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Research & Insights: 2021 Highlights & Network Impact

Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 225 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income communities. First Book currently reaches an average of 5 million children every year and supports more than a third of the estimated 1.3 million classrooms and programs serving children in need. Our work wouldn’t be possible without our Network of educators, who are on the frontlines distributing resources in the communities that need it the most. First Book’s Network of more than 525,000 educators represents 60% of Title I schools in the United States and our mission is as bold as it is urgent:

  • To create system change;
  • To ensure equal access to quality education;
  • To empower every educator and all the children in need whom they serve.

2021 Research & Outcomes

Beyond books or classroom and program supplies, First Book amplifies the voice of our Network through our highly focused research capacity. Our extensive surveys and studies help shape resources and tools, as identified by educators to help reach learners of all ages in immediate and impactful ways. We work extensively with other nonprofits and corporate partners to help broaden the reach of our studies, positively impacting Title I programs and changing the path of children growing up in poverty.

In 2021, First Book conducted eight large scale quantitative surveys, many resulting in a corresponding, free resource for educators. Four of our major findings are listed below and how First Book turned the data into an actionable Accelerator resource for educators across the United States. Visit the Marketplace to download all free resources.

young teacher sitting with 4 children at a table working on projects together

Student Mental Health & Wellbeing

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently declared the state of mental health among children and adolescents to be a national emergency. The pandemic has exacerbated this growing crisis, leading to children experiencing the death of loved ones and mental health challenges to a greater degree than ever before. Educators want to support their students in this space in ways that are appropriate and effective given their roles as educators and not trained mental health professionals.

In partnership with On Our Sleeves, First Book launched a full report of the findings and an Accelerator resource to support the resounding call and need for resources from educators surveyed. In fact, 92% of educators wanted resources that help promote the general mental health and wellbeing of their students, while 85% of educators consider addressing student mental health to be a high or emergency priority. However, only 20% feel prepared to support their struggling students.

Learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on student mental health in communities of need.

Non-Traditional Learning Styles

After 2 years of virtual learning, educators have seen the benefits of non-traditional learning styles like interactive digital learning experiences and learning-through-play and are ready to embrace these learning styles moving forward.

In our 2021 Build the Change survey, 64% of educators said they’re interested in a learning tool that will increase the amount of hands-on learning experiences, and 56% say they’re interested in a learning tool that helps students who struggle with traditional learning. In response to our educators, First Book partnered with the LEGO Group to create hands-on learning activities to help students learn about the biodiversity and the environment. Providing both lesson plans and an Accelerator resource, educators could engage students in non-traditional methods.

In addition to making new resources available, First Book updated the Marketplace to reflect educators’ needs for supplies and digital learning items.

Changemaker Mindsets

Children and young people have recently been stepping to the forefront of important societal issues that they care about, taking charge of their own futures. Educators want to encourage their own students to do the same and feel empowered to make actual changes in the world.

Last year, we surveyed our Network and 76% of educators surveyed said that developing changemaker mindsets among the young people they serve is an urgent matter. In response to the need for content that encourages students to connect classroom learning to real-world issues and encourages students to believe in their power of their voice, First Book launched Time for Change: Dream, Act, Change Our World.The multi-year initiative addresses the opportunity and resource gap that limits many young people from low-income and historically excluded communities from solving the problems they care about, building from their unique perspectives and lived experiences.

Explore the program and the free resources available.

Quality & Actionable Professional Development

Educators are eager to embrace more opportunities for professional growth. They are looking for quality professional development resources that will help them tackle challenging lessons, behaviors, and conversations that arise in the classroom in an effective and efficient manner. Many of the resources shared with our Network are a direct result of their need.

One such need spoke to educators struggling with knowing how to best handle common behavioral challenges. Educators spend an average of 36% of their workday managing challenging moments with children. Over 60% say they would like access to resources that help them manage these challenging situations in the classroom as they arise. In partnership with the Bezos Family Foundation and Mind in the Making, First Book has created a series of 40 skill-building opportunities for both educators and parents. Shared weekly through email and text, the resources help reframe challenging moments into learning opportunities.

The Future of Research & Insights

Each year, our research team works with the Network to determine the greatest area of need for educators and kids in low-income communities. Together, with the support of our partners, First Book diligently surveys and creates resources that speak to a current need, but also address long-standing concerns. New projects roll out every year, to learn more about past survey, visit our dedicated research page.

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