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Nonprofit to Publishing Industry: Underserved Kids Need Great Books & We’re Ready to do What it Takes


WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 – Today, First Book – a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books to children in need – reached out to the publishing industry with an extraordinary offer.

As the centerpiece of their new ‘OMG Books’ (Offering More Great Books) initiative, the nonprofit is stepping up with $500,000 to purchase hundreds of thousands of new books featuring voices that are rarely represented in children’s literature: minorities, characters of color, and others whose experiences resonate with the children First Book serves, many of whom are from low-income families and neighborhoods.

“We’re going to do what it takes to help educators across the country turn their kids into strong, successful readers,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and CEO. “These kids need new books with characters and stories that are relevant to their lives.  We look forward to working with our partners in the publishing industry to reach more children, more powerfully.”

First Book already works closely with leading publishers to provide new books for teachers and program leaders serving children in need. Last year the organization purchased three million new books from major publishers, which they make available – at significant discounts – to the 50,000 schools and programs in their national network. By working with First Book, publishers secure new profit by offering their products to a previously untapped market segment while also providing these programs with affordable resources for the first time.

“What we’re doing at First Book is aggregating the purchasing power of hundreds of thousands of Title I classrooms, after-school programs, homeless shelters and others serving our most vulnerable children,” said Zimmer. “These women and men are standing up for the children they serve so selflessly, and we’re bringing their demands to the publishing industry.  By speaking – and buying – as a group, we’re able to command real attention.”

Zimmer stressed that her team is moving fast; the offer went out to major publishers today, and First Book intends to have proposals secured within a week.

“OMG! What a unique and wonderful opportunity for publishers to bring books that reflect the diversity of voices, cultures and experiences in our country to the readers that need them most,” said Robin Adelson, executive director of the Children’s Book Council.

The hundreds of thousands of books First Book plans to purchase through the OMG Books program will be available through theFirst Book Marketplace, a website offering deeply discounted books and educational materials exclusively to schools and programs serving kids in need.

Describing the First Book Marketplace In the New York Times in 2011, David Bornstein wrote: “The First Book Marketplace is trying to do for publishing what micro-finance did for banking: crack open a vast potential market that is underserved at significant social cost. The organization’s goal is to democratize book access, but along the way, it may end up reinvigorating the book business.”

UPDATE: Deadline extended until 9pm ET on Friday, February 8th. If you have already submitted materials please feel free to use additional time to modify, if needed. Questions? Send them to us at omgbooks@firstbook.org!

Editor’s note: High-res photos and interview opportunities available upon request. Please contact Brian Minter atbminter@firstbook.org or 202-639-0115.

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