Educators are Sounding the Alarm That Their Students’ Mental Health is a Top Concern in Addition to Their Physical Health When School Resumes

New Study by First Book Reveals Crisis for Kids in Need with Barriers to Education on the Rise

WASHINGTON, DC – July 29, 2020A new study unveiled today by First Book highlights a developing emergency, with an overwhelming majority – 91% of educators of kids in need – ‘very or extremely’ concerned about the mental/social-emotional health of the kids and families they serve upon returning to “normal” class/programs.

Responding educators are also deeply concerned about their ability to address these issues, with 71% saying they fear they won’t have the resources they need to support their students’ mental health. Seventy four percent of respondents reported that they are likely to try to address the need themselves by purchasing books on children’s mental health as they return to the classroom. This data suggests that COVID-19 is exacerbating an existing mental health crisis for school-age children that has included teen suicide rates that, according to the CDC, nearly tripled from 2007 to 2017. 

In addition to mental health concerns, 69% reported that they are ‘very or extremely concerned’ about their students’ physical health, with educators stating that they intend to purchase disinfecting wipes (71%) and hand sanitizer (69%). 

“We have witnessed generations of children who have not had the basic educational resources they need – and now our study reveals that a dramatic majority of our educators are reporting that they don’t have the resources to address the mental and physical health of the kids they serve,” said Kyle Zimmer, President, CEO and Co-founder of First Book. “The federal government reports that teachers spend an average of $500 per year – of their own money – on school supplies to ensure their kids have what they need. It is totally unacceptable that such essential materials are paid for by teachers. How is learning supposed to happen under these conditions?”

A Perfect Storm

As the new school year approaches, educators serving children in need are facing their greatest challenge yet as the pandemic exacerbates existing barriers to education, creating a perfect storm with an entire generation of America’s youth at risk. With all the uncertainties around “Back to School 2020,” barriers to a quality education for kids in need go far beyond a need for books and learning tools.

According to the study, there are four key factors contributing to this education crisis: 1) the mental/social-emotional health of kids and families; 2) access to learning tools and resources; 3) a widening digital divide making the need for books even more critical and 4) an extended summer slide or regression in academic proficiency due to a long break from formal education.

Mental Health is the Top Focus for Educators Serving Those in Need

From basic unmet human needs like food and clean clothes to trauma intensified by shelter-in-place orders, kids areliving – and learning – without the added support and normalcy that schools provide.  The study indicates that these issues are on the rise and so is the need to address them:

  • Eighty-seven percent of respondents are more concerned about their kids’ mental/emotional health currently than they were prior to COVID-19.
  • Seventy-one percent are ‘very or extremely concerned’ about not having the resources they need to address the mental health of their students.
  • Sixty-nine percent are ‘very or extremely concerned’ about their kids’ physical health upon returning to “normal” class/programs.

First Book has created and distributed a range of support tools and resources to help educators and programs support Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) skills development and address trauma including a Trauma Toolkit, the Promoting Respect and Empathy Toolkit and the Grief, Loss and Healing Toolkit.

The survey, fielded from April 28 – May 5, 2020, polled the First Book Network, the largest network of professionals – more than 475,000 – working with kids in need to remove barriers to quality education.  The survey was underwritten by the Intel Corporation®. To view the full survey results, visit

This study was designed by First Book Research & Insights and polled 2,623 educators. Participants from this study were registered First Book members, who work in Title I or Title I eligible classrooms or programs in which at least 70 percent of the children served come from low-income families. The electronic survey administration period opened on April 28th and closed May 5th, 2020.

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 28-year history, First Book has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources, with a retail value of more than $2 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 475,000 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 need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books.

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