Reconnecting McDowell: First Book Joins the Effort to Rescue a West Virginia Community

“Our kids don’t get to have dreams, aspirations, hopes. They can’t even think about college; it’s not in their minds. That’s why these books are so important. Books are the beginning of everything. You learn about other places, you learn about the world.”

— Angela Fedele of the WE CAN Program, a statewide program based in Princeton, W.Va., that provides volunteer mentors for at-risk kids

Chandler Arnold, First Book's executive vice-president, talks with local kids in McDowell County, West Virginia

McDowell County, West Virginia, home to about 22,000 people, is one of the poorest counties in the state, and ranked last in education. Which is why First Book has joined a coalition of businesses, labor unions and nonprofits – more than 40 local, state and national groups altogether – who are working to change that.

For our part, First Book has pledged to provide a brand-new book to every student in McDowell County, books chosen by the local teachers and program leaders who work with the kids. And that’s just the beginning: We distributed 300,000 brand-new books in West Virginia in the last few years, and we’re working with almost 500 local classrooms and programs across the state. Every one of those kids is connected to an ongoing supply of new books through First Book.

“We’re here today because we want to level the educational playing field,” said Chandler Arnold, First Book’s executive vice-president, speaking yesterday at the kickoff ceremony in Charleston. “We want to ensure that the children of McDowell County have access to a steady supply of top-notch books and educational resources.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten shares a new book from First Book with a student in McDowell County , West VirginiaLean more about the project, led by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), at Reconnecting McDowell.

Help us get the word out, West Virginia! If you work for a school or program that serves children from low-income families, or if you’d like to help your child’s teacher or program leader get new books, sign up with First Book. And if you’d like to join one of our local volunteer groups, we’d love to hear from you.