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First Book's Stories For All Project™ Arms Educators With Diverse, Inclusive Children's Books to Fuel Learning, Promote Educational Equity

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Educational outcomes improve when children have access to books in which they see their lives reflected. They become more engaged and enthusiastic readers, a critical step to succeeding in school and in life. Therein lies the goal of the Stories for All Project™, an ongoing market-driven solution developed by the nonprofit social enterprise First Book to increase diverse voices and promote inclusivity in children’s literature.

Today the organization unveiled its latest action: with support from three major companies — Target, KPMG and JetBlue Airways — First Book is making 60,000 children’s books featuring diverse voices and experiences available for the first time ever in affordable trade paperback format.

The 60,000 books include 10,000 custom copies of six outstanding titles that showcase characters and storylines often underrepresented in the world of children’s literature. First Book chose the titles from hundreds submitted by publishers, with input from the 175,000 educators and program leaders it serves. By aggregating the demand and purchasing power of this educator network, First Book is the first organization to create a viable and vibrant market for content that reflects race, ability, sexual orientation and family structure in an ever-diversifying world. Each of the titles selected contributes unique and diverse perspectives while remaining relatable to all readers:

  • Niño Wrestles the World, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, celebrates play and the power of the imagination through the unforgettable, underpants-wearing Niño. Pulling from Mexican folklore, Morales pits a series of silly, slightly spooky opponents against Niño. But no foe can stand up to the cunning competitor. He takes down his challengers with a Slish! Boop! Crunch! – playfully defeating each one. Winner of the Pura Belpre Illustrator Award for affirming Latino culture and experience, and the SCBWI Golden Kite Picture Book Illustration Honor.
  • And Tango Makes Three, written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole, follows two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo through their fruitless efforts to hatch a rock. One day a zookeeper gives the dedicated fathers-to-be an extra egg that needs to be cared for. From this egg comes Tango, the very first penguin in the zoo to have two daddies. Based on a true story, winner of the ASPCA Henry Bergh Award.
  • Tiger in My Soup, written by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler, features a young Indian-American boy determined to make his older sister read aloud his favorite story about a ferocious tiger. When she repeatedly puts him off, his imagination takes over and the tiger springs from his alphabet soup. An epic battle between boy and tiger commences, all behind the back of the distracted sister. While the hero eventually gets both his story and his reheated soup, he keeps a wary eye out for the tiger’s return.
  • Boats for Papa, written and illustrated by new author/illustrator Jessixa Bagley, explores the healing love between a child and parent. Buckley the beaver loves to carve toy boats out of driftwood from the beach nearby. With Mama’s permission, he sends a boat out to sea for his father, whom he misses very much. Buckley believes that if the boat does not come back, it must have reached his Papa. He sends boat after boat to Papa, each one more beautiful that the last. Then one day Buckley finds all of his boats carefully collected and kept by his Mama. Buckley sends one last boat – this time with a new message.
  • Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, written by first-time picture book author Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls, is an inspiring true story about triumph over adversity. Born in Ghana with one disabled leg, Emmanuel was dismissed by most people, but taught by his mother to reach for his dreams. He hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age 13 to provide for his family, and eventually became a cyclist. In 2011, he rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability.
  • Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me, written by Daniel Beaty and illustrated by Bryan Collier, is a heartbreaking and hopeful story about love and loss. Every morning, a boy and his father play a game. While the boy pretends to sleep, his father knocks on the door and approaches the bed to say, “I love you.” One day, there is no knock. This powerful and inspiring book shows the love that an absent parent can leave behind and the strength that children find in themselves as they grow up and follow their dreams. Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

Making these outstanding titles available marks the latest milestone in the Stories for All Project, which First Book launched as a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action in 2013 to tackle the long-standing absence of culturally relevant children’s books through a market-based solution. As a leading provider of educational resources to kids from low-income families, First Book understands how few books reflect the cultures and life circumstances of the young readers it serves, a major barrier to kids becoming readers. Indeed, a mere 11 percent of 3,500 children’s books reviewed by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center this year are about people of color.

“It is extremely important to showcase diversity in the books we have available for our children,” said Melissa Spradlin, executive director of Book’em, a nonprofit children’s literacy organization in Nashville, Tenn. “Students in our public schools represent more than 100 different countries, many different ethnicities, languages, races and backgrounds. They need to see themselves represented in books in ways they can relate to. They also need to see their classmates and other people in books. These children are our future and that future needs to be inclusive.”

Copies of all six titles will be available through the First Book Marketplace, First Book’s e-commerce site which offers new, high-quality books and resources at deeply discounted prices to schools and programs serving kids in need ages zero to 18. The first three titles are also available now in paperback format on Target.com and at Target stores nationwide.

The need for books featuring diverse voices was underscored by First Book’s growing network of over 175,000 educators and program leaders working in the lives of kids in need, the majority of whom come from minority households. In a survey, 90 percent 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 reflect their lives and their neighborhoods. Significantly, 92 percent said they would be likely or very likely to buy these resources if they were affordable.

In addition to making these six titles available for the first time in affordable trade paperback format, First Book has also:

  • purchased and made available millions of dollars of multicultural books and educational resources, including a robust collection of Latino-interest books;
  • curated a best-in-class selection of 895 titles focused on diversity and inclusion currently being offered through the First Book Marketplace to schools and programs serving kids in need;
  • developed f
    ree, downloadable instruction guides and enhanced learning materials paired with multicultural books to help educators and partners bring learning home;
  • and catalyzed the publication of the first-ever bilingual edition of the iconic children’s books Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

“Through efforts like the Stories for All Project, First Book continues to demonstrate they are a forward-thinking and innovative organization, and we’ve been proud to collaborate with them through KPMG’s Family for Literacy,” said John Veihmeyer, global chairman of KPMG and chairman and CEO of KPMG in the U.S. “At KPMG, diversity and inclusion are an integral part of our culture. We see tremendous value in working beside First Book to increase the number of diverse books for children, particularly for those in low-income families.”

“Creating meaningful change to foster a more inclusive society requires broad-based engagement – supported by leading corporations, the publishing community, and driven by a network of educators,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “Every day, in communities around the country and around the world, we see the critical need to further our human understanding and embrace the gifts and experience each of us brings. We need ALL children and ALL educators to have the stories and resources to further learning and enable our children to reach their full potential.”

About First Book

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 125 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. By making new, high-quality books and educational resources available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education. For more information, please visit www.firstbook.org or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

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