Guest post written by Kyle Zimmer, President, CEO & Co-founder of First Book
Something amazing happened on October 31, 2020: Hopi Relief, a nonprofit established to assist people in the Hopi villages disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, became the 500,000th member of the First Book Network!
Reaching half a million members is an enormous milestone – with a ripple effect that empowers each and every educator in the First Book Network.
The Network’s Common Thread
You see, while educators in the First Book Network work in all types of settings, they all have one thing in common: they serve children and youth 0-18 years of age who are growing up in poverty across the country. This is a significant part of our population. Today, one in five children in the United States lives in poverty; more than one-half attending public schools are from low-income families.
When these educators join the First Book Network – and more than 1,000 join each week — they become part of the largest and fastest growing online community of formal and informal educators; educators who work at Title I schools, homeless shelters, early childhood centers, community programs, after school programs, libraries, soup kitchens, housing authorities and more.
Why This is Important
The collective voice of educators in the First Book Network creates a powerful and unprecedented market force to remove barriers to educational equity.
One of the things that we recognized early on is that it’s impossible for one teacher or one program leader on their own to create the kind of systemic change needed to advance equal education. But when you aggregate the collective voice, needs and purchasing power of educators serving the millions of kids in need — now you can start to affect change. Aggregating the collective voice is why unions and political parties and other large membership organizations are so effective.
The Network Impact
First Book’s design literally starts and ends with the First Book Network as the driving force for our primary models:
First Book Research & Insights (R&I)
Because there is a lack of practitioner-centered data and design, we established a research arm, called First Book Research & Insights (R&I). Through qualitative and quantitative research, First Book R&I gathers input from the First Book Network regarding the issues facing the children they serve, and what educators need. Educators are highly responsive and engaged because they’ve seen First Book develop, create and refine its models and offerings based on their input.
The First Book Accelerator
To address broader issues identified by educators through our research arm – issues such as trauma, grief, social and emotional learning and related issues, First Book works with leading experts to translate their evidence-based strategies into actionable resources designed for educators working with kids in need. The First Book Accelerator fast-tracks and scales the ability of evidence-based resources to help educators address the critical issues confronting children in poverty, and hindering their ability to focus on learning.
The First Book Marketplace
A nonprofit eCommerce site, the First Book Marketplace is First Book’s central distribution hub providing the Network with access to millions of free and affordable new, diverse and inclusive books and eBooks, devices, Accelerator resources, basic needs items and more. First Book has distributed nearly 200 million books and educational resources, with a retail value of more than $2.0 billion.
First Book’s Unprecedented Ecosystem
The true power of First Book is how these models work together: educators in the First Book Network reveal unique needs and concerns through First Book Research & Insights, which drive development of expert-informed resources through the First Book Accelerator and enable First Book to create and curate the widest range of diverse and relevant new books and resources — all provided through the First Book Marketplace, a centralized distribution platform reaching educators serving our most vulnerable children across every setting imaginable.
First Book uses the market strength of its 500,000 Network members to increase the diversity and relevancy of books and resources, and to influence its product selections and model design. It is a process of continuous improvement fueled by the voice of the heroes on the front lines.
So welcome, Hopi Relief, including its founders: brother and sister duo, Kiona Arellanes and Tom Kaye, and all of the dedicated volunteers working to bring relief and support to the Hopi Nation. As the 500,000th member of the First Book Network, you are adding your voice so that the educational needs of children in poverty are not an afterthought – but a significant force driving the for-profit and social sector toward educational equity.
Join the Network
Educators can join First Book’s network — the largest and fastest growing network of educators, schools, and programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada — to bring these titles and many more to your classroom.