93 percent of respondents in a recent First Book survey* hope their kids will gain a lifelong love of reading from the books they access through First Book.
*n = 977
93 percent of respondents in a recent First Book survey* hope their kids will gain a lifelong love of reading from the books they access through First Book.
*n = 977
Today’s guest blogger is Leslie Anido, a special needs teacher in California. She first connected with First Book as a member of long-time partner Pi Beta Phi Fraternity. She now receives books and resources for the children she serves through First Book.
“Books have helped our students look beyond their differences and discover their similarities, regardless of appearance or skills,” explains Leslie.
Leslie’s students’ physical, medical and communication abilities mean many use assistive technologies to aid their learning. Though they learn differently than their peers, they have the same interests, dreams and love of books.
Books from First Book have helped start a dialogue about disabilities at Leslie’s school. Most recently, the students read “Out of My Mind,” by Sharon Draper, featuring a main character who uses an augmentative communication device, which three of Leslie’s students also use.
Her students have been able to relate to these characters on a very personal level. Their peers have also gained a greater understanding of what life is like for kids who rely on learning tools and assistance. They are now initiating and engaging in conversations with Leslie’s students more frequently. These books have served as more than just an educational resource. They’ve become tools for developing an understanding of community and inclusivity within the school.
“The lives of our students have been truly enriched by the availability of these books,” says Leslie.
This month on Five First Book Favorites you’ll find books that help kids understand civil rights and fair wages, explore different cultures… or even explore the moon!
Take Me Out To The Yakyu By Aaron Meshon
The narrator of this delightful book is a boy who loves baseball – in two different countries! He goes to games in the U.S. with his American grandfather (pop pop) and games in Japan with his Japanese grandfather (ji ji). Bold, colorful illustrations show, side-by-side, the trip to each stadium. It’s a wonderful invitation for kids to compare and contrast two different experiences and also reflect on the countries and cultures of their own families.
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Clara Lemlich immigrated to New York with nothing aside from her family, clothes, and a few words of English. When her parents were unable to find work, she took a job as a garment factory worker – earning a few dollars a month for countless hours bent over a sewing machine. With a blend of vivid watercolors and stitched fabrics, this book tells the story of how Clara led her coworkers on strike to protest their horrendous working conditions. Bosses of the factories paid for Clara to be beaten and arrested repeatedly, but nothing could stop this gritty, five-foot tall woman from securing a better life for millions.
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca
The moment Apollo 11’s Eagle touched down on the Moon, it became a defining moment for a nation that had lived up to a President’s lofty goal. With stunning illustrations, this poetic story allows you to join Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin as they prepare for liftoff, follows them at every stage of the mission, and doesn’t let go until they are safely back home. Brian Floca has created a work of art worthy of inspiring young readers to dream beyond what is easy, and strive for what is hard.
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin
Loading 500-pound bombs into a Navy warship is, to say the least, a dangerous job. On July 17th, 1944, the fears of the untrained men who held this job became reality when an explosion claimed the lives of 320 men, the majority of whom were black. During this time, the Navy, like every other part of the United States Military, was segregated,frequently leaving black men to be treated as second class citizens serving menial roles. This masterfully crafted nonfiction book follows the fifty men who refused to go back to this life-threatening and degrading work, and the court case that followed.
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
There are few characters you will ever root for more than Doug Swieteck. On the surface, he is a good for nothing, skinny thug with a reading disability. Just ask his teachers and they’ll tell you. However in the depths of Doug Swieteck, where this book takes place, you find a boy who is trapped – one brother a bully, one a vacant shell of his pre-war self, and an abusive alcoholic for a father who has left a horrific mark on his youngest son. The secrets Doug is holding back from the reader are gut-wrenching, but with the help of a few strangers-turned-friends and a newfound passion for art, this fourteen-year-old will inspire every person lucky enough to pick up his story.
Do you know how to exercise your brain? By reading, of course!
First Book has teamed up with WWE to promote the importance of reading through the WWE Wrestlemania Reading Challenge. WWE Superstars and Divas are on the road visiting schools and showing kids throughout the country the power and strength of being a reader.
Just last week, WWE’s Jimmy and Jey Uso visited Johnson Elementary School in Denver, Colorado to share the joy of reading. Check out the video below to see their fun-filled visit.
February is Black History Month and to celebrate we’re sharing five of our favorite books that honor the history and legacy of African Americans.
If you work with kids in need, you can find these and other great titles to celebrate Black History Month on the First Book Marketplace.
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull
Before Wilma Rudolph was five years old, polio had paralyzed her left leg. Everyone said she would never walk again. But Wilma refused to believe it. Not only would she walk again, she vowed, she’d run. And she did run—all the way to the Olympics, where she became the first American woman to earn three gold medals in a single olympiad. This dramatic and inspiring true story is illustrated in bold watercolor and acrylic paintings by Caldecott Medal-winning artist David Diaz.
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier
This picture book biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. brings his life and the profound nature of his message to young children through his own words. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the most influential and gifted speakers of all time. Doreen Rappaport uses quotes from some of his most beloved speeches to tell the story of his life and his work in a simple, direct way. Bryan Collier’s stunning collage art combines remarkable watercolor paintings with vibrant patterns and textures.
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Sitting tall in the saddle, with a wide-brimmed black hat and twin Colt pistols on his belt, Bass Reeves seemed bigger than life. Outlaws feared him. Law-abiding citizens respected him. As a peace officer, he was cunning and fearless. When a lawbreaker heard Bass Reeves had his warrant, he knew it was the end of the trail, because Bass always got his man, dead or alive. Born into slavery in 1838, Bass had a hard and violent life, but he also had a strong sense of right and wrong that others admired. When Judge Isaac Parker tried to bring law and order to the lawless Indian Territories, he chose Bass to be a deputy U.S. Marshall. Bass would quickly prove a smart choice. The story of Bass Reeves is the story of a remarkable African American and a remarkable hero of the Old West.
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age–and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns about love for herself and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
“So many of our kids have access to books at the library, but rarely do they have a book of their own. In many homes, a book would represent a real luxury item.” – Kevin Ahern, President, Syracuse Teacher’s Association
With 85 percent of students in the school district eligible for free or reduced lunch, it’s no surprise that Kevin Ahern, President of the Syracuse Teachers Association, was thrilled when presented the opportunity to provide 40,000 free books to his community. All he had to do was sign up 2,000 local teachers and program leaders with First Book.
Luckily, Kevin had plenty of help. Throughout the month of October, the Syracuse Teachers Association, along with local educators, reached out to schools, community centers and the United Way of Central New York to spread the word about First Book – and the chance to receive free books.
Jennifer Horn, a First Grade teacher at Webster Elementary in Syracuse, led the charge to encourage everyone at her school to sign up. “I was knocking on people’s doors, handing them flyers, saying ‘I don’t care if you’re not a teacher, you work with our kids! These are free books, just sign up!’”
The Syracuse Teacher’s Association successfully signed up 2,000 educators. And when 40,000 books arrived, the community rallied together to unpack, sort and distribute. At one point, the show of support was so impressive that there were more volunteers than work to do.
At 8:30 a.m., those who signed up, along with community members and parents streamed through the doors of the civic center. By 11:00 a.m. only one title was left.
“I wish we had a video of the piles of books. They just dwindled and vanished. Kids were picking out books and teachers were getting collections for their classrooms. It was impressive,” said Jennifer.
Jennifer’s excitement and motivation to help stemmed from her students and their families’ need for books. At Webster Elementary, one out of six students does not speak English. In total, 68 languages are spoken through the school, adding an extra challenge to teachers and students alike. In Jennifer’s 14 years of teaching, books have bridged the gap for students like hers.
“The kids love books even if they aren’t able to read the words. They like the pictures, they love tracking words and get really excited when they learn a few words and can recognize them in print!” she shared.
Jennifer allowed her students to choose their favorite book to take home and used some of the books to teach lessons on sharing and honesty.
“One little girl kept giving her book back to me. I said ‘no you can take it home, it’s yours.’ She pointed to her backpack and I told her ‘Yes! You can put it in your backpack and take it home!’”
It’s a new year, and that means we have more glorious books to rave about! This month’s picks will spark creativity, help kids understand the experiences of others and take them on journeys to secret underground caves.
Not a Box written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis
How can you write a whole book about a box? Because it’s not a box – it’s so much more! The rabbit in this cleverly simple board book is asked repeatedly why it is sitting in, standing on, spraying, and wearing a box. Each page reveals what the rabbit’s imagination has turned the box into, from a mountain to a race car to a hot air balloon. This entertaining story is perfect for an interactive read aloud to help inspire kids to use their own imagination. Just make sure you have an empty box ready after you finish!
The Black Book of Colors written by Menena Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faría
What would it be like to be blind? This inventive book helps children think about how they might experience the world and its colors if they used only their senses of touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Readers can run their hands over the raised black drawings printed on black paper, and feel the braille letters stamped into the page. They hear about the taste of red, the smell of brown, the feel of blue, and so on. A unique and richly rewarding reading experience!
The Lion Who Stole My Arm written by Nicola Davies
This is the wonderfully suspenseful story of a boy in rural Africa who loses his arm in a lion attack. His goal is to find and kill the lion who took his arm. Then he meets a team of researchers who teach him how they use science to track lions and change his understanding of the lions’ relationship with his village. Short and satisfying, this is an engaging story (great for reluctant readers) about adapting to life with a disability and understanding the value of species and habitat conservation.
Fourth Down and Inches: Concussions and Football’s Make or Break Moment written by Carla Killough McClafferty
The knowledge that playing football can cause serious brain injury is not new. In 1905, no less than nineteen football players died from playing the sport and anti-football sentiment almost wiped it out of play. So, how and why did it continue on, becoming America’s most popular sport? This eye-opening work of nonfiction helps readers understand how football gained the popularity it has today and why it’s still the subject of heated debates about safety. A fascinating mix of science and history!
The Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story written by Peter Lane Taylor and Christos Nicola
Underneath the fields of Western Ukraine, a dark labyrinth of caves crisscross back and forth for 340 miles. The passages contain an astonishing story of despair, loyalty, and ultimately, survival. This captivating piece of nonfiction follows a team of modern cave divers as they unearth the previously unknown story of several Jewish families who lived within the cave system for over a year during Nazi occupation and the holocaust. Along with harrowing narration from the actual survivors, readers can follow the explorers underground and into the past, to witness one family’s extraordinary fight to survive.
Do you work with kids in need? We’ve got great news for you!
Our friends at Disney recently launched an innovative learning experience that encourages kids to learn by interacting with their favorite Disney characters and stories – inspiring a lifelong love of learning and creativity. The app and tools are available now to program leaders and educators serving children in need for free through the First Book Marketplace.
For some time, we’ve heard from our network of 150,000 educators and program leaders that web-based tools and interactive learning programs are incredibly important to helping the children they serve read, learn and achieve. We’ve worked hard to meet this need. And today, thanks to Disney, the programs and classrooms we serve have greater access to innovative learning apps and tools at the same time it is available to the general public.
To further support learning for kids ages 3 to 8, Disney will provide a three-year, $55 million product donation to First Book. This donation over the next three years is First Book’s largest gift targeting early childhood programs. Specifically, the commitment will provide $5 million in Disney Imagicademy apps and tools to First Book and other non-profit organizations. Disney announced its commitment on December 10 at the White House Summit on Early Education.
Teachers and educators will be able to receive free download codes from the First Book Marketplace to use the new Disney Imagicademy math app. As parents are an ever-important part of successful learning, educators will also have the opportunity to share these download codes with the families of the children they serve, allowing families to bring lessons home and be even more involved and engaged in their child’s learning.
The first app available through the First Book Marketplace is Mickey’s Magical Math World, which includes five app-based experiences in one large app that immerses children in key math-focused activities and games, including count along, sorting, add and subtract, shapes and problem solving.
The companion app for parents, Disney Imagicademy Parents, which is free on the App StoreSM, enables them to see what their children create through the apps, send digital high-fives back to their kids, ask questions to spur conversations about their child’s work and get ideas for more activities to reinforce and encourage their child’s learning.
Nicole, Ian, and Ashley from Blackboard Inc., were up to their elbows in books when they noticed some young, eager faces peeking through the windows of the school gym.
“The kids wanted to know what was going on. They kept coming over to look at the books and asking if they were going to get one,” said Nicole Marsh, Manager of Operations for Blackboard Somerset.
Nicole, Ian and Ashley were just a few of the employees from Blackboard at Hopkins Elementary that day. Over 30 volunteers were sorting, organizing and distributing over 3,500 books to children in need in their community.
Throughout September, Blackboard, which delivers technology solutions that help re-imagine education for students from pre-K through lifelong learning, had each Educational Services division compete to raise money to get books into the hands of kids through a First Book Virtual Book Drive. The site that raised the most money won the opportunity to distribute the books made possible by their fundraising efforts to area schools.
The Blackboard office in the small, rural town of Somerset, KY won the competition, raising enough money for each elementary school and one middle school in Pulaski County to receive 400 books. And they did it one cupcake and crock-pot at a time – holding potlucks and raffling off cheesecakes and a fishing trip.
The schools were incredibly grateful for the books. Thank you cards have poured into the Blackboard office since the distribution.
“I hope the children in Somerset see that not only do people out there really care about them but want to see their education go further. Education is everything, especially when kids are younger.” said Nicole, “I hope that they will see our effort and want to be involved so we can continue the cycle of events like this for children in need.”
Learn more about how you can start a Virtual Book Drive to get books to kids in need in your area.
The cold winter months are a wonderful time to share books with the people you love! Here are some great read-it-together books from the First Book Marketplace.
If you work with kids in need, you can access these books and many more by signing up with First Book.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
Sometimes the most magical stories can be told without a single word. That is certainly true of The Snowman, which has been delighting children since 1978. In this picture book, Briggs tells the story of a boy whose snowman comes to life in the night and takes him on an incredible adventure. Even though there are no words to read, the expressive and detailed illustrations make this classic a stellar pick for poring over with a loved one.
Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
When Pauline gets an idea in her head, she’s going to do something about it – even if that idea is to sell lemonade and limeade in the dead of winter! Along with her enthusiastic little brother John-John, Pauline counts up her quarters, treks to the grocery store, and sets up a stand on her front lawn. But will anyone really be outside on such a cold day? Jenkins and Karas have created two unforgettable characters that will have readers of all ages giggling (and clamoring to count coins).
Iguanas in the Snow: And Other Winter Poems / Iguanas en la Nieve: Y Otros Poemas de Invierno by Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez
Winter takes shape differently in different places. In this engaging book of bilingual poetry, Alarcón explores winter in Northern California – from the streets of San Francisco to the majestic redwood forests of the Sierras. Collections of simply-written poetry offer a great opportunity for children and adults to take turns as they read and can often inspire children to try their hands at writing their own poems.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Alvin, a Chinese-American second grader, is afraid of everything—elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. He’s so afraid of school that, while he’s there, he never, ever, says a word. Luckily, he has a loving and supportive family who help him be brave, even when it’s tough. This entertaining and endearing chapter book also features charming illustrations throughout, making it a perfect choice for reading aloud.
365 Days of Wonder by R. J. Palacio
In the #1 New York Times bestselling novel Wonder, readers were introduced to memorable English teacher Mr. Browne and his love of precepts, or principles to live by. Palacio has compiled 365 precepts into this inspiring book, celebrating kindness, hopefulness, the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills. Sharing words of wisdom with children is a wonderful way to start discussions, share values, and encourage each other.