The First Book Accelerator spurs expert-developed, evidence-based strategies to classrooms and programs serving kids in need, decreasing time-to-market from years to weeks
WASHINGTON (Jan. 22, 2019) – In the business community there is a race to introduce the latest innovations into the marketplace; yet in the field of education, research-based strategies often never reach classrooms and programs serving children growing up in deeply under-resourced, low-income communities. To address this market failure, First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise focused on equal access to quality education, today announced the launch of the First Book Accelerator, an initiative that dramatically decreases the time-to-market for current, evidence-based strategies and resources to reach educators serving children in need – from years to weeks.
“The U.S. and other countries excel at producing research-based strategies for educational excellence from the most highly regarded institutions, but there is a disastrous lack of connection between these thought leaders and the field of practicing educators serving children in need,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book president, CEO, and co-founder. “We cannot afford to lose the potential of a single child, but the challenges of poverty – affecting nearly 32 million U.S. children – are holding our children hostage. Through the First Book Accelerator, First Book is addressing the most pressing needs identified by the teachers we serve, with actionable strategies and resources developed in collaboration with leading researchers. We know that current educational strategies and innovations can take decades to reach those serving children in need – if they ever reach them. This model brings that research ‘the last mile,’ providing educators in underserved schools and programs with the content and context to implement evidence-based strategies in mere weeks or months. This ensures that low-income children actually have the opportunity to benefit from those strategies, and it fast-tracks those benefits to reach children now.”
Educators working with children in need – in classrooms and settings as varied as homeless shelters, health clinics, before- and after-school programs, libraries and other places serving families in need – comprise the First Book Network, currently numbering more than 400,000 educators and growing by 1,000 per week. These educators identify the most critical issues facing the children they serve, which helps drive the evidence-based research provided through the First Book Accelerator.
Working with leading subject-matter experts and researchers, First Book translates current education advancements into practical activity guides, toolkits and tip sheets, often paired with videos and book collections that exemplify the recommended strategies. Educators in classrooms and programs serving 70 percent or more children in need are eligible to access the books and resources, which are available for free or at the lowest prices possible through the organization’s online site, the First Book Marketplace.
The launch of the First Book Accelerator follows successful initial pilots by First Book, delivering expert-informed resources on topics identified as critical issues by educators in classrooms and programs serving children in need. Resources offered to date include:
- Research-based strategies by leading experts on childhood trauma, essential life skills all children need, cultural diversity, social and emotional learning, family engagement, and other topics, translated into more than 150 expert-based actionable tip sheets and activity guides. The resources have been downloaded by hundreds of thousands of teachers across the country, in turn reaching millions of children.
- A Trauma Toolkit, integrating leading research findings on the best strategies to support students experiencing trauma, and outlining answers to specific teacher questions on the topic. The toolkit has been used by more than 5,000 educators and in less than a year has reached over 150,000 children in need. A Kansas educator provided this feedback: “Every educator across the country should have this resource in their classroom.”
- A series of video public service announcements – available in English and Spanish – on social and emotional learning. Distributed nationwide, the videos scored in the top one percent of all PSAs aired in the U.S. in 2017, as measured by Nielsen.
- A multiplier effect, leveraging more than 15 specially curated book collections developed in collaboration between leading education research experts and First Book’s experienced in-house curation team. These book collections not only help educators to further students’ understanding and development of new skills, but also to further literacy.
Expert and author Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of Families and Work Institute, worked with the First Book Accelerator to ensure that parents and children in low-income communities could benefit from research-based strategies outlined in her book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. The resources included easy-to-implement action sheets – in English and Spanish – on each of the life skills. First Book and the Mind in the Making team also developed a collection of books, for multiple age ranges, to illustrate and model those life skills in action.
“The response to these resources has been extraordinary,” said Galinsky, “with program leaders telling us that we helped them deliver what kids need right now. The First Book Accelerator is the kind of innovative model and systems thinking that is so desperately needed if we are to elevate educational outcomes and provide additional support for the millions of children encumbered by the weight of poverty.”
“Our educators have seen a substantial increase in the number of students facing trauma, impacting not only individual students, but the entire class,” said David Helfman, executive director, Maryland State Education Association. “The research we conducted with First Book showed that our early career teachers were struggling with how to support students suffering from traumatic circumstances. The First Book Accelerator created a free, downloadable Trauma Toolkit, integrating leading research findings on the best strategies to support students who are experiencing trauma so that teachers could address their students’ needs, as well as their own. The toolkit and curated book collections have been praised by our educators, providing them with expert information and real, action-oriented strategies so that they can more effectively support students.”
In 2017, 95 percent of educators responding to a First Book survey said they needed fiction and nonfiction books and resources that teach empathy and address social issues. Through the First Book Accelerator, outside experts created conversation guides and activities around “Many Cultures, One Community” to stimulate discussions in the classroom related to diversity and inclusion. The resources were paired with a collection of bilingual books for ages 4-12, including the addition of a brand new book by a never-before-published author of color.
“Teachers, who know best what resonates with students, identified early-on that social and emotional learning was one of the most significant missing pieces in a test-driven classroom environment,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “We know that when children see themselves – as well as empathetic portrayals of children very different from themselves – in the books they read, it has a powerful impact on their own social and emotional growth. Partnering with First Book to increase access to evidence-based resources, paired with affordable, diverse, age-appropriate titles, is the logical – and critical – next step in boosting student learning and achievement.”
“Our pilots are showing that educators are eager to integrate well-designed resources that bring the benefits of educational advancements to kids in need,” said Zimmer. “We are also working to provide outside experts with feedback from educators, so that they can continually innovate and learn from what’s working in the field. As a next step, we are looking to expand access to the piloted resources and collaborate with other research thought leaders to address additional issues identified by the teachers and programs we serve. We also recognize that the First Book Accelerator can be expanded to include resources and expertise beyond basic educational strategies, to also tackle healthcare issues, racial and cultural strategies, and child development insights. This is the type of transformational work that is needed to empower educators and elevate educational opportunities for millions of children in need.”
About First Book
First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. Through a sustainable, market-driven model, First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by making new, high-quality books and educational resources affordable to educators serving kids in need. In addition to diverse books and eBooks, resources available through First Book include sports equipment, art supplies, winter coats, snacks, feminine hygiene products and more. Educators serving 70 percent or more kids in need are eligible to access these resources and add their voice to the First Book member network, currently numbering more than 400,000 educators, and growing by 1,000 each week. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more learning materials than any other program of its kind: 175 million books and educational resources, worth more than $1.5 billion, reaching more than 5 million children annually.
First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources.
First Book operates in the U.S. and Canada, and has worked in more than 30 countries. In the U.S., eligible educators, librarians, providers, and others serving children in need can sign up at www.firstbook.org/join. For more information, please visit firstbook.org or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.