Stories of Innovation
and Resilience



From Our CEO

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Kyle Zimmer
President, CEO, Co-Founder
Together, we will ensure that the needs of millions of children growing up in poverty are not an afterthought, but a significant force for educational equity.
Dear Friends,

It has become a cliché to describe the challenges of 2020, so I will simply say this: The needs have never been greater and the opportunity for real change has never been more hopeful.

First Book started the year by bringing together policy, non-profit, and executive leaders from our corporate partners for our first-ever Co-Authoring Impact Summit. The January Summit showcased how these partnerships have accelerated educational opportunities for millions of children, and engaged leaders in discussions of innovative ways to build momentum.

Just two months later, life was drastically changed by the global pandemic – making our work together even more critical.

The COVID-19 pandemic not only exacerbated the educational crisis for children in poverty, it also caused enormous hardship for millions more families. In addition, the issues of racism and inequality came to the forefront again after the killing of George Floyd and others.

In the pages ahead, you’ll read how First Book’s integrated models – amplifying the collective voice of more than half a million educators in the First Book Network – and cross-sector partnerships enabled powerful, educator-driven responses to these challenges.

You’ll also hear from the real heroes: our nation’s educators. They are on a high-wire act, juggling remote and hybrid learning, delivering books to students’ front doors, and going above and beyond. Educators need our help like never before.

As we look ahead to 2021, it’s clear that the effects of COVID-19 will impact our children and families long after the vaccines are distributed.

First Book’s systemic approach, driven by educators on the frontlines, provides a powerful and proven combination to address educational inequities. By actively engaging educators throughout our process, we are piloting, testing, refining, and scaling innovative resources and new collaborations to support educational equity and to further the sector for anyone working in the lives of children in poverty.

We thank each and every one of you for your support.

With gratitude,
Kyle Zimmer Signature

Impact at a Glance

At First Book, we are building a path out of poverty through educational equity. Our purpose is as bold as it is urgent: To create systemic change. To ensure equal access to quality education. To empower every educator and all the children in need whom they serve.
500 Members
registered members, with
new members in 2020
0 million
children served in 2020
500 Members
500 Members
000 million
books and resources distributed to date
000+ million
books and resources distributed through the First Book Marketplace in 2020
500 Members

Our Nationwide COVID-19 Response

When schools closed to slow the spread of the virus, millions of children were essentially locked out of their education without access to remote learning. But for every student in need, First Book, its network of educators, and amazing partners have been working day and night to support, provide resources, and ensure that no child falls behind.

COVID-19 Response Survey

Activation Network Map

Creating Learning
Connections Initiative

COVID-19 Response Snapshot

These students find themselves at a learning disadvantage. We surveyed families, discovering many have only cellphones as their sole access to the internet; no computers, no internet at home, and when available, they have multiple siblings and adults competing for these devices.
Educator from Klamath Falls City Schools,
Klamath Falls, OR
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First Book’s innovative collaborations brought technology tools and resources to more than 46 school districts in 17 states across the country.

Tools to Engage Children in Age-appropriate Conversations About Race

2020 was painfully punctuated by a dramatic increase in racist discourse and violence that impacted our communities. Racial equity and diversity have always been core to our mission at First Book, and with our long-term partner Pizza Hut, our Diversity & Inclusion Needs Assessment asked educators about the issue and what resources, if any, they needed.
of respondents would like to engage their students in conversations about race.
of respondents said their school or organization does not provide training resources on the topic of race and racism.
of respondents are white; 70% of their students are Latinx and Black.

Educators’ most common barriers to race-related conversations:

Feeling self-conscious about having these conversations with kids from backgrounds different from the educator
Concerns regarding the age-appropriateness of topics
Fear of using the wrong language
Fear of parent or community pushback
Lack of personal knowledge

Empowering Educators Series

In response to these findings, First Book and Pizza Hut launched Empowering Educators, an unprecedented set of free resources designed to help educators engage their students in effective, courageous conversations about race and social justice.

Empowering Educators: A Convening on Racial Equity in Education
This four-hour webcast elevated discussions on anti-racist teaching and practical guidance for educators.
  • 0000+ educators attended; 00000+ registered
  • 0000 students nationwide impacted
Guidebook on Race and Racism
This 50-page guidebook offers in-depth information, research, and practical tools to support discussions on race and diversity.
  • 0000+ unique downloads
  • 000000 children reached
Digital Video Series on Race and Racism.
This two-part series features conversations with racial justice experts and recommendations for teachers on incorporating anti-racist pedagogy in classes.
#OwnVoices Stories
This is a collection of five of the most popular diverse titles on the First Book Marketplace, re-issued in first-ever, even more affordable paperback editions as part of the Stories for All Project™.

AIA Diversity in STEM Calendar

With the Aerospace Industries Association, we launched the online Diversity in STEM Calendar (in English and Spanish) to celebrate culture, diversity, and inclusion. It highlights game-changing contributions of women and people of color in the fields of medicine, space exploration, AI, and more; and includes religious and cultural observances and notable dates of significance in STEM fields.
English Spanish
I don’t know what I would do without First Book resources. As an educator who has been focused on practicing racial equity and anti-racist education for 25 years, having inclusive, relevant, and current reading materials for myself and my students is essential… The teacher toolkits on Bias, Diversity and Inclusion, Race and Racism, Trauma, Empowerment, and Grief have supported me, my students, my mentees, and my peers to bring our practices to the level necessary to meet the needs of our students and beyond.
Elementary school teacher, Saint Paul, MN

OMG Book Awards: Offering More Great Books to Spark Innovation

OMG Books Awards delivered more than 1.5 million books and eBooks to children in need across 33 states, with an estimated retail value of more than $12 million. The transformative grantmaking program provided the basis for a new First Book grants model, enabling First Book to maximize and target partner funding with educators’ input to drive better educational and life outcomes for children and families. This new turnkey First Book grants model served as the basis for First Book's Creating Learning Connections initiative to address the digital divide.
of educators said the program increased students’ engagement in reading
of educators said the program helped children realize they are learners
growth in the First Book Network, increasing sustainable impact
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New Research and New Models to Advance Educational Equity

First Book is regularly piloting new models and approaches using research and continuous feedback from educators on the ground.
Games & Learning: Creating Digital Learning Solutions
With COVID-19 turning homes into classrooms, First Book partnered with Games and Learning (G&L) to make digital learning accessible to children in need. The result is a comprehensive resource of e-books and games on the First Book Marketplace that helps educators make the learning experience fun and engaging.
student users
classroom access codes distributed
educators received access codes
Games and Learning
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FAO Research: Supporting Children Experiencing Trauma
With the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO), First Book Research & Insights surveyed educators and care providers in the 32-county region to better understand the support needed to help children experiencing trauma. The study, “Educational Barriers and Solutions,” highlighted three interventions with the highest level of support for students:
  • Downloadable and printable resources such as toolkits, handbooks, or guides with concrete action steps to help students struggling with these educational barriers
  • Family engagement or home visitation training for educators wanting additional strategies for building critical relationships with students’ families
  • Virtual visits from local and national professionals such as behavioral and mental health experts on relevant topics to strengthen classroom strategies
KPMG: Thought Partnership with First Book
KPMG and KPMG’s Family for Literacy (KFFL) continued their long-standing support and thought partnership with First Book. In 2020, KPMG and KFFL hosted the Co-Authoring Impact Summit, and championed First Book’s plans for piloting new financing approaches to address the increased needs for educational resources. They also launched the Connect for a Great Start campaign to donate books from First Book’s Stories for All Project™ to promote understanding and empathy through stories that help children see and celebrate their similarities and differences.

Looking Forward to 2021

There are enormous challenges ahead in 2021. COVID-19 will have lasting effects, with more families in distress, and previously strapped school budgets further endangered by state and local budget deficits.

With COVID-19 having lasting effects on the communities we serve, First Book is poised to catapulting our impact and addressing dramatic educational challenges through:
Expanded Funding Mechanisms: First Book will launch a $15 million investment fund to catapult its impact to the next level — with a goal of reaching 20 million children annually — and ensure the organization’s sustainability.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: First Book will expand resources and develop programs that empower educators to engage students in conversations on race and racism, and launch new programs encouraging children of color to be change-makers.
Network Growth: First Book will deepen outreach to Title I schools, early childhood caregivers, educators in rural areas, and child advocates working with communities of color – ensuring that the children they serve are at the forefront of new product and resource creation.
Expansion of Educator-driven Resources: First Book will continue to address the needs related to distance learning and COVID-19, including device and internet connectivity, mental health support, and sharing of best practices between formal and informal educators serving children in need.
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Taking Action

Delivering on our nation’s promise of a more perfect union fundamentally requires equal access to quality education. With First Book’s nearly 30 years of experience in creating systemic, educator-driven models, and with the support of our corporate, academic, and social sector partners, we can develop and scale innovative approaches that respond to the collective voice of educators serving our most vulnerable children. Together, we will break down the barriers that stand in the way of educational equity and help millions more children realize their potential.