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“Healthy Mind, Healthy Body” Initiative Will Provide Custom Educational Resources to Address Social and Emotional Learning

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Molina Healthcare, a national health care organization, and First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and educational resources to low-income communities, today announced a partnership that will advance social and emotional wellness for children in need — an area identified by First Book’s membership of educators and program leaders as a top health education priority, exceeding the need to address nutrition, positive body image, and even substance abuse. The “Healthy Mind, Healthy Body” initiative is a comprehensive effort to support educators serving kids in need with new resources focused on social and emotional development in young children. The resources were developed with the support of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a nonprofit organization committed to integrating evidence-based social and emotional learning into all grade levels. 

The initiative was informed by original research conducted by First Book in December of last year. The First Book-Molina Health Needs Assessment gathered input from more than 2,100 First Book members, who exclusively serve low-income communities, to identify the most significant barriers to health and wellness faced by their students. The results revealed that educators saw mental health, or a combination of mental and physical health, as an obstacle to academic success by nearly 90 percent of respondents. Physical health alone was cited as the top health issue by just 13 percent. Family-friendly information on managing feelings and emotions, to be used in the classroom or program as well as shared with parents, was named as the most sought-after resource. 

Child development and education experts increasingly cite social and emotional learning (SEL) as foundational for cognitive development and learning. CASEL identifies five key SEL core competencies: Self-Management, consisting of managing emotions and behaviors; Self-Awareness, recognizing ones strengths and limitations; Responsible Decision-Making, making constructive choices about personal and social behavior; Relationship Skills, forming positive relationships, working in teams and dealing effectively with conflict; and Social Awareness, showing understanding and empathy for others.

“We know that a child’s physical health — whether they are hungry, cold or lack access to basic hygiene — is fundamental to classroom success, and now teachers are telling us that social and emotional health should be considered with equal urgency,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book president and CEO. “This partnership provides educators with resources to address what they have identified as a priority, and develop the content we know they need. We are so grateful to Molina Healthcare for their visionary support and commitment to addressing these barriers to children’s success, and to CASEL for its efforts in helping to bring these new groundbreaking educational resources to families in need.”

The “Healthy Mind, Healthy Body” resources are available primarily through the First Book Marketplace, the award-winning e-commerce website offering a range of free and low-cost resources to educators serving low-income communities. To address the critical lack of resources in these communities, Molina will also provide more than $250,000 of purchasing support and grants for significantly expanded custom health and wellness content on the First Book Marketplace. The new content will include: 

“We know that children living in low-income households often experience food insecurity, unhealthy living conditions, low health literacy and other social determinants that affect their well-being,” said Dr. Martha Bernadett, chief innovation officer for Molina Healthcare. “We’re glad to be able to support the children in our communities, not only through the health care services we provide but also through work with First Book and the educators who are on the front line making a difference in students’ lives.” 

“Resources that promote social and emotional competence are as integral to learning as pencils and textbooks,” said Melissa Schlinger, CASEL vice president of programs and practice. “The development of these resources by First Book and Molina Healthcare with CASEL’s support is providing an opportunity for conversations and activities around SEL skills to take place. Getting these books and information to teachers and parents in low-income communities brings us one step closer to a comprehensive, holistic curriculum.”

The Molina/First Book partnership kicked off with events that delivered more than 93,000 books to families and educators in Tampa, Detroit and El Paso.

Research Highlights

The First Book-Molina Health Needs Assessment was conducted over two days in December 2015, fielded to the members of the First Book network, comprised of educators serving children in need. The research yielded more than 2,100 respondents, with 67 percent representing formal school settings, and 33 percent representing an informal non-school location (community organization, early childhood education site, health clinic, etc.).

The stresses of poverty on children’s mental and emotional wellbeing were cited by the vast majority of educators (85 percent), along with the related stresses of incarcerated family members and substance abuse (each cited by 56 percent).

  • The central role of the family in supporting children’s emotional development was clearly identified as significant contributing factor: lack of healthy family relationships were cited by 66 percent, and absence of a caring adult in the home, cited by 47 percent, were seen as key barriers to their students’ mental health.
  • A significant majority of educators—71 percent—cited a lack of positive role models for healthy emotional behaviors as equally disruptive to a lack of access to healthy food.
  • Lack of resources to address emotional health was cited as a barrier to wellness by 50 percent of educators, highlighting the need for additional support.

About First Book

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise founded in 1992 that has distributed more than 150 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada, which, with more than 275,000 members, is the largest and fastest growing network of educators exclusively serving kids in need. 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. Eligible educators, librarians, program leaders, and others serving children in need can sign up at firstbook.org/register. For more information, please visit firstbook.org or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter

About Molina Healthcare, Inc.

Molina Healthcare, Inc., a FORTUNE 500 company, provides managed health care services under the Medicaid and Medicare programs and through the state insurance marketplaces. Through our locally operated health plans in 12 states across the nation and in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Molina serves approximately 4.3 million members. Dr. C. David Molina founded our company in 1980 as a provider organization serving low-income families in Southern California. Today, we continue his mission of providing high quality and cost-effective health care to those who need it most. For more information about Molina Healthcare, please visit our website at molinahealthcare.com.


The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is the nation’s leading organization advancing the development of academic, social and emotional competence for all students. Its mission is to help make evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) an integral part of education from preschool through high school. Through research, practice and policy, CASEL collaborates to ensure all students become knowledgeable, responsible, caring and contributing members of society. For more information on CASEL, please visit www.casel.org.

– See more at: https://www.firstbook.org/about-first-book/media-center/press-releases/558-healthy-mind-healthy-body-initiative-will-provide-custom-educational-resources-to-address-social-and-emotional-learning#sthash.OPZsl23l.dpuf

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