First Book was part of all kinds of great events across the country for Read Across America Day on Friday, including a tremendous partnership in the city of Newark. Working with some great local nonprofits, we were able to provide almost 17,000 brand-new books — including plenty of Dr. Seuss titles, since Read Across America Day is Dr. Seuss’s birthday — to students at eight Title I public schools in Newark.
We got to meet lots of amazing kids at Belmont-Runyon Elementary, along with some of the educators and public servants that do so much and put so much of themselves into their work.
“I’m just so happy that our kids in Newark are getting thousands of books,” said Mayor Cory Booker. “Not put in libraries or in schools, but actually put in their hands for them to own.”
As always, the best part was seeing the looks on the children’s faces when they were given new books of their own to keep. You might think it was just the excitement any child feels when they’re being given shiny new things, but almost every one of those kids sat down to open their new Dr. Seuss books and start reading them — right there on the floor.
Most kids from low-income families have no books of their own at home. A new book is more than just a novelty for kids like the ones at Belmont-Runyon Elementary; it’s a rare treasure. To see how eager they are to read, you only need to hand them a book.
“The kids love getting these books, they’re really excited about it,” said Lois Myers, librarian at Belmont-Runyon Elementary. “They say ‘We get to keep these books!?’”
First Book doesn’t haul a truckload of books up and dump them on the doorstep. We work carefully with local partners to ensure that the books are part of an ongoing effort to transform children’s lives and elevate the quality of their education.
- The educators at the Newark schools selected quality titles that they knew their kids would respond to.
- Community groups like New Jersey After 3 and the Foundation for Newark’s Future brought in authors to read to the children and coordinated a school-wide assembly to celebrate books and reading.
- Anne Feeley, a generous donor (and Newark native) provided funding to help make everything possible through the Foundation for Newark’s Future’s “My Very Own Library” initiative.
- Local leaders like Mayor Booker made time to spend the day with the children, to entertain them and to let them know they were important.
- Volunteers and parents decorated the auditorium with a Dr. Seuss theme that would have put professional set designers to shame.
We were proud to be a part of an event like this, and happy to bring the books.
Just like we’d be proud to work with people and organizations anywhere who care about improving the lives of the most vulnerable children in their community. When we all work together, we make big things happen.
If you’d like to support First Book’s work, volunteer in your community, or sign up your Title I school or local nonprofit to get new books, we’d love to hear from you.