First Book will extend its philanthropic reach through a new partnership with Every Child a Reader, the charitable arm of the Children’s Book Council and sponsor of Children’s Book Week. In CBW’s first-ever book donation initiative, First Book, which since 1992 has distributed more than 160 million new books to children in need, will make a book donation to underserved young readers for each library or bookstore that participates fully in Children’s Book Week events and completes a post-CBW survey. Launched in 1919, CBW is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. This year’s celebration will take place May 1–7.
“Children’s Book Week is all about promoting a love of reading, which is critical to children’s academic success,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “We are so grateful to Every Child a Reader for this opportunity to impact as many children as possible. For children growing up in low-income families, who often have no books at home, knowing that someone believes in them enough to give them a brand-new book can be significant, and First Book is thrilled to help make that happen.”
Statistics underscore the importance of First Book’s mission. Though book ownership and a print-rich environment are leading indicators of a child’s educational success, for 32 million children growing up in low-income families in the U.S. alone, books are scarce. A recent study conducted by education researcher Susan B. Neuman identified vast “book deserts” across the country, where communities have only a single book to be shared among as many as 830 children. First Book strives to help attain educational equity by serving educators working with children in need across a wide range of settings, including classrooms, summer and park-and-rec programs, health clinics, homeless shelters, faith-based programs, libraries, and museums.
Shaina Birkhead, programming and strategic partnerships director of the CBC and Every Child a Reader, welcomes the opportunity to join forces with First Book to support its work. “First Book’s impact on children in need is extraordinary,” she said, “and we feel lucky and privileged to be working in concert with them to help make a change in so many young people’s lives, and extending the reach of Children’s Book Week.”
Booksellers, librarians, teachers, and others can find information about participating in CBW and supporting the book donation venture on Every Child a Reader’s website.
One eager participant is Diane Capriola, co-owner of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga. “We are always eager to find new ways to connect children with books, and for many years, Children’s Book Week has provided an excellent platform for that,” she said. "We’re excited about the donation component through First Book, since it adds a powerful layer to the weeklong celebration, and also means greater access to books for all kids.”