First Book, a nonprofit organization that provides new books and educational materials to school and organizations serving children in need in the U.S. and Canada, is expanding the scope of its enterprise. During the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, held September 23–36 in New York City and hosted by former President Bill Clinton, First Book announced its CGI Commitment to Action, unveiling its plan to extend its program globally and bring books and resources to 10 million children worldwide by 2016. The group, which has partnered with publishers to distribute more than 100 million new books since 1992, will focus its new efforts initially in India, Brazil, Egypt, and other parts of the Middle East.
To take its flagship book distribution model to the global level, the organization has launched the First Book Global Marketplace, making culturally relevant books available for purchase, at deep discounts, by educators and organizations serving children in poverty. The initial selection of titles includes books in English, French, and Spanish; stories from India, Tanzania, Tibet, and Cambodia; and other titles with universal appeal. First Book will continue working with publishers to add more titles for which they have global distribution rights.
“The new Global Marketplace launched with nearly 1,000 titles, and features content from publishers from around the world, reflecting a range of cultures,” explained Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “For more than 20 years, we’ve focused on increasing the diversity of the books we’ve distributed in the U.S. and Canada to reflect the whole spectrum of the population in those countries, so that children not only see themselves in book characters, but are introduced to characters from other cultures as well. The Global Marketplace is a wonderful opportunity to turn up the volume on that diversity in books for kids from cultures across the world.”
U.S. publishers that First Book partnered with for the new project include Random House, HarperCollins, Penguin, Macmillan, Barefoot Books, National Geographic, Lee & Low, and Disney.
First Book’s global initiative will include e-books and digital resources as well as traditional print content. “We are a cautious group, and test the waters before we take on something new,” said Zimmer. “We have done enough on the e-book front to know that we can do it well, and that digital content is needed by the people we are serving. Those are our two biggest criteria.”
The goal of First Book’s three-year, $9-million global initiative project is to increase the number of books and resources distributed to children in need from 12 million units annually in North America to 30 units annually worldwide by 2016, laying the groundwork for further growth. The global outreach includes a focus on supporting girls and young women. “We will be growing quite aggressively, which is very thrilling,” said Zimmer. “And we still have a lot more coming, so stay tuned.”