First Book and RIF: The Gift of Literacy

Today’s blog post comes from Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and co-founder, as part of the ‘Share a Story, Shape a Future‘ project.

Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book

I was delighted when Carol Rasco from RIF asked me to contribute a blog post to the ‘Share a Story, Shape a Future’ project, partly because this year’s theme – The Gift of Literacy – so perfectly distills First Book’s mission, and partly because Carol is a dear friend and a lovely human being. (Not to mention an undisputed master of Twitter!)

In the past I have been asked if I consider Reading is Fundamental (RIF) to be a competitor to First Book. I love this question – it gives me a chance to explain that the opposite is true. In fact, RIF and First Book have been partners in reaching children in need and our missions are complementary. RIF is on the front lines fighting the battle against illiteracy while First Book is building a supply system working to offer books and educational resources for free — or at deeply discounted prices — to heroic RIF programs and other community initiatives all over the country. The better we do our job at First Book, the further we will be able to stretch your dollars – bringing more books to more children.

‘The Gift of Literacy’ is much more than a catchy slogan. It is literally the idea behind everything that we do at First Book. No stories move me like the ones I hear – repeatedly – from teachers and program leaders who tell me about the reactions of the kids when they learn that this brand-new book is theirs to take home and keep.

I remember one young boy near my own hometown in Ohio. He came up and asked me (in his very best southern Ohio drawl) if we had any Spanish books available. When I handed him his Spanish book, I asked if he was learning Spanish in school. I’ll never forget his response – he held up his book, smiled and said: “No ma’am … but this is my big chance!”

That kid really captured what all of us at RIF and First Book are dedicated to – giving young people their ‘big chance’ to shape their own futures through the stories we share and the skills they gain through reading. As technology advances, it may not always be paper books we put into their hands; but First Book will be there working with RIF to make certain that children in need get access to the same resources as their more peers from more affluent families. They need their ‘big chance.’

And so today, as always, I tip my hat to all the amazing RIF volunteers working to share the gift of literacy with children across the country. Please let us know how we can continue to support all the wonderful work you do. And be sure to register your program with us today! We plan to distribute more than 10 million books – and digital resources – this year and would love to support as many RIF heroes as possible.

To learn more about First Book, please visit us online.