elementary school teacher in a classroom of students

Research & Insights: 2022 Highlights & Network Impact

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that strives to support students and educators in low-income communities by providing brand-new, high-quality books. We also strive to support these communities by providing additional resources that meet the needs of educators today. Our primary audience is our growing Network, which currently includes more than 550,000 members who serve Title I-eligible schools and programs. 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. Many of the resources we develop are freely available to people outside of the First Book Network as well. 

2022 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 2022, First Book conducted seven large scale quantitative surveys, many resulting in a corresponding, free resource for educators. Below are our major findings 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.

Helping Young People See Themselves as Powerful

First Book educators want to encourage their students to step to the forefront of important societal issues they care about, taking charge of their own futures and making change for the good of others. In our 2022 survey, 82% of educators report that developing changemaker mindsets among the young people they serve is an urgent or high urgency matter, but only 26% feel adequately prepared to develop their students as changemakers.

In response to this need, we teamed up with Ashoka and Audemars Piguet to launch Time for Change. This multi-year initiative features a series of free support resources to equip a generation of educators and young people with the abilities needed to take action toward sustainable change in their communities.  

First Book hopes these resources will help educators to explore their role in creating a generation of changemakers and students to begin their changemaking journeys. Since the launch of the Time for Change initiative, 54% of educators who downloaded and used the free Time for Change Resource from the First Book Marketplace felt very or extremely prepared to develop their students as changemakers

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.

Building Literacy Rich Environments

As educators know firsthand and research has repeatedly shown, immersing children in book-oriented environments improves educational outcomes. So many children do not have access to books at home, making the presence of quality classroom libraries especially significant.

In an effort to provide actionable recommendations for building an effective and equitable classroom library, we surveyed our members regarding the successes and challenges they’ve encountered. Educators weighed in on practical limitations and offered creative tips and tricks, which have been incorporated into the Literacy Rich Classroom Library Checklist.

This free, evidence-based guide, created in partnership with literacy researcher Dr. Susan Neuman, helps educators assess their bookshelves and advocate for resources. In a follow up survey, 78% of educators found this free resource extremely useful in helping them understand what makes a library or reading area “literacy rich.” 

To enhance the effectiveness of this new resource, First Book hosted a webinar with literacy researcher Dr. Susan Neuman where educators could learn about the development of the Checklist and how it could be used to build a comprehensive classroom library with little budget.

Student Mental Health Challenges are on the Rise 

The pandemic has had detrimental effects on children’s mental health, both in terms of adding new challenges and worsening existing ones. Currently, educators estimate that more than half (53%) of the students they serve are struggling with their mental health. 98% of educators agree that mental health challenges act as a barrier to children’s education and addressing student mental health is a high priority for them, but only 20% of educators feel adequately prepared to support their students’ mental health.

In partnership with On Our Sleeves, a national movement to break stigmas around children’s mental health, 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. Educators are also concerned about their own personal mental health and want additional resources that can help them support students’ emotional and mental wellness, both in their classrooms and programs and at home.

Learn more about this free resource and report to understand the impact of COVID-19 on student mental health in communities of need.

Diverse Classroom Libraries Study

First Book is committed to ensuring that the books that reach our members and the students they serve reflect those students’ lived experiences and offer windows into the lived experiences of others. 

I believe that kids need to be able to see themselves in all kinds of literature. I also believe that my students need to have access to other people’s experiences and cultures. It is important that students can see characters who represent them and their families as well as those with whom they identify. Literature allows this- to open doorways into experiences we might not otherwise have. Exposure and experience of other cultures and identities helps us to be more empathetic and open.

– First Book Educator

As another step in this effort, First Book launched the Diverse Classroom Library Impact Study in 2022. This study is providing Stories for All Project™ titles to a cohort of classroom educators across the country to cultivate their unique, diverse classroom libraries and track the impact on students over time. 

Initial findings revealed that while 86% of educators said access to a classroom library filled with diverse books was “extremely important for students,” only 53% of educators agreed or strongly agreed that their classroom libraries reflected the lived experiences of the students they served. First Book plans to use the findings from this important research to continue growing the selection of affordable, diverse titles offered in our Stories for All Project™ section and advocate for additional support and funding opportunities for our members. 

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 surveys, visit our dedicated research page.