founded?

I co-founded First Book with two friends in 1992. I had been volunteering at a D.C. soup kitchen when I learned that not only were there no books available but the children didn’t have books at home either.

I started talking to other programs and schools and became aware of this enormous problem – with clearly disastrous implications – for individual children and our broader society. In a resource-rich country like ours, how can millions of children grow up without books, at home, at school and in their communities?

I became a student of the publishing sector and learned that the design of the industry makes it almost impossible to serve lower-income segments of the market. The publishing industry is based on I learned that the design of the industrya consignment model – meaning that inventory that doesn’t sell at retail is returned to publishers. So, of course, retail book prices are set high, in part, to cover the cost of unsold inventory. Today in the U.S., the average cost of a premium children’s picture book is $18 – far beyond the reach of low-income families.

Our solution was to aggregate the voice and buying power of educators and programs serving children in need, and in the process, create a viable market that publishers can serve. The First Book Network has become the largest and fastest growing network of classrooms and programs serving children from low-income families. This enables us to purchase books and content that our Network needs in bulk and we can negotiate significant discounts as a result.

While our fundamental mission has not changed, our understanding of the issues of poverty and education has evolved. As a result, we’re expanding our offerings and our definition of what it means to enable educational equity. We are listening to the First Book Network and responding to their needs. Now we’re offering school supplies, refurbished laptops, nonperishable food items, and even winter coats and underwear – in addition to culturally relevant books and educational resources.   If our educators request something, we’re going to go out and find the partners who can help provide it – with the best quality either for free or as close to free as we can get.

First Book has done amazing work to promote diverse books by essentially creating a new market for diverse titles. Can you talk a bit about how and why First Book decided to do this?

We developed the Stories for All project to address the needs expressed by the First Book Network. They are on the front lines and have seen that books focused on all-white characters and experiences just don’t connect with – and don’t represent – the children they serve.   In a First Book survey, 90% of respondents indicated that children in their programs would be more enthusiastic readers if they had access to books with characters, stories and images that reflected their lives.

We heard this need loud and clear – so we began to build strategies that would elevate access to these resources. In an industry already facing fierce competitive pressures, it’s no surprise that publishers have chosen to stick with the content they know will sell. There is a high risk factor and high costs involved in developing new content and marketing to new audiences.

That’s why we launched the Stories for All project.   And we decided to roll out the initiative in a big way: promising to purchase, on a non-returnable basis, half a million dollars’ worth of inventory from the publisher offering the best, highest quality diverse titles at the best possible prices.

By putting $1 million on the tableBecause of the quality of submissions, we doubled our investment, purchasing a total of $1 million in inventory from Lee & Low Books and HarperCollins Publishers. It was a big investment and from an unconventional source – a nonprofit social enterprise — but we knew the demand was there. And, while First Book has long benefitted from terrific partnerships with publishers, by putting $1 million on the table, we were able to really get the attention of publishers and underscore that this market exists.

It is important to note – and those of you at Lee & Low have been saying this for decades — that it’s not just kids from low-income families who need diverse books. We are all living in a more diverse world and books can help develop empathy and expand understanding. By working with publishers to develop the market for more inclusive content for our educators, First Book is also reducing the costs for publishers to make that same content available at retail. For example, First Book served as a catalyst for the development of bilingual versions of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight Moon – and now both are also available at retail.

This spring First Book worked with Target, a longtime corporate partner, to offer three of our new Stories for All project titles for sale at retail. It is actions like those by corporations that are needed to demonstrate the broader market – and that these are, indeed, Stories for All.

We have continued to roll out strategies expanding our purchasing power to drive development of the content requested by educators serving kids in need, reduce publishers’ risk and demonstrate that there is a viable market that publishers can count on. Stay tuned! 

On the publishing side, we’ve definitely seen awareness increase over the last year regarding the need for more diversity in books. Have you seen the demand increase in terms of what educators are looking for as well? How in touch (or out of touch) do you think publishing is with the current needs of educators, especially educators in low-income communities?

students receiving books as part of the Stories for All project
students receiving books as part of the Stories for All project

Yes, we’ve definitely seen an increase in the demand for diverse books from educators. In fact, this spring alone we brought 60,000 new books to our Stories for All project, and those books have been among our top 10 best-selling books every month since we launched the project!

As a society we are becoming increasingly more diverse, and our classrooms and community programs reflect that. But I also think that the demand has increased because educators know that First Book is listening – and responding – to what they need. Stories for All is bringing much-needed content that celebrates different ethnicities, cultures and languages. But it is also a catalyst for books with characters and stories that celebrate different family structures, sexual identities, individual abilities, and experiences. We are working hand-in-hand with educators and publishers to provide a full range of content, in as many forms as possible, so that children can see themselves in books and can learn about others as well.

Publishers are definitely in touch with the fact that educators working with kids from low-income families have unique needs that have not been served. They are eager to provide the content that is needed – and to a person, want to hear the input provided by First Book’s network. Publishers are an extraordinary and talented group of people. We are inspired by their commitment to our cause.

The Stories for All project, which purchases large quantities of diverse books directly from publishers, is only one of several First Book initiatives addressing the issue of diversity in books. Could you share some of the others?

The Stories for All project is, in many ways, emblematic of First Book’s work and mission as a whole. Our goal is to ensure that kids who are growing up in low-income families benefit from the same high quality books, resources and educational opportunities as their more affluent peers.

We’re undertaking a range of initiatives to support diverse books – and to make sure those books reach kids who need them. With funding from Disney, for example, First Book undertook a concerted Latino community outreach effort. This effort included providing best-in-class books and resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families in Latino communities. As part of this effort, First Book:

  • introduced more than 35,000 new Latino-serving groups to the First Book network.
  • distributed more than 270,000 culturally relevant books (retail value: $2.16 million) to schools and programs serving Latino children in need.Hand-wringing only gets you sore hands
  • expanded partnerships with 50 organizations serving Latino children across the U.S.

First Book has curated collections of books on topics ranging from the experience of being an immigrant, to children with special needs and abilities, books on Muslim Americans and populations with other religions, books on Native American interests, books on LGBTQ and books on experiencing homeless and violence.

Did you receive any pushback from board members, donors, or anyone else when First Book announced any of these initiatives? If so, how did you address it?

There has been no pushback; in fact, just the opposite! We’ve had enormous support for Stories for All and our broader efforts to increase the diversity in children’s books – once people hear about it. Our biggest challenge is getting the word out. I can imagine that all of you at Lee & Low sometimes feel the same way. You’ve been pioneers in publishing diverse books and supporting diverse authors and illustrators, on the forefront of promoting stories that need to be heard.

Now that more people recognize the need for more diverse books, there seems to be a lot of hand-wringing over the issue. But hand-wringing only gets you sore hands. The only solution that will work is a market based one: people need to buy diverse books.

Looking forward, what is your vision for the role nonprofits can play in the movement for more diversity in books? Anything on the horizon that you’re excited about?

Nonprofits have a critical role in supporting diversity in books. One example: We’ve all benefitted from the work of We Need Diverse Books to raise awareness of the need for diverse books and to provide another voice for the amazing authors and illustrators who are behind those stories.

We will achieve more impactAs nonprofits, we need to put our money where our mission is – buying and featuring diverse books. First Book works with any and all nonprofits, programs serving 70% or more kids in need as well as Title I classrooms. By joining the First Book Network, nonprofits can have a real voice in developing the pipeline of resources they need.

I’m excited about several major areas of development for First Book. I am thrilled by the partnerships that we are developing. Working side-by-side with other nonprofits, like Feeding America and Share Our Strength on initiatives that combine meal support with books – during the school year and especially during the summer. Also, we’re partnering with the nonprofit Jack and Jill of America, Inc. on a virtual book drive to bring books to the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom Schools in honor of Marian Wright Edelman, one of my personal heroes. For our outreach effort around our Latino Culture and Heritage book collection, we’ve worked with a wide range of nonprofits – from the Cesar Chavez Foundation to the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Texas Hunger Initiative and Too Small to Fail.

I’m a strong believer that we will all achieve more impact for kids when we work collaboratively: across sectors, with dedicated nonprofits and with committed corporate partners. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of what we can do – and literally, the ideas and potential for collaborating keep me and my team continually inspired!

Kyle Zimmer photoKyle Zimmer is President, CEO and Co-founder of First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that has provided more than 130 million free and low-cost books and educational resources to schools and programs serving children in need across the U.S. and Canada.  Kyle is a passionate advocate for social entrepreneurship, and the importance of literacy to further economic competitiveness and global understanding.  Her awards include the National Book Foundation’s 2014 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

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3. 496 Million Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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4. The Collective Power of a Nation of Readers

This piece also appears on The Huffington Post’s Impact blog.

Steve White, a volunteer at a local nonprofit, worked through the holidays to ensure that 3,000 kids in need in Denver would have brand-new books of their own at Christmas.

Elisa Mayo, the finance coordinator for a school district in Mississippi, helped students at her Title I school get the books — and the encouragement — they needed to start book clubs, and now dozens of students, from third to fifth grade, voluntarily skip recess to meet and to talk about their new books.

A community group in Navajo County, Arizona was so determined to have a free library for local children that they raised money through bake sales, started with a donated room in a nearby gas station, and eventually came up with the funds to build a library.

These everyday heroes all have something in common. They are part of First Book, a nonprofit network of teachers, librarians, community leaders and program administrators serving kids in need — a network that stretches across the country and around the world.

An Alabama teacher and her class, part of First Book's network

These men and women and thousands more like them are working every day to transform the lives of children from poor neighborhoods, and they know how desperate the need is. Kids from low-income families lack the resources that many of their middle and upper-class peers take for granted. Every study confirms the impact that has on their futures. One study that never fails to shock revealed that, while children in affluent neighborhoods had access to an average of 13 books a day, there is only a single age-appropriate book for every 300 children.

First Book is working to change that. We partner with the publishing industry to provide books — brand-new, high-quality books — to the teachers and program leaders who sign up with us. Our network is the fastest-growing group of educators in the country serving kids in need: we just reached the incredible milestone of 100,000 registered schools and programs.

Reaching that milestone is exciting, because that means that we’re reaching more children in need than ever.

But there’s another reason why bringing so many educators together matters.

By joining First Book, the people we serve are acknowledging something important: we have more power collectively than we do as individuals. It’s one of the most powerful ideas in human history, from the birth of cities to the workers’ unions that built the country to the marvelous online social networks that are transforming how we communicate.

We’ve already seen the impact this can have. For example, at one point, there was no bilingual edition (English and Spanish together) of the perennial children’s classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but the educators we work with requested it repeatedly. Based on that feedback, we were able to go to the publisher and show that there was real demand. A bilingual edition rolled off the presses shortly thereafter, a book now available to all children and families.

This unprecedented network is also the source of valuable insight into the needs of those serving children at the base of the economic pyramid. There is no group of people whose voices are more critical to our collective future; what they have to say about the 30 million children living in low-income families in the United States and their futures is of paramount importance to us all.

Everyone at First Book is proud of our role in supporting this network. But we know there’s much, much more to be done. We estimate that there are 1.3 million educators and program leaders out there eligible to join us, and we’re doing everything we can to connect every single one.

The post The Collective Power of a Nation of Readers appeared first on First Book Blog.

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5. A Path Appears

Kristoff hi-res jacket frontToday’s blog post is an excerpt from A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, the latest book from New York Times’ columnist and best-selling authors Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

In A Path Appears, which was released yesterday by Random House, Nick and Sheryl highlight “some of today’s most successful local and global initiatives to fight inequality.”  The book “makes clear how typical citizens can drive the momentum of worthy solutions to our world’s most pressing social problems.”

We are honored that Kyle Zimmer, First Book president, CEO and co-founder, is one of many social entrepreneurs featured in the book:

“While visiting the homes of those children, she noticed that there were few if any books. When she gave some children books, they would confide: This is my first book. That gave her the idea to found First Book, a nonprofit to deliver books to children living in poverty and then encourage them to read. She started the endeavor with two colleagues originally as a hobby organization, but it turned out to be impossibly tough to hire a good manager for it: “We had about $1.30 in our bank account.” So she quit her corporate law job in 1995 and took on the role of chief executive…

There were plenty of missteps. When First Book started asking [publishers] for book donations, Zimmer arranged for a few trucks to pick them up. “I was sitting here thinking I knew what I was doing, and I started rounds of calls to get books donated,” said Zimmer. “The publishers were wonderfully generous, and the fire hose of books for turned on.” First Book soon was scrambling for pickups, larger trucks – any form of transport. When one employee found a distributor willing to transport the books, Zimmer was delighted. But they had some explaining to do when a truck with a beer company logo pulled up in front of the schools to unload boxes of books…

First Book now distributes books to church groups, libraries in low-income neighborhoods, Head Start programs, homeless shelters, youth outreach center, and pediatrician’s officers through Reach Out and Read. After twenty years – and significant transformation – First Book has distributed some 115 million books to 90,000 organizations.* In 2013, First Book accounted for 2 percent of the children’s books distributed in the United States. Not bad for a nonprofit.

*Since A Path Appears went to press, First Book has continued to grow and expand. To date, we have distributed 120 million new books to a network of 140,000 schools and programs.

Excerpted from A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Copyright © 2014 by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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6. Welcoming We Give Books to the First Book Family

We can’t keep it a secret any longer!

iStock_000024504532LargeAs of today, We Give Books has a new home at First Book. The online platform, which features nearly 300 digitally-optimized children’s books, enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in WGB-FB-logothe hands of kids in need, simply by reading online.

This generous gift to First Book comes from The Pearson Foundation along with $1.3M in cash to support We Give Books and help First Book deliver new online programs and services to our growing network of 140,000 classrooms and community organizations serving children in need.

You can get involved too!

Children, parents, caretakers and educators can visit www.wegivebooks.org and select books to read together. Reading on the site also triggers donations of new books to programs and classrooms serving children in need. Launched just four years ago, We Give Books has helped deliver more than 3.25 million books to children around the world.

We could not be more thankful to the Pearson Foundation or more thrilled for We Give Books to join the First Book family, helping us provide even more critical reading opportunities to young people across the United States and around the world.

Learn more about We Give Books joining First Book here. Then check out We Give Books and start reading today.

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7. The Stories for All Project: Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is

First Book announces The Stories for All Project

At First Book, we want to see all kids become strong readers, the critical step to succeeding in school and in life. But all too often the children we work with have books with characters and stories that aren’t relevant to their lives. And that makes it harder to turn them on to reading.*

So today we’re taking an extraordinary step toward remedying this problem: The Stories for All Project.

The Stories for All ProjectWe are not the first people to complain and worry about this issue. So we knew if we were actually going to make a difference we needed a market-driven solution. In short, we needed to put our money where our mouth is.

We reached out to the publishing industry with the offer to purchase $500,000 worth of books featuring voices that are rarely represented in children’s literature: minorities, characters of color, and others whose experiences resonate with the children we serve. The response was overwhelming. In fact, we received so many great proposals that we decided to double our commitment, purchasing $500,000 worth of new titles from both HarperCollins and Lee & Low Books — $1 million worth of books altogether. We’ll be able to offer hundreds of thousands of new books to the kids we serve.

With these major purchases, First Book is continuing to harness market forces to create social change; by aggregating the untapped demand for books and resources in thousands of low-income communities, we’re helping to create a new market for the publishing industry. When that happens, they respond by publishing more titles with more relevant content. Everyone really does win, and that’s how you make real, systemic change both possible and sustainable.

This is an exciting step! But it’s just the beginning. The Stories for All Project will include more titles reflecting diverse communities, including minorities, LGBTQ and special needs populations. We’re also convening a leadership council of noted authors, illustrators and other leaders to help us create content, and reach out to even more schools and programs so that we can reach the children and teachers who are waiting for us..

Join us! If you work with children from low-income neighborhoods, or know someone who does, sign up with First Book today. We have books for you too.

* In a recent survey of more than 2,000 educators from First Book schools and programs, 90 percent of respondents agreed that the children in their programs would be more enthusiastic readers if they had access to books with characters, stories and images that reflect their lives and their neighborhoods.

Kyle Zimmer is the president and CEO of First Book.

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

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

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

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

Thea Kay Leopoulos

Thea Kay Leopoulos (photo from theafoundation.org)

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

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

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

Chandler Arnold and Kyle Zimmer of First Book with Bill Clinton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chandler Arnold is First Book’s executive vice president.

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9. 5 Secrets Adults Won’t Tell You – Kyle Zimmer’s Commencement Speech at Saint Mary’s College

Our intrepid leader, CEO, and co-founder of First Book, Kyle Zimmer, shared some of the wit and wisdom that motivates the First Book Team on a daily basis with a crowd of graduates of St Mary’s College in Notre Dame this Saturday.

Five Secret Lessons for Graduates from Kyle Zimmer, Founder of First Book, Commencement at Saint Mary's College Notre DameAdults Are Not Really Certain of Anything.

“In my own life, it took me far too long to figure this out. When I was young, I got distracted by adults who would swagger or bluster. I assumed that anyone who was that forceful MUST know what they were talking about.”

You Are Going to Fail.

“The truth is that, although you can fail without ever succeeding, it is impossible to succeed without failing. Every famous person who has ever succeeded has failed –- and usually significantly -– before contributing their success to the world.”

Grit Trumps IQ.

“Researchers have been confounded by the fact that having a high IQ does not correlate to success. Finally one woman, Angela Lee Duckworth, started performing wide-ranging analysis and she has discovered that, while it is certainly handy to have a high IQ -– grit is by far the better indicator of potential. She defines grit as ‘perseverance and passion for long-term goals.’ You are all blessed elevated IQs –- which will give you a leg up -– but your task now is to find your passion – and get gritty – and no one will be able to stop you.”

Community Is Everything. Build It and Be A Part of It.

“The institutions you will encounter will likely not have communities that are as strong and supportive as St. Mary’s. They will need you to build them up: at work, at home, with people who are kind and smart and have a great sense of humor. Wait — let me reorder that -– build with people who have a great sense of humor and who also are smart and kind. For heaven’s sake, prioritize the sense of humor. It sustains everyone.”

The Most Powerful Force in the World is Empathy.

Empathy is powerful because it demands action. This world is a needy place and we cannot afford the luxury of inaction. Pledge yourself to empathy. It will require you — when you can — to take on monumental action on behalf of others, but it also requires you to take smaller actions every single day. Hold the door for the person behind you, smile at somebody who never gets a smile. Just do it. Our world needs you desperately.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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11. Meet Keondra

I want to tell you a story about Keondra.

In a few days, Keondra will start second grade at Harrowgate Elementary School in Chester, Virginia. She cannot wait to be back in the classroom.

Kyle Zimmer at a First Book event (Note: This is not Keondra! But we do love this picture.)When she began elementary school, Keondra was a reluctant reader. She struggled academically. And then she had to repeat first grade.

But Keondra’s teacher recognized her potential and turned to First Book. Thanks to the support of our generous donors, she was able to give Keondra a new book to take home and read every month.

That’s why I’m invite everyone to join First Book’s Monthly Book Club. Your monthly gift is easy to make and provides an ongoing supply of new, high-quality books to kids like Keondra.

With each month and each new book, Keondra became a stronger reader. Her grades improved – from D’s to B’s. She fell in love with books.

A new school year is about to begin, and there are millions of kids like Keondra who urgently need to be transformed by a love of books before it is too late. Please consider joining today.

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12. 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.


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13. How is First Book Delivering Social Impact?

First Book’s fearless leader, President and CEO Kyle Zimmer will speak live Thursday at 1:05pm EDT on HuffPostLive alongside other tireless social entrepreneurs that include Hilde Schwab, David Jones and Asher Hasan. The live discussion will examine how corporate assets can deliver social impact both nationally and globally.

Check out the livestream below, available at Thursday 1:05pm EDT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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15. Giving Where It Works

At First Book, we work hard to make an impact: we put over 8 million new books into the hands of kids in need across the country this year. And we’re mindful of how many amazing organizations there are out there, both nationally and locally, that could use your support.

So we were pleased to see the New York Times Opinionator blog list First Book today as a nonprofit that is making a major difference while staying on the difficult path towards self-sufficiency, describing our work as a “particularly good use of charitable dollars” (we agree) and “proven to work” (also true).

Commenting on the way First Book’s model marries “altruism and profit”, Tina Rosenberg writes:

If you give books to children who don’t have them, good things happen — they become interested in reading, and they read more. Having lots of books in the home is as good a predictor of children’s future educational achievement as their parents’ educational levels.

But good things also happen to the publishing industry: First Book has harnessed its large network of education programs to create a guaranteed market and persuade publishers to make low-cost versions of some 2,000 titles — allowing publishers to reach the 42 percent of American children who were not in their market before. Fifty dollars buys 20 books for a child who has none.

We hope you’ll support First Book this holiday season. Every $2.50 you give provides one new book for a child in need. It’s a great way for you to make sure your hard-earned and well-considered donation goes to support something that works.

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16. What Is Social Entrepreneurship? (And Why First Book Is Such a Good Example)

A social entrepreneur is someone who sees a social problem — like hunger, homelessness or lack of access to clean water — and looks for ways to solve it. Unlike more traditional business entrepreneurs, who are trying to generate profits, social entrepreneurs are trying change society. Long-term change is important, not just solutions to the immediate problems.

At First Book, the problem we’ve been working on for twenty years is the unbelievable lack of books and other educational materials faced by children from low-income families. Books are painfully scarce for many of these kids; one study that never fails to shock showed that there is only one book available for every 300 children in some of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the country.

First Book provides new books to teachers that work with kids from low-income familiesFirst Book works by giving the teachers, librarians and local program leaders that work with these kids ongoing access to the new, quality books they need to do their jobs. Giving a child a new book of their own is a powerful thing, but the real impact comes from making sure they have books throughout their lives, from before they enter kindergarten until they graduate — with honors — from high school.

So we were pleased to see ourselves listed as one of the five examples of nonprofits around the world providing “innovative yet pragmatic approaches to solving social problems” in a new report from the respected financial services company Credit Suisse.

The report, “Investing for Impact: How social entrepreneurship is redefining the meaning of return”, was just released at the World Economic Forum in Davos. You can learn more about it, and download a copy for yourself, online here.

In it, the Credit Suisse analysts have this to say:

[T]he potential of growing efforts to deliver entrepreneurial solutions to global problems is bigger than ever before – as are the opportunities to channel private capital toward social and environmental issues.

The report also quotes Mark Kramer, the co-founder and managing director of social impact consulting firm FSG:

Mark Kramer on social entrepreneurshipMany investors and philanthropists are turning to impact investments as equally valid and in some cases even more effective vehicles for social change than pure charity. To complement this growing interest, a number of new innovations are emerging in the field, ranging from new financial tools to better metrics for social impact to new impact investing funds.

All that may sound a little dry, but it’s actually really exciting stuff. First Book, and groups like it around the world, are charting the way to better and more equitable societies.

But doing so requires support and funding on a large scale, so it’s a big deal that the international investment community is paying close attention to the work that we’re doing and the impact that we’re having.

Learn more about First Book and our work at firstbook.org, or sign up for monthly updates about ways you can get involved.

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17. 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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18. First Book Earns Highest Possible Rating from Charity Navigator

We’re proud to announce that First Book has earned a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the highest possible ranking from America’s premier charity evaluator.

First Book Earns a Four-Star Rating from Charity Navigator

“We’ve been putting new books into the hands of children and teachers for twenty years. The work that we do helps transform the lives of kids in need, and we’re delighted to be recognized by Charity Navigator. We want our donors to feel confident that we’re putting their hard-earned gifts to good use, and this rating proves that.”
– Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book

First Book Earns a Four-Star Rating from Charity NavigatorCharity Navigator rates nonprofit organizations to provide donors of all levels with reliable data about the impact, efficiency and fiscal health of the organizations.

At First Book, we work hard to make sure we’re creating the greatest possible impact as efficiently as we can, and we’re proud to have earned this distinction. We’re grateful to all of you for supporting our work, and we’re glad to show you that we’re using your donations responsibly.

Click here to donate! 95 cents out of every dollar donated to First Book goes directly to putting news books into the hands of kids in need in communities across the country.

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19. Cricket, Ladybug, Spider and More: First Book Brings Award-Winning Children’s Magazines to Kids in Need

Cricket, Ladybug, Spider and More: First Book Brings Award-Winning Children's Magazines to Kids in Need

Exciting news! First Book will now be offering Cricket and other award-winning kid’s magazines to the 27,000 schools and programs in our national network.

Thanks to our friends at ePals, we’ll be able to offer their full range of children’s magazine titles, including Cricket, Ladybug and Spider. These magazines are terrific; they’ve won pretty much every award possible, and they are loved by teachers and kids.

“This is exactly the sort of content First Book strives to bring to kids in need, so they’ll have the same great opportunities to fall in love with reading as more affluent children,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “We’re really excited about being able to offer these magazines to the schools and programs we work with.”

The magazines will be available through the First Book Marketplace, our website available exclusively to teachers and program leaders who work with children from low-income families. An annual classroom subscription – 30 copies of each issue – retails for $1,018, but is available through First Book for $513.

If you work with children in need, sign up with First Book to get these great magazines for your kids. We also carry over 2,000 book titles at deeply-discounted prices, and distribute millions more every year – free of charge – to the programs in our network.

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20. New Books! First Book Joins Forces With Cincinnati Teachers

“We’re taking a stand with our friends at the American Federation of Teachers to make sure kids in Cincinnati get the help they need — from all of us — to succeed. More than anyone, teachers understand the transformative power of books. By working together with teachers, First Book is ensuring that Cincinnati’s kids have new books of their own.”
– Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president

First Book is teaming up with local teachers to bring new books to kids in Cincinnati public schools for their summer reading program. Every one of the 3,000 kids in the program will get three brand-new books of their very own throughout the summer.

First Book president Kyle Zimmer at Ethel M. Taylor Academy in Cincinnati, photo by Bruce CrippenWe kicked things off yesterday at Ethel M. Taylor Academy in Cincinnati with a great event featuring teachers, kids and children’s authors – all our favorite people.

This new partnership is just one of many new programs springing up around the country, thanks to a new partnership between First Book and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). We’re excited to be working with the AFT; they represent hundreds of thousands of teachers, librarians, school support staff and early childhood educators around the country. Exactly the sort of people that First Book wants to connect with, so we can help them get a steady supply of new books into their programs and classrooms.

The Cincinnati program was made possible thanks to support from United Way of Greater Cincinnati. You can read more about it here.

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21. Teachers Join Forces With First Book: Weingarten Challenges AFT Members to Give Five Million Books to Kids in Need

This is our new challenge. Today I am calling on AFT members to partner with First Book to distribute five million new books this year to students in need.
– Randi Weingarten, AFT president

First Book was in Detroit over the weekend, attending the annual convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions.

First Book displaying some of our books at the annual AFT conventionTeachers are some of our favorite people; more than anyone, they understand the importance of books and reading, and why an ongoing supply of quality books is so important for turning kids into strong readers and successful students.

We’re especially excited to be working with the 1.5 million teachers, librarians and school staff that make up the AFT. Over the past year, we’ve completed successful pilot projects together in over 20 cities across the country, putting nearly 250,000 new books into the hands of children from low-income families.

Now the AFT is stepping up to do even more. At the convention, AFT president Randi Weingarten challenged the assembled educators to distribute five million new books over the next year.

“By working with our friends in the AFT, we’re able to reach thousands more schools serving kids in need,” said First Book president Kyle Zimmer. “The dedication of these educators is inspiring. Everyone at First Book is proud to be able to help them make a difference in their students’ lives.”

Any teachers, librarians or school staff working with children from low-income families can sign up with First Book to access a steady stream of new, quality books.

Click below to see a video of Kyle talking to the assembled AFT educators about our work together, and about her memories of Mrs. Evans, her own unforgettable first-grade teacher.

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22. Lots of Noise, But No One in the Room

“There is a great deal of noise on the stairs but nobody comes into the room.”
– John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy was referencing a Chinese proverb when he said that, making the point that it was easy to talk about problems, but much more difficult to fix them.

Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and CEO, is in China herself this week, addressing the World Economic Forum’s ‘Annual Meeting of the New Champions’ in Tianjin, the foremost gathering of business and nonprofit leaders in Asia. She’s there to talk about subjects near and dear to our hearts – social entrepreneurship and social impact investing.

How First Book is making a differenceSocial entrepreneurship is a new way of doing business, a hybrid of traditional nonprofits and for-profit companies that uses market forces to create social change. (Click here to read a recent blog post by Kyle where she explains what social entrepreneurship is and how it can change the world.)

Social impact investing is a related concept; the idea of channeling investment toward mission-driven businesses and entrepreneurial nonprofits that are working to solve social problems.

As Kyle says in a piece published today in the Huffington Post and on the World Economic Forum’s blog:

Fundamentally there are holes on both the investor side and the social entrepreneur’s side of the aisle.

On the investor side, there is far more talk than there is traction. Certainly, a few funds have been established that focus on social investment, but it is difficult to see these as more than traditional charity, dressed up as investment.

Creative new designs in the financial category to address this need have been discussed for years, but few have made it to market. This lack of significant innovation by the investment community has been a major roadblock to the expansion of the social sector. Enterprises reach a certain level of growth and then choke from the lack of capital.

Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First BookLike any new idea, there’s a lot of work to be done. But Kyle is hopeful about the future, saying: “There we were all in a room at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions – financial institutions and representatives of the social sector — talking about the challenges, which is a great step toward a cure.”

At First Book, we’re working towards a new kind of solution to an old and intractable problem – how to ensure that the 30 million kids in the United States living in low-income families get the books and resources they need to succeed. Click here to learn some ways you can get involved.

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23. 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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24. Our Big Year Together

Happy holidays, from everyone at First Book!

We had a big year here at First Book! I want to let you know everything we accomplished this year, and ask for your support as we continue our work to transform education by bringing new books to children from low-income families.

2012: First Book's big yearFirst Book celebrated two big milestones this year – our 20th anniversary and the distribution of our 100 millionth book. We also expanded the First Book network to bring brand-new books to a lot more teachers, librarians and local program leaders; 22,000 new schools and programs signed up in 2012, an increase of 92%.

On top of that, we delivered 11.2 million books, started local First Book volunteer chapters in a dozen new communities, and started offering critical new categories of books that teachers tell us are badly needed: anti-bullying books, healthy living books, bilingual/non-English titles and more.

But I don’t want to overwhelm you with numbers and statistics.

What all those things mean is new, high-quality books into the hands of kids from low-income families, the books they desperately need to succeed – in school and in life.

I will share with you a comment we received recently from Sue Carnes, a librarian at Kate Bell Elementary in Houston, about working with First Book to get new books for her students this year:

“First Book is the light at the end of the tunnel, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I wish you could have seen the smiles on the faces of the kids and teachers. Our students are never without a book now, even when the library is closed. Sometimes when things sound too good to be true, they are both good and true.”

Thank you so much for your support of First Book and the children who are counting on us.

Kyle Zimmer
President, First Book

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25. Investing in Education: Kyle Zimmer’s Reaction to the State of the Union

“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.” — President Barack Obama

I was grateful to hear the president talk about early childhood education tonight, and the enormous impact it has on our nation.

First Book and the importance of early childhood education

Lack of access to education and resources for America’s most vulnerable children is a national crisis, every bit as serious as immigration reform, gun control and the national debt. But unlike so many other complex problems, this is one we know how to solve.

We have been talking about these children for generations. All that’s lacking is the political will.

Although the issues we face are complex, we know that early childhood education is the most straightforward solution; every study shows that there’s nothing more valuable than turning a child into a reader at an early age. They enter school with greater knowledge and vocabularies; they do better not just on reading tests, but on math tests. They have the foundation they need to succeed — in school and in life.

We know what happens otherwise. As President Obama alluded to, kids who drop out of high school are far more likely to be jobless, become teen parents, or end up in prison, and far less likely to become informed, engaged citizens. While we debate endlessly, an entire generation of leaders, thinkers, engineers, artists and writers is being lost to us for lack of opportunities and resources.

Children from low-income neighborhoods are the most vulnerable. 80 percent of the preschools and after school programs serving children in need do not have a single book for the children they serve. In some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country there is only one book available for every 300 children.

First Book and the importance of early childhood educationFirst Book, the organization I lead, is committed to helping the 30 million American children living in low-income neighborhoods become success stories. We work with local educators and community leaders across the country to supply them with new, high-quality books. They understand the needs of the children and families in their community, and First Book provides them with the books and educational resources they need.

So I urge all of you to get involved right now. If you work with kids in need at a Title I school, Head Start center or community program, sign up with First Book today to get new, high-quality books for your kids. You can also volunteer, or donate to support our work.

This is a crisis, but it’s one that we can solve. And — if we work together — we will.

Kyle Zimmer is president and CEO of First Book.

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