Mary Pope Osborne visiting a classroom.

First Book Engages Children’s Authors and Illustrators With Expansion of Advocacy Program

First Book’s Authors and Illustrators in Action Program engages authors and illustrators to help fill the all-too-often empty bookshelves of kids in need

WASHINGTON (November 20, 2017) – Today, First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise focused on equal access to quality education for kids in need, expanded Authors and Illustrators in Action, its program that seeks to harness the talents and passion of children’s book creators as advocates for broader access to books for children in low-income communities. Launched in 2013, First Book’s Authors and Illustrators in Action program, which includes participants Mac Barnett, Deborah Freedman, Meg Medina, Brad Meltzer, Mary Pope Osborne, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Jason Reynolds, and Mo Willems, aims to raise awareness of First Book’s mission and the role of education as a pathway out of poverty.

Lack of access to adequate books and resources is the single greatest contributor to educational inequity in the United States, and recent research identified vast ‘book deserts’ concentrated in low-income communities across the U.S.—with one community having only a single book to be shared among as many as 830 children.[1] With school funding still below pre-recession levels in 23 states, and with afterschool and youth programs challenged for means to keep children engaged, the need for resources is taking on a more acute sense of urgency.[2] The urgency is reflected in the monumental growth of the First Book Network, which has grown more than 40 percent since 2016 and now numbers more than 350,000 educators who exclusively serve children in need—or more than 25 percent of the estimated 1.3 million classrooms in low-income, under-resourced communities in the U.S. alone.

“Authors and illustrators care deeply about the children and young adults we write for, and no one understands the difference that books can make quite like we do,” Pinkney said. “The profound disparity in access to books—and its effect on children’s education and future opportunities—is an injustice that weighs on the heart of our profession and touches us on a personal level. There is not a one of us that can fathom a world where a child is never able to discover the joy of reading. That’s why First Book’s Authors and Illustrators in Action program is so important—it is an opportunity for us to make a tangible, necessary difference in the lives of children and their families.”

First Book has invited authors and illustrators to support the organization’s mission by activating the audiences they reach through social media, school and library visits, and other platforms. Participants, once registered with First Book as a member of Authors and Illustrators in Action, will connect schools and community programs with First Book for ongoing access to books, resources, and educator support materials. They will additionally connect potential funders with opportunities to provide financial support for deeply under-resourced schools and programs through First Book’s award-winning nonprofit ecommerce platforms, the First Book Marketplace ( and and the First Book National Bank Book (

“Expanding Authors and Illustrators in Action seems critical at this moment in time, when there is still such an acute gap in access to books and educational resources that impacts our children and their futures so deeply,” said Kerri Poore, director of publisher and author relations at First Book. “First Book is privileged to work with so many authors and illustrators who are invested in bringing books to kids who may otherwise not have books at all. We are so grateful for their commitment and their partnership.”

As part of the Authors and Illustrators in Action program, First Book and award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Bryan and the Ashley Bryan Center are currently distributing 15,000 special edition copies of Bryan’s “Beautiful Blackbird” to children in need in three states. In 2016, First Book worked with Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing to distribute 20,000 copies of award-winning author Jason Reynolds’ books to classrooms and programs serving low-income students nationwide. Mary Pope Osborne, award-winning author of the “Magic Tree House,” has worked side-by-side with First Book for years to distribute millions of copies of her books to children in need and the educators who serve them.

First Book, which has operations in both the U.S. and Canada, works with formal and informal educators serving children in need, aged between 0-18 years in a wide range of settings – from schools, classrooms, summer school and parks and recreational programs, to health clinics, homeless shelters, faith-based programs, libraries, museums, summer food sites and more. Through a sustainable business model, First Book removes the barriers to learning for eligible classrooms and programs by providing everything from books to backpacks, and technology to toothpaste, all at free or deeply affordable prices.

Authors and illustrators can register for the Authors and Illustrators in Action program at


About First Book

First Book transforms the lives of children in need. Through a sustainable, market-driven model, First Book is creating equal access to quality education — making everything from brand-new, high-quality books and educational resources, to sports equipment, winter coats, snacks, and more – affordable to its member network of more than 350,000 educators who exclusively serve kids in need. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 170 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families in more than 30 countries. First Book currently reaches an average of 3 million children every year and supports more than one in four of the estimated 1.3 million classrooms and programs serving children in need. With an additional 1,000 educators joining each week, First Book is the largest and fastest-growing network of educators in the United States exclusively serving kids in need.

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.

[1] Susan B. Neuman, Naomi Moland. “Book Deserts.” Urban Education, 2016. DOI: 10.1177/0042085916654525

[2] Michael Leachman, Kathleen Masterson, and Marlana Wallace. “After Nearly a Decade, School Investments Still Way Down in Some States,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; October 20, 2016.