How Do You Make Every Start a Great Start When Kids Go Back to School?

Imagine not owning a book. Think about what you’d do if you couldn’t afford school supplies. How would it affect your life? Your children’s lives?

Sean Bellamy is a third-grade teacher in Washington, D.C.

Sadly, this is a reality for many Americans. In fact, 61% of low-income children have no children’s books at home, and half of all public school students are from low-income families. These financial hardships prevent students from having an equal start to the school year.

And that equal start is imperative, says Sean Bellamy, a third-grade teacher in Washington, D.C.

“I feel it’s really important that everyone has the same things in my classroom,” Bellamy said. “If we all have the same things, we all have the same start.”

Bellamy goes so far as digging through bins so all the notebooks are the same color.

“One of the things I make clear at the beginning of the year is that in order for us to run the same race, we have to have the same start,” he said.

That equal starting line helps foster a sense of community in his classroom. All his students are on equal footing, so no one feels inadequate.

“Equity starts at the beginning… We don’t average up at the end. We make sure that everybody has the same starting line.”

He also hopes it reduces their worries and stress.

“You don’t have to worry about buying notebooks. Mr. Bellamy bought you notebooks,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about buying pens and pencils. Mr. Bellamy bought that for you. So the only thing you have to do is just come here, work hard, and do your best.”

And when virtually all public school teachers are spending their own money on supplies, it’s crucial that their dollars stretch as far as possible.

That’s why Bellamy is a member of the First Book community of educators.

“I have families who have had to choose between food and school supplies, so I feel like any time we can give or loan, it makes a huge difference.” 

When his students don’t have books at home to read, he loans them books and gives them time during the school day to read.

“I believe that equity starts at the beginning and not at the end,” he said. “We don’t average up at the end. We make sure that everybody has the same starting line.”


How can we ensure every start is a great start when kids go back to school this year?

  • If you’re an educator serving children in need, register with First Book.
  • If you want to help make a difference for teachers heading back to school, click here to donate to First Book. Through September 6, 2018 a $3 gift will provide 2 books to a child, thanks to a generous group of donors who will match every donation.