OMG Books! How First Book is Putting Half a Million Dollars on the Table to Make Sure Kids Get the Books They Need.

UPDATE: So many publishers have expressed interest that we’ve extended the deadline for proposals until Friday, Feb. 8 at 9 pm ET. (If you’re a publisher and have already submitted materials, feel free to make changes and send it back in. Questions? Email

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First Book event in Washington DCAt First Book, we do everything in our power to make sure that kids from low-income families are getting the books they need. So we don’t just drop a box of used books off at the door. We work hard to make sure we offer Newbery and Caldecott winners, popular titles, books that kids want to read. The books are always brand-new, and we let the educators closest to the children make the decisions about which titles their kids will respond to.

But all too often, kids from low-income neighborhoods — if they have books at all — have books with characters and stories that aren’t relevant to their lives. And that makes it harder to turn them on to reading.

So today we’re taking another big step to make sure we’re doing everything we can to turn those kids into readers. We’ve reached out to our friends in the publishing industry with an extraordinary offer.

As the centerpiece of our new OMG Books (Offering More Great Books) initiative, we’re stepping up with $500,000 to purchase hundreds of thousands of new books featuring voices that are rarely represented in children’s literature: minorities, characters of color, and others whose experiences resonate with the children we serve, characters and stories that are relevant to their lives.

The First Book MarketplaceWe already work closely with leading publishers to provide new books for teachers and program leaders serving children in need. Last year we purchased three million new books from major publishers, which we made available – at significant discounts – to the 50,000 schools and programs in our national network, through the First Book Marketplace.

At first, this approach seems unusual to some people. Why are we selling books to programs? Why aren’t we just giving them away?

Actually, we are giving books away — millions of them every year — through our National Book Bank program. But the First Book Marketplace is a different kind of innovation.

Through the First Book Marketplace, we’re aggregating the buying power of tens of thousands of Title I classrooms, after-school programs, homeless shelters and others serving the most vulnerable children. Those classrooms and programs may not have the funds to go into a bookstore and buy books at retail prices, but when they come together through First Book, they represent a real market for the publishing industry. Which, in turn, benefits by reaching new customers they wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.

This new initiative is a big deal, and we’re excited! The offer is out to every leading publisher, and we’re already getting back proposals. We’ll share more news as soon as we have it.

NOTE: If you work for a publisher, or are just interested in fine print, check out the request here. All proposals welcome!