What’s the best way to improve literacy? Access to books! And that is what First Book does. First Book is a social enterprise that provides books to low-income school systems. Since it was founded in 1992, the non-profit organization has distributed more than 120 million free and low-cost books in thousands of communities in the United States and Canada.
Founder and President Kyle Zimmer states on the First Book website:
“First Book is focused on impact: we leverage the work of heroic teachers, give volunteers the tools they need, and help raise reading scores. Recently, a [school] principal reported that First Book allowed her teachers and volunteers to elevate quality, create a culture of reading, and increase Academic Performance Index scores by 107 points. This is the change we are delivering.”
Zimmer is making sure children from low-income families have a continuous and diverse supply of quality books. Programs that are eligible, meaning those with at least 70% of children from low-income families, can receive new books at up to a 90% discount, or free books through the First Book National Book Bank or book grants.
According to First Book’s website, over 35,000 programs across the US have received books. These include soup kitchens, homeless shelters, local preschool and after-school programs, school systems with students at risk of failure and living at or near poverty, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
In the process of doing good, First Book has identified a multi-million dollar annual market for the publishing industry in the US. As it states, “We work with more than 90 leading publishers, and more join with us each month. Our network represents a new customer base for them, and they know that the future of publishing depends on helping to create a new generation of readers.”
First Book counts on donations. Every $10 donated provides four new books. So that’s one way to help. Another is to encourage a group or association in your community that might qualify for First Book’s resources to register with First Book at www.firstbook.org/register. It’s free.
- Image by Mark A. Hicks, illustrator.