First Book Dedicates 7 Million Free Books to Meet Educator Need Amid Coronavirus School Shutdowns

Support from publishing partners means books are free; funders needed to cover shipping costs to get books to kids in need before schools close

March 12, 2020 (WASHINGTON) – First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise focused on equal access to quality education, today announced that it has dedicated 7 million free books to support educators of kids in need who are struggling to prepare for school closings as a result of the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The books are free thanks to the generous support of First Book’s publishing partners.

The organization is urgently seeking funding to cover the cost of shipping and handling for the books, to ensure kids have everything they need to stay engaged during a school shutdown. First Book is also pointing educators to a selection of low-cost personal hygiene products and other no-cost resources on the First Book Marketplace to support both educators and parents addressing the crisis.

Books and resources are critical, but scarce, for kids in need. The lack of access to adequate books is one of the greatest contributors to educational inequality in the United States. Research has identified vast ‘book deserts’ concentrated in low-income communities across the U.S.— in Washington, D.C., for example, researchers found only a single book for every 830 children.[1]

“This crisis exacerbates the inequities that already exist,” said Kyle Zimmer, president, CEO, and co-founder of First Book. “Children in affluent schools will stay at home and continue their schoolwork via online curriculum and home libraries. But children from low-income families often don’t have access to the Internet or books in their homes. They need our help now, before schools close. We have an  online community of educators – called the First Book Network – who are waiting for these resources, and who will get these books into children’s hands quickly.”

First Book polled its Network of more than 450,000 educators who serve children in need to find out what they need most to address this crisis. Two-thirds of respondents indicated that they need books to build home libraries in advance so kids can continue their learning outside of school, as well as hygiene supplies like tissues, antibacterial wipes, and hand sanitizer.

First Book is also making these items available:

“These children start school behind their more affluent peers and often can’t catch up,” added Zimmer. “We want them to have what they need to keep learning, even if they’re home from school for an extended period.  In addition, our educators have told us for years that books at home provide comfort and normalcy at a stressful time.”

At $0.55 per book for shipping, a contribution of $1,000 will deliver 1,800 books and $10,000 will deliver more than 18,000 books. Visit to join the First Book Network or to order your books now, if you serve children in need. To contribute to this effort, please visit

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 retail 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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[1] Source: Susan B. Neuman, Naomi Moland. “Book Deserts.” Urban Education, 2016. DOI: 10.1177/0042085916654525