Investing in Education: Kyle Zimmer's Reaction to the State of the Union

“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.” — President Barack Obama

I was grateful to hear the president talk about early childhood education tonight, and the enormous impact it has on our nation.

Lack of access to education and resources for America’s most vulnerable children is a national crisis, every bit as serious as immigration reform, gun control and the national debt. But unlike so many other complex problems, this is one we know how to solve.

We have been talking about these children for generations. All that’s lacking is the political will.

Although the issues we face are complex, we know that early childhood education is the most straightforward solution; every study shows that there’s nothing more valuable than turning a child into a reader at an early age. They enter school with greater knowledge and vocabularies; they do better not just on reading tests, but on math tests. They have the foundation they need to succeed — in school and in life.

We know what happens otherwise. As President Obama alluded to, kids who drop out of high school are far more likely to be jobless, become teen parents, or end up in prison, and far less likely to become informed, engaged citizens. While we debate endlessly, an entire generation of leaders, thinkers, engineers, artists and writers is being lost to us for lack of opportunities and resources.

Children from low-income neighborhoods are the most vulnerable. 80 percent of the preschools and after school programs serving children in need do not have a single book for the children they serve. In some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country there is only one book available for every 300 children.

First Book, the organization I lead, is committed to helping the 30 million American children living in low-income neighborhoods become success stories. We work with local educators and community leaders across the country to supply them with new, high-quality books. They understand the needs of the children and families in their community, and First Book provides them with the books and educational resources they need.

So I urge all of you to get involved right now. If you work with kids in need at a Title I school, Head Start center or community program, sign up with First Book today to get new, high-quality books for your kids. You can also volunteer, or donate to support our work.

This is a crisis, but it’s one that we can solve. And — if we work together — we will.

Kyle Zimmer is president and CEO of First Book.

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