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Nonprofit Reports 500 Percent Increase in Number of Educators Seeking Books, Resources for Kids in Need

WASHINGTON, D.C.  The demand for books and learning materials among educators serving children from low-income families has never been higher. In the last four years, the number of educators seeking access to new books and resources for children in need has grown 500 percent, reports First Book. The nonprofit social enterprise, which promotes educational equality by providing new books, school supplies and other essentials to schools and programs serving children in need, saw more than 60,000 educators and community program leaders register to access its offerings in 2015 alone. First Book currently serves more than 210,000 educators.

The growth of this educator community underscores the increasing need for resources to fuel learning for millions of U.S. children growing up in low-income families who face an opportunity gap compared to their more affluent peers. Census figures and the National Center for Children in Poverty show that 44 percent of all American children are living in low-income families. 

“2015 marked the first time that the majority of children attending U.S. public schools are growing up in low-income families,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “Educators across the country are facing enormous challenges, with vastly under-resourced schools and community programs, severe budget restrictions, and an ever-increasing number of needs for the children they serve. More children are coming to school with limited – if any – exposure to books and reading.”

Educators and programs leaders report that the children they serve face a variety of challenging life circumstances:

  • 79 percent say their students do not have adequate food, shelter or clothing;
  • 54 percent report their students have an incarcerated parent(s) or sibling(s);
  • 45 percent report homelessness among their students;
  • 40 percent say their students have experienced drug or alcohol abuse themselves or by their caregiver;
  • 32 percent indicate their students have been impacted by community or gang violence.

First Book has accelerated and expanded its offerings to meet the increased need for books and resources of all kinds. Eligible educators and program leaders can obtain high quality, new books and educational resources at low prices through the First Book Marketplace, an online site with over 6,000 products, including a range of books and digital learning tools. In addition, through the First Book National Book Bank, the organization works with publishers to secure large donations of new children’s books, which are distributed to classrooms and programs across the country.

The organization has distributed over 135 million books since its founding in 1992. To meet the growing needs, First Book recently completed its largest-ever expansion of resources to offer school supplies, basic needs items and other essentials to the schools and programs it serves.

“At the request of educators, First Book has dramatically expanded our offerings,” said Zimmer. “In addition to continuing to add new titles, digital learning tools, educational games, audio books, and downloadable guides matched with expertly curated book collections, we now provide access to school supplies, healthy snacks and clothing – from winter coats to underwear. All of these essential goods are needed in order to give children an equal chance at success.  We are developing cross-sector partnerships of all kinds and increasing our outreach to corporate funders, foundations and individual donors to help First Book provide educators with all of the resources they need.”

While additional resources are desperately needed by educators, books are still the most critical resource.  Sarah Kilway, a 9th grade teacher in Indianapolis, worked with First Book to give every one of her 187 students a new book.  “A few told me it was the first book they’d ever owned,” said Kilway. “Some said it was the first book they have ever finished.” 

“The impact that First Book is having is felt in classrooms and schools across the country,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.  “Most teachers spend hundreds of dollars or more out of their own pockets every year to augment books and school supplies for their classrooms because they know that without these resources, the children they serve can’t gain the skills they need.  First Book has proved to be an unprecedented ally for our teachers across the country, arming educators and programs serving kids in need with a steady supply of brand new, high quality books and educational resources – for the lowest cost anywhere or even free.  By tackling the lack of resources in a systemic way, First Book has done more than any other organization to help fuel learning and advance literacy.”

Additional insights from educators are featured in the organization’s just-released 2014 Impact Report.  Organizations serving children in need can sign up to access First Book’s resources at firstbook.org/join. For more information on First Book’s work, visit firstbook.org.

About First Book
First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 135 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 us online or follow our latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

Julia Hornaday
[email protected]

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