* Click on the graphic to see a bigger, snazzier version.
Learn more about how First Book provides new books to kids in need, and how you can get involved, at firstbook.org.
* Click on the graphic to see a bigger, snazzier version.
Learn more about how First Book provides new books to kids in need, and how you can get involved, at firstbook.org.
This morning at Martha’s Table, an amazing community program serving homeless families in Washington DC, First Book distributed our 100 millionth brand-new book. (Check out this great story on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer.)
That’s not a typo. Since the organization was founded in 1992, First Book has provided 100 million brand-new, high-quality children’s books to kids in need throughout the United States.
We couldn’t decide what the actual 100 millionth book should be, so we let the people decide! Over 12,000 votes were cast in our ‘Ten Books Every Child Should Own’ contest.
And the winner?
“Green Eggs & Ham”, by Dr. Seuss!
Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and co-founder, presented Chase-Kennedy Williams, age 4, with her very own copy of “Green Eggs & Ham”. Afterwards Kyle read the book to Chase-Kennedy and her classmates, after which they each got their own copy of the book to take home.
Watching Kyle give that book to little Chase-Kennedy was an incredible moment for everyone at First Book. The look on her face is one we’ve seen thousands and thousands of times when kids who have few or no books of their own are given a brand-new, beloved book of their very own, but we never get tired of it.
Martha’s Table has a special place in our hearts here at First Book. Not only is it a terrific program that does an enormous amount of good for children and families in our home town of Washington DC, it’s where First Book was born twenty years ago, when Kyle, then a corporate lawyer volunteering in her spare time, realized that the children she was working with had no books of their own at home. She founded First Book, along with two friends, to ensure that those children, and others, would have access to the books they needed.
A big thank you is due to all the many partners and donors who help make our work possible, along with the heroic educators at programs like Martha’s Table across the country who are on the front lines every day. We couldn’t do it without you!
Okay, celebration’s over. Back to work. 100 million books is a whole lot of books, but there are plenty more kids out there waiting for us.
Want to help distribute the next 100 million books? Click here to get involved.
At First Book, everything we do is focused on putting new books into the hands of kids in need; that’s the big idea. But there are some other important ideas that go into that.
One of these is the concept of ‘civic consumption’. If consumers, as a group, make buying decisions that support socially responsible and sustainable business practices, companies will respond to that pressure by changing how they do business.
Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and CEO, explains this idea in a new article on Fast Company’s Co.EXIST blog:
[T]oday’s customer has a much more nuanced set of concerns that they are looking to address with their purchasing power. In addition to low price and high quality, today’s consumer wants to know how the goods are sourced, whether the manufacturer was fair to labor, what the environmental footprint is, and if the company is a good corporate citizen. The social sector has driven the cause of consumer consciousness to a level that is unprecedented, and very healthy for the marketplace and for the world.
Civic consumption takes this one step further, allowing those conscious consumers to band together their purchasing power and leverage that demand to ensure producers provide socially and environmentally beneficial goods and services at competitive prices
This approach is critical to how First Book works, especially in the First Book Marketplace, where we make a wide range of high-quality children’s books (and other resources) available to the schools and programs in our network.
As Kyle explains, the Marketplace is a great example of civic consumption in action.
Another benefit? The publishing industry is much more willing to create the kinds of books these programs need when we can show them 35,000 potential customers; books like bilingual versions of award-winning titles, and “high-interest, low-level” books (titles that are written at a lower reading level for kids who are behind, but still focused on topics that will interest them; an eighth-grader reading at a third-grade level won’t become a strong reader if we can only offer him books about third-grade topics).
First Book’s success — we’ve distributed almost 100 million books over the past twenty years — is proof of the strength of this idea, and, as Kyle writes in her piece, the more we support this way of thinking, the better off we’ll be:
The rise of civic consumption will not only push businesses that are stuck in traditional thinking, it will also promote the development of hybrid companies that will thrive in the civic consumption marketplace.
Consumers are looking for a reordering of corporate priorities that is real and lasting, and the economy needs this kind of dynamic change.
“There is a great deal of noise on the stairs but nobody comes into the room.”
– John F. Kennedy
President Kennedy was referencing a Chinese proverb when he said that, making the point that it was easy to talk about problems, but much more difficult to fix them.
Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and CEO, is in China herself this week, addressing the World Economic Forum’s ‘Annual Meeting of the New Champions’ in Tianjin, the foremost gathering of business and nonprofit leaders in Asia. She’s there to talk about subjects near and dear to our hearts – social entrepreneurship and social impact investing.
Social entrepreneurship is a new way of doing business, a hybrid of traditional nonprofits and for-profit companies that uses market forces to create social change. (Click here to read a recent blog post by Kyle where she explains what social entrepreneurship is and how it can change the world.)
Social impact investing is a related concept; the idea of channeling investment toward mission-driven businesses and entrepreneurial nonprofits that are working to solve social problems.
Fundamentally there are holes on both the investor side and the social entrepreneur’s side of the aisle.
On the investor side, there is far more talk than there is traction. Certainly, a few funds have been established that focus on social investment, but it is difficult to see these as more than traditional charity, dressed up as investment.
Creative new designs in the financial category to address this need have been discussed for years, but few have made it to market. This lack of significant innovation by the investment community has been a major roadblock to the expansion of the social sector. Enterprises reach a certain level of growth and then choke from the lack of capital.
Like any new idea, there’s a lot of work to be done. But Kyle is hopeful about the future, saying: “There we were all in a room at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions – financial institutions and representatives of the social sector — talking about the challenges, which is a great step toward a cure.”
At First Book, we’re working towards a new kind of solution to an old and intractable problem – how to ensure that the 30 million kids in the United States (and soon, around the globe) living in low-income families get the books and resources they need to succeed. Click here to learn some ways you can get involved.
This is our new challenge. Today I am calling on AFT members to partner with First Book to distribute five million new books this year to students in need.
– Randi Weingarten, AFT president
First Book was in Detroit over the weekend, attending the annual convention of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions.
Teachers are some of our favorite people; more than anyone, they understand the importance of books and reading, and why an ongoing supply of quality books is so important for turning kids into strong readers and successful students.
We’re especially excited to be working with the 1.5 million teachers, librarians and school staff that make up the AFT. Over the past year, we’ve completed successful pilot projects together in over 20 cities across the country, putting nearly 250,000 new books into the hands of children from low-income families.
Now the AFT is stepping up to do even more. At the convention, AFT president Randi Weingarten challenged the assembled educators to distribute five million new books over the next year.
“By working with our friends in the AFT, we’re able to reach thousands more schools serving kids in need,” said First Book president Kyle Zimmer. “The dedication of these educators is inspiring. Everyone at First Book is proud to be able to help them make a difference in their students’ lives.”
Any teachers, librarians or school staff working with children from low-income families can sign up with First Book to access a steady stream of new, quality books.
Click below to see a video of Kyle talking to the assembled AFT educators about our work together, and about her memories of Mrs. Evans, her own unforgettable first-grade teacher.
A single consumer isn’t able to change much about how a given company does business. But when thousands of customers join together and speak with a single voice, corporate leaders pay attention and make changes – whether it’s revising business practices, yanking advertising or offering new products or services.
This idea, the power that comes from aggregating consumers, may not seem important to a nonprofit, but it’s actually at the heart of what First Book does.
The problem we’re working to solve is the lack of access to books and educational materials for kids from low-income families. The schools and programs they attend usually don’t have the resources to buy new books, and neither do their families. So these kids miss out on the single most important thing they need to become strong readers and successful students. And many of them lose their chance to become the scientist, engineer, electrician, doctor or teacher that they have the potential (and desire) to become. When that happens, we all lose.
And the private sector loses too. The publishing industry loses money because those children can’t buy books, and they lose future customers because those children never become readers.
But … if we can bring enough teachers and program leaders together, we can pool their limited resources and create a new, untapped market for the publishers. Not to mention creating future customers, and – most crucially – a stronger, better-educated society for everyone. Everyone really does win.
There’s an excellent piece by Will Byrne, co-founder of the nonprofit Groundswell, in Fast Company’s Co.EXIST blog describing this phenomenon:
With purchasing power, we can help business leaders to deliver social benefits while also meeting their bottom line, creating local markets that reward those who do. People, given a path that does not set them back economically, will make choices as consumers that do good for their world. And, just as important, business leaders will as well.
It’s a good idea, right? It’s also what First Book is all about.
(In the piece, Byrne recognizes First Book’s president, Kyle Zimmer, and her contributions to this important way of thinking. But that just proves that he’s on the right track.)
That’s why, when we meet new teachers and community leaders, and tell them to sign up with First Book to get new books, we make the point that the more groups we connect with, the more books we’ll be able to get them, at lower cost.
It sounds like magic, but it’s actually simple. First Book exists to aggregate the purchasing power of the hundreds of thousands of Title I schools, mentoring programs, food banks, homeless shelters and church groups that work with kids in need, and our power to make change grows as we grow … together.
Exciting news! First Book will now be offering Cricket and other award-winning kid’s magazines to the 27,000 schools and programs in our national network.
Thanks to our friends at ePals, we’ll be able to offer their full range of children’s magazine titles, including Cricket, Ladybug and Spider. These magazines are terrific; they’ve won pretty much every award possible, and they are loved by teachers and kids.
“This is exactly the sort of content First Book strives to bring to kids in need, so they’ll have the same great opportunities to fall in love with reading as more affluent children,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “We’re really excited about being able to offer these magazines to the schools and programs we work with.”
The magazines will be available through the First Book Marketplace, our website available exclusively to teachers and program leaders who work with children from low-income families. An annual classroom subscription – 30 copies of each issue – retails for $1,018, but is available through First Book for $513.
If you work with children in need, sign up with First Book to get these great magazines for your kids. We also carry over 2,000 book titles at deeply-discounted prices, and distribute millions more every year – free of charge – to the programs in our network.
We’re proud to announce that First Book has earned a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the highest possible ranking from America’s premier charity evaluator.
“We’ve been putting new books into the hands of children and teachers for twenty years. The work that we do helps transform the lives of kids in need, and we’re delighted to be recognized by Charity Navigator. We want our donors to feel confident that we’re putting their hard-earned gifts to good use, and this rating proves that.”
– Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book
At First Book, we work hard to make sure we’re creating the greatest possible impact as efficiently as we can, and we’re proud to have earned this distinction. We’re grateful to all of you for supporting our work, and we’re glad to show you that we’re using your donations responsibly.
Click here to donate! At First Book, 95 cents out of every dollar goes directly to putting news books into the hands of kids in need in communities across the country.
Twenty years ago I was volunteering every week at a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C., where I met the most amazing children and families. As I got to know them, I saw how much they had to struggle, but I also saw how bright they were and how motivated they were to succeed.
I also learned that most of them didn’t have a single book to call their own, and that broke my heart.
So, along with two good friends, I started First Book, to make sure those kids, and kids like them all across the country, would have brand-new books of their own, and to make sure that the teachers and program leaders working with these children every day would have the books and resources they need to do their jobs.
Twenty years later, First Book has distributed over 90 million books to kids in need, we work with a national network of over 25,000 schools and programs and we have local volunteers raising money in over 150 cities. Volunteers, corporate partners and publishers, working hand-in-hand with teachers, librarians and local nonprofit leaders … it humbles and amazes me how much we’ve been able to accomplish together, and how many lives we’ve been able to change for the better.
But we’ve only just scratched the surface. There are 30 million children living in low-income households in the United States, and we’re only reaching a fraction of them. They’re waiting for us, and they can’t wait any longer.
So we’ve got some big plans to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Before this year is over, we’re going to distribute another 10 million new books, recruit local volunteers in 30 additional cities, and double the number of schools and programs that are connected to First Book’s resources, from 25,000 to 50,000.
We’ve come so far together, and have made so much progress, but there’s more to be done. Join us!
A social entrepreneur is someone who sees a social problem — like hunger, homelessness or lack of access to clean water — and looks for ways to solve it. Unlike more traditional business entrepreneurs, who are trying to generate profits, social entrepreneurs are trying to change society. Long-term change is important, not just solutions to the immediate problems.
At First Book, the problem we’ve been working on for twenty years is the unbelievable lack of books and other educational materials faced by children from low-income families. Books are painfully scarce for many of these kids; one study that never fails to shock showed that there is only one book available for every 300 children in some of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the country.
First Book works by giving the teachers, librarians and local program leaders that work with these kids ongoing access to the new, quality books they need to do their jobs. Giving a child a new book of their own is a powerful thing, but the real impact comes from making sure they have books throughout their lives, from before they enter kindergarten until they graduate — with honors — from high school.
So we were pleased to see ourselves listed as one of the five examples of nonprofits around the world providing “innovative yet pragmatic approaches to solving social problems” in a new report from the respected financial services company Credit Suisse.
The report, “Investing for Impact: How social entrepreneurship is redefining the meaning of return”, was just released at the World Economic Forum in Davos. You can learn more about it, and download a copy for yourself, online here.
In it, the Credit Suisse analysts have this to say:
[T]he potential of growing efforts to deliver entrepreneurial solutions to global problems is bigger than ever before – as are the opportunities to channel private capital toward social and environmental issues.
The report also quotes Mark Kramer, the co-founder and managing director of social impact consulting firm FSG:
Many investors and philanthropists are turning to impact investments as equally valid and in some cases even more effective vehicles for social change than pure charity. To complement this growing interest, a number of new innovations are emerging in the field, ranging from new financial tools to better metrics for social impact to new impact investing funds.
All that may sound a little dry, but it’s actually really exciting stuff. First Book, and groups like it around the world, are charting the way to better and more equitable societies.
But doing so requires support and funding on a large scale, so it’s a big deal that the international investment community is paying close attention to the work that we’re doing and the impact that we’re having.