First Book, The NEA Foundation, and Lee & Low Books Further Commitment to Increasing Diversity in Young Adult Literature With Award-winning Debut Novel
WASHINGTON (October 30, 2018)—The NEA Foundation, Lee & Low Books, and First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise committed to equal access to quality education, are expanding the Stories for All ProjectTM, First Book’s groundbreaking initiative to increase diversity and inclusion in children’s books, with the release of The Wind Called My Name, written by Mary Louise Sanchez. Sanchez is the recipient of Lee & Low’s 2016 New Visions Award, an honor given each year to a previously-unpublished author of color. With generous funding from the NEA Foundation, Lee & Low has expanded the New Visions award to publish multiple authors each year, and to create special-edition paperback editions of the books for the First Book Marketplace, (www.fbmarketplace.org), First Book’s award-winning eCommerce site that provides educators serving kids in need with access to new, high-quality books and resources at deeply reduced prices.
Through the two-year partnership, now in its second year, the NEA Foundation has also provided more than $100,000 in grants for eligible educators to purchase diverse books through the First Book Marketplace, in addition to funding affordable special edition paperbacks of eight existing diverse titles previously only available in hardcover. Free, downloadable tip sheets are available for each title, with guidelines on how educators can use the book to create opportunities for student learning and shared experiences that foster understanding both in and out of the classroom.
“We love the fact that in partnership with First Book, 28,000 of these books went home with students, and 112,000 now live in classroom and library shelves,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “We funded this initiative because we share the belief that by celebrating our similarities and differences, these books prepare us, educators, and students, to better understand ourselves and connect with others. With this initiative, we are helping educators across the country touch hearts, open minds, and shape the futures of their students.”
According to the Children’s Cooperative Book Center, of 3,700 children’s books reviewed in 2017, only nine percent featured African-American characters; eight percent featured Asian-Pacific Americans, less than six percent featured Latinx characters and less than two percent featured Native Americans. Yet, in a survey of First Book educators serving children from low income communities, where minorities are disproportionately represented, 90 percent of respondents indicated that 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.
“We are at a critical moment in the history of our country when the ability to appreciate and learn from different backgrounds and perspectives – in our schools, in our workplaces, in our communities – has never been more important,” said Kyle Zimmer, president, CEO, and co-founder of First Book. “The NEA Foundation has been a powerful leader in elevating diverse stories and discussions that further understanding and empathy in classrooms, providing educators with top-quality, relevant, and powerful resources, no matter where they teach. We are also profoundly grateful to Lee & Low Books for their expertise in identifying and publishing this breath-taking, award-winning story. Creating space and opportunity for underrepresented groups to share their stories is a priority and a privilege for all of us.”
The Wind Called My Name follows the story of 10-year-old Margarita as she moves from her ancestral family home in New Mexico to Wyoming during the Great Depression and encounters discrimination in her new town. Author Mary Louise Sanchez, who was born and raised in Wyoming, received Emerging Voices Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in 2012.
“We’re so happy to be partnering with First Book and the NEA Foundation on this innovative initiative to help make award-winning diverse books more accessible to all readers,” said Craig Low, president of Lee & Low Books. “The Wind Called My Name is a prime example of the importance of seeking out authentic voices that can help illuminate American history in a fresh way and allow us to understand each other better.”
First Book’s Stories for All ProjectTM is a market-driven initiative bringing thousands of diverse books featuring different cultures, ethnicities, languages, family structures, abilities, and experiences to the First Book Marketplace.
About First Book
First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise founded in 1992 that has distributed more than 175 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 400,000 members, is the largest and fastest-growing network of educators 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, program leaders, and others serving children in need can sign up at firstbook.org/register. For more information, please visit firstbook.org or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.
The NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a public charity founded by educators for educators to improve public education for all students. Since our beginning in 1969, the Foundation has served as a laboratory of learning, offering funding and other resources to public school educators, their schools, and districts to solve complex teaching and learning challenges. We believe that when educators unleash their own power, ideas, and voices, communities, schools, and students all benefit. Visit neafoundation.org for more information. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.
About Lee & Low Books
Established in 1991, Lee & Low Books is the largest children’s book publisher in the United States specializing in diversity. Under several imprints, the company provides a comprehensive range of notable diverse books for beginning readers through young adults. Lee & Low titles have received major awards and honors including the Coretta Scott King Award, the Pura Belpré Award, the Sibert Medal, the NAACP Image Award, and many more. Visit leeandlow.com to learn more.
 Children’s Books By and About People of Color and First/Native Nations