First Book Dramatically Expands Access to Free Books and Educational Resources for Children in Need, Citing Rapid Growth in Demand

First Book National Book Bank launches new platform granting full-time access to resources as the nonprofit social enterprise reports 40 percent increase in registered network

WASHINGTON, March 7, 2017 – With school funding in more than 23 states still below pre-recession levels, and with afterschool and youth programs challenged for means to keep children engaged and learning outside of school, the unfulfilled demand for books and educational resources in low-income areas continues to accelerate. More than half (51 percent) of U.S. public school children now come from these under resourced communities, signaling an unprecedented resource gap among the nation’s schools, libraries, and programs.

In response to this need, First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise that addresses educational inequity, has invested in a dramatic expansion of the First Book National Book, which provides eligible educators serving low-income children ages birth to 18 with free books, in bulk quantities, for only the cost of shipping and handling. Originally launched in 1998, the First Book National Book Bank was the first — and remains the only — centralized distribution system for large-scale donations of children’s books from publishers to schools and programs serving kids in need, recovering millions of books from the retail system that would otherwise be destroyed. Today, the First Book National Book Bank distributes more than 10 million books annually.

First Book’s newly redesigned National Book Bank web site at has replaced its prior ordering system with an always-on, highly efficient e-commerce site featuring:

  • Continuously available inventory, with no waiting or application, greatly streamlining the order process for time-pressed educators
  • Powerful navigation and search, allowing teachers and program leaders to find the books they need according to age range and genre, as well as popular recommendations from other First Book registered educators
  • Expanded product descriptions to provide greater information about the books on the site
  • Expedited ordering, with detailed shipping and handling information
  • Customer dashboard, displaying order history and status
  • “For decades we have fiercely collaborated with our colleagues in the children’s publishing industry to ensure that valuable new books were redirected into the hands of kids who would never have the resources to buy them at retail,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book president and CEO.
  • “This investment in the complete redesign of our First Book National Book Bank platform allows us to accelerate access to meet the staggering need.”

300,000 Educators; 160 Million Books

The demand for books and educational resources has also propelled First Book’s achievement of two major milestones: the distribution of its 160 millionth book since its founding 24 years ago, and exceeding 300,000 educators registered with its network throughout the U.S. – representing a nearly 40 percent increase in the number of educators since the beginning of 2016, and continuing First Book’s position as the largest and fastest growing educational network exclusively serving children in need in North America. First Book now supports 23 percent — nearly one in four —of the estimated 1.3 million formal and informal educators working in the lives of children in need in the U.S.

“The rapid growth of First Book’s network of educators is evidence of both the intense need among this underserved population, and the importance of fueling learning with the broadest educational resources possible through our nonprofit social enterprise model,” said Zimmer. “With an estimated 32 million children growing up in low-income families we know it’s critical to expand and build new partnerships with publishers, educators, suppliers, corporations and funders, to improve educational equity and transform the lives of millions of children.”

Recent studies by education researcher Susan Neuman identified vast “book deserts” across the United States, where some communities have only a single book to be shared among as many as 830 children. Educators working with underserved children in a wide range of settings are eligible to work with First Book, from classrooms, summer school and park and rec programs, to health clinics, homeless shelters, faith-based programs, libraries, museums, summer food sites and more.

In 2016, First Book also launched its redesigned First Book Marketplace, the organization’s award-winning e-commerce site, where educators can access high-quality, new books in customized quantities, along with computers and laptops, learning materials and essential items, including socks, underwear, and non-perishable snacks, all specially curated to address the needs of children from low-income families. Through a built-in feedback loop, as well as polls and surveys, educators drive the resources and tools they need for the children they serve, including First Book’s extensive “Stories for All Project”TM collection of titles in Spanish and those with diverse characters. A social enterprise, First Book aggregates the voice and purchasing power of these educators to create a market-driven solution that is responsive to educator needs, with all resources provided at the lowest possible prices or for free. In addition, First Book recruits third-party funding through individual donors, corporate funders and foundations for schools and programs that have low or no budget for books and other resources.


About First Book

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise founded in 1992 that has distributed more than 160 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada, which, with more than 300,000 members, is the largest and fastest growing network of educators exclusively serving kids in need. By making new, high-quality books and educational resources available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education. Eligible educators, librarians, providers, and others serving children in need can sign up at For more information, please visit or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

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