At First Book, we want to see all kids become strong readers, the critical step to succeeding in school and in life. But all too often the children we work with 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 are announcing an extraordinary step toward remedying this problem: The Stories for All Project.
We are not the first people to complain and worry about this issue. So we knew if we were actually going to make a difference we needed a market-driven solution. In short, we needed to put our money where our mouth is.
We reached out to the publishing industry with the offer to purchase $500,000 worth of 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. The response was overwhelming. In fact, we received so many great proposals that we decided to double our commitment, purchasing $500,000 worth of new titles from both HarperCollins and Lee & Low Books — $1 million worth of books altogether. We’ll be able to offer hundreds of thousands of new books to the kids we serve.
With these major purchases, First Book is continuing to harness market forces to create social change; by aggregating the untapped demand for books and resources in thousands of low-income communities, we’re helping to create a new market for the publishing industry. When that happens, they respond by publishing more titles with more relevant content. Everyone really does win, and that’s how you make real, systemic change both possible and sustainable.
This is an exciting step! But it’s just the beginning. Stay tuned for more information in the coming days and weeks about The Stories for All Project.
Join us! If you work with children from low-income neighborhoods, or know someone who does, sign up with First Book today. We have books for you too.
* In a recent survey of more than 2,000 educators from First Book schools and programs, 90 percent of respondents agreed that the children in their programs would be more enthusiastic readers if they had access to books with characters, stories and images that reflect their lives and their neighborhoods.
Kyle Zimmer is the president and CEO of First Book.