Authored by Melanie Boyer onDecember 19, 2019
Posted In:Press Room
First Book’s 2nd Annual Title Raves Reveals Top Titles of 2019 for Kids in Need, According to Their Educators
List Points to Need for Diversity and Representation in Children’s Books
WASHINGTON (December 19, 2019)— First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise committed to equal access to quality education, today released the second annual “First Book Title Raves,” a list of 15 titles published in 2019 that earned accolades from First Book’s network of 450,000 educators who exclusively serve children in need. Title Raves is curated based on five-star educator reviews on the First Book Marketplace that cite the greatest impact on children in need; often books that expand students’ world views, spark a love of reading, or facilitate safe discussions around sensitive topics.
Both Title Raves lists have underscored the need for diverse, inclusive books in classrooms serving children in need. Eleven of the 15 books on the 2019 list are part of the organization’s “Stories for All” section of the First Book Marketplace, a curated collection of thousands of titles that reflect diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, family structure, neighborhoods, and more. Stories for All was created in response to First Book’s research that found 90 percent of participating educators felt 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.
Of “It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity,” written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni, First Book member Becky L. said, “…At times, readers need a straightforward explanation that helps them understand new concepts. This book provides just that. I also loved the inclusive illustrations that included a variety of gender expressions, family structures, and a young hijabi character, as well as a named character who uses a wheelchair. It’s a great book for building key awareness and vocabulary!”
Educators are also using books to teach respect and empathy. Of “Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks,” by Jason Reynolds, by First Book member Kristin K. said, “This book is great for thinking about how we sometimes pre-judge people’s motives. It’s got a strong message about considering the battles we might not know people are facing.”—Kristin K.
“Titles Raves provides the kind of data that broadens our understanding of the kids who need us most,” said Kyle Zimmer, president, CEO, and co-founder of First Book. “The wisdom in the aggregated voices of educators who serve kids in need cannot be understated; they know how to serve these kids better than anyone. Listening to this market, and implementing the best practices they recommend, is helping to move the needle on educating kids in need. That’s what we’re doing with Title Raves—we’re listening and sharing the data to better serve our children.”
In addition to “It Feels Good to Be Yourself,” an additional five books, including, “My Papi has a Motorcycle,” “Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems,” “National Geographic Kids Encyclopedia of American Indian History and Culture,” “Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You,” and “Astro Girl,” garnered reviews that specifically mentioned the importance of diverse characters and stories.
Access to adequate resources is one of the greatest contributors to educational success in the United States. Research indicates that just the presence of books in the home improves educational outcomes, yet low-income communities across the U.S. are plagued by vast ‘book deserts’—with one community having only a single book per as many as 830 children.
2019 Title Raves, complete list (in alphabetical order by author last name)
About First Book
Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1992 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, First Book is a leader in the educational equity field. Over its 27-year history, First Book has distributed more than 185 million books and educational resources, with a value of more than $1.5 billion. First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by providing its network of more than 450,000 registered teachers, librarians, after school program leaders, and others serving children in need with millions of free and affordable new, high-quality books, educational resources, and basic needs items through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site. The First Book Network comprises the largest and fastest-growing community of formal and informal educators serving children in need.
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 Impact Funds target support to areas of particular need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books.
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 Sikora, et al. January, 2019. DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2018.10.003
 Susan B. Neuman, Naomi Moland. “Book Deserts.” Urban Education, 2016. DOI: 10.1177/0042085916654525