First Book Awards More Than $700,000 for New Books and eBooks to Schools and Programs Serving Kids in Need Across Nine States

Requests exceeded more than five times the amount of available funding, demonstrating dire need for basic learning materials in U.S. schools

WASHINGTON (May 15, 2019)First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise focused on equal access to quality education, has awarded more than $700,000 for new books and eBooks to schools and organizations serving more than 200,000 kids in need across nine states in the first cycle of its OMG Books Awards: Offering More Great Books to Spark Innovation program. The funding will be distributed to more than 110 organizations in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah, with 24 organizations receiving significant awards to implement projects ranging from “book boxes” in police cars, lending libraries in city parks, and curated collections of contemporary, culturally relevant bilingual and Native American books.

Launched in January, First Book’s OMG Books Awards is a 33-state and territory initiative that will distribute more than $4.7 million in funding to provide a total of 1.5 million brand new books to children living in low-income communities by the end of 2019. The attorneys general in the 33 eligible states selected First Book to distribute the funds, which can only be used to purchase books and eBooks in those states, as per a court settlement unrelated to First Book. Awardees will receive the funds in the form of credits to use on the First Book Marketplace (, First Book’s award-winning eCommerce platform that offers thousands of new, contemporary, curated books at low or no cost to educators serving kids in need. Awardees in the remaining 24 states will be announced in July and October, at the conclusion of the second and third competitive RFP cycles.

In the first cycle, First Book received requests for funding equal to more than five times the amount available for awards, demonstrating the chasm of unfulfilled need for books and educational resources in nine initial states. This sizeable gap is evidence of the breakdown in funding of basic learning tools for 32 million children growing up in low-income communities — a crisis that educational research shows to be accelerating, and that is at the core of First Book’s mission.

Access to adequate resources is one of the greatest contributors to educational success in the United States,(1) yet low-income communities across the U.S. are plagued by vast ‘book deserts’—with one such community having only a single book per 830 children.(2) Additionally, 90 percent of First Book member educators responding to a survey 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.

“The profound depth of need in each and every proposal was truly heartbreaking, but the innovation and dedication displayed in each application gave us an equally profound sense of hope,” said Kyle Zimmer, president, CEO, and cofounder of First Book. “A child’s potential is compromised by the absence of resources, but there are educators working to put good books in the right places. Inspiring a life-long love of reading is essential, and that means creating regular access to books that kids want to read. That’s what First Book does, and what the OMG Books Awards program aims to amplify—we spark the innovation that breaks down barriers to education.”

Awardees were chosen by an external review committee. Of the 24 major awardees (complete list below):

  • More than 80 percent represent non-traditional school settings, demonstrating the vast array of efforts to fill the resources gap: Traditional K-12 schools account for 17 percent of the awardees, with the remaining 83 percent representing nonprofit organizations, public and school libraries, out-of-school enrichment and early education programs, multi-agency alliances, or member-based associations.
  • Nearly 20 percent serve Native American communities.
  • Urban and rural communities are almost equally represented.
  • Children under 12 are the most represented group: More than 70 percent of programs serve children under 12.
  • eBooks are included in nearly half (46 percent) of the proposed programs.

Complete List of OMG Books Major Awardees, Cycle 1

Tuscaloosa City Schools
Jefferson County American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
Alabama Partnership for Children

United Way of Anchorage
Chugach School District   

Read On Arizona
Amphitheater High School, Tucson
United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona           

Executives Partnering to Invest in Children, Pueblo
STEM Launch K-8, Thornton
Clayton Early Learning, Denver
Mile High United Way      

Idaho Primary Care Association
Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children         

Illinois After School Network
KinderCare Education
Elgin Partnership for Early Learning
Chicago Public Schools

North Dakota
North Dakota United
Belcourt School District     

South Dakota
United Way of the Black Hills

Ute Indian Tribe, Venita K. Taveapont Memorial Library
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Utah

About OMG Books Awards

OMG Books Awardees are selected from eligible applicants in 33 states and territories, implementing a court settlement unrelated to First Book that awards funds to obtain books and eBooks through the First Book Marketplace. The first two application cycles, which included Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, and multi-state proposals, are closed. Cycle 3, which includes Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin; will be open for submission on July 8, with applications due August 15.

Detailed information is included in the RFP, which can be downloaded at Questions can be directed to

First Book is additionally offering opportunities for community, foundation, and corporate partners who wish to accelerate and amplify OMG Books Awards in their communities. Questions can be directed to


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.

Media Contact:
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(1) Sikora, et al. DOI

(2) Susan B. Neuman, Naomi Moland. “Book Deserts.” Urban Education, 2016. DOI: 10.1177/0042085916654525