SHOWTIME drama ‘The Chi,’ First Book, and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Celebrate Chicago’s South Side with Gift of 10,000 New, Diverse Books to Public Schools

‘The Chi’ cast members and New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds to address hundreds of area students on April 12

CHICAGO (April 9, 2019) — The acclaimed SHOWTIME® series The Chi will celebrate the community that provides the setting for the timely coming-of-age drama—Chicago’s South Side—with a gift of approximately 10,000 new, contemporary, diverse books to public schools in the area. Cast members Shamon Brown Jr. and Michael Epps and New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds will also host a live and simulcast assembly at one of the schools, to include lunch, a backpack, and a copy of Reynolds’s bestselling For Every One for each of the estimated 500 students who will participate in person.

The hit SHOWTIME series The Chi is created and executive produced by Emmy® winner Lena Waithe and executive produced by Academy Award®, Emmy®, and Golden Globe® winner Common. Airing on Sundays on SHOWTIME®, The Chi is a timely coming-of-age story centering on a group of residents who become linked by coincidence but bonded by the need for connection and redemption.

The 10,000 new and diverse children’s books that will be distributed throughout Chicago public schools were funded by a $75,000 gift from SHOWTIME. First Book will distribute individual collections of 200 Simon & Schuster Children’s titles to more than 50 ninth-grade teachers in  Chicago Public School’s largest group of schools, Network 17. All the books are part of First Book’s Stories for All Project™, the organization’s curated collection of books that represents diverse characters, voices, and life circumstances. Teachers will also receive 150 dollars in book credits for use on the First Book Marketplace (, First Book’s award-winning eCommerce site, to further expand their classroom libraries.

Studies show that increasing access to books can support reading achievement for low-income students as well as make a positive impact.[1]  The type of book is also critically important. In a survey of the educators First Book serves, 90 percent of respondents agreed that the 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.[2]

“It’s so important to honor and celebrate the neighborhoods we serve, including Chicago’s South Side,” said Kyle Zimmer, president, CEO, and cofounder of First Book. “Jason’s books and programs like The Chi provide needed windows and mirrors for students and the educators who serve them. We couldn’t be more grateful to SHOWTIME and Simon & Schuster for making such a significant, meaningful gift possible.”

Bestselling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds is passionate about getting reluctant readers reading, and he writes novels and poetry for children who do not feel connected to the literature available to them. Visiting hundreds of schools each year, he talks to young people about being a reluctant reader himself as a child and how that shaped his journey as a writer. The author of twelve books to date, Reynolds is a National Book Award Honoree, a two-time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. His many books include When I Was the Greatest, The Boy in the Black SuitAll American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely), As Brave as You, the Track series (GhostPatinaSunny, and Lu), and Long Way Down, which received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor. His most recent, For Every One, is a stirring and inspirational poem that Reynolds performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., to mark the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and again at the Walter Dean Myers tribute. A love letter to the dreamers in the world, and a reminder to keep believing in yourself, For Every One will be distributed to each of the estimated 500 students attending the April 12 event in Chicago.

Of having this opportunity to address hundreds of students in Chicago’s South Side with SHOWTIME and First Book, Reynolds states, “I am honored and humbled to be before our young people and to once more affirm their existence, let alone their brilliance and value. That affirmation has always been the sole mission of my work, to use honest and relatable stories to validate their complex experiences. Simply put, I think of my books as billboards that say, I SEE YOU. WE SEE YOU.”

For a look at THE CHI and how the cast and creators support of the South Side community, visit:

Both SHOWTIME and Simon & Schuster are wholly owned subsidiaries of CBS Corporation.

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, including sports equipment, winter coats, snacks, and more, affordable to its member network of more than 400,000 registered educators who exclusively serve kids in need. 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.

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.

Showtime Networks Inc. (SNI), a wholly owned subsidiary of CBS Corporation, owns and operates the premium television networks SHOWTIME®, THE MOVIE CHANNEL™ and FLIX®, and also offers SHOWTIME ON DEMAND®, THE MOVIE CHANNEL™ ON DEMAND and FLIX ON DEMAND®, and the network’s authentication service SHOWTIME ANYTIME®. Showtime Digital Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of SNI, operates the stand-alone streaming service SHOWTIME®. SHOWTIME is currently available to subscribers via cable, DBS, and telco providers, and as a stand-alone streaming service through Amazon, Apple®, Google, LG Smart TVs, Oculus Go, Roku®, Samsung Smart TVs and Xbox One. Consumers can also subscribe to SHOWTIME via Amazon’s Prime Video Channels, DirecTV Now, FuboTV, Hulu, The Roku Channel, Sling TV, Sony PlayStation™ Vue, and YouTube TV. Viewers can also watch on computers at SNI also manages Smithsonian Networks™, a joint venture between SNI and the Smithsonian Institution, which offers Smithsonian Channel™ and Smithsonian Channel Plus™. SNI markets and distributes sports and entertainment events for exhibition to subscribers on a pay-per-view basis through SHOWTIME PPV. For more information, go to

About Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, one of the leading children’s book publishers in the world, comprises the following imprints: Aladdin, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Beach Lane Books, Libros para niños, Little Simon®, Margaret K. McElderry Books, Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Simon Pulse, and Simon Spotlight®. While maintaining an extensive award-winning backlist, the division continues to publish acclaimed and bestselling books for children of all ages. Simon & Schuster publishes numerous Caldecott, Newbery, and National Book Award winners. For more information about Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, visit our website at



Connect with our media team or download our media kit via the First Book Press Room.

Alysia Sands
Showtime Networks Inc.

Lisa Moraleda
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

[1] M. D. R. Evans, Jonathan Kelley, & Joanna Sikora. (2014). Scholarly Culture and Academic Performance in 42 Nations, Social Forces, Volume 92, Issue 4, Pages 1573–1605,

[2] First Book Member Survey, 2016