large group of kids holding up books

The Philly Book Wish Program Fuels Kids’ Excitement for Reading

First Book and Philly Literacy Champions are infusing Philadelphia communities with culturally relevant books.

Philly Book Wishes Are Here!

Thanks to the support of the William Penn Foundation, First Book, Read by 4th, and the Philly Book Bank are partnering to ensure that local Philly programs have the books they need to engage families and get kids excited about reading. Over the next three years we will work with local organizations to distribute an estimated 75,000 brand-new, culturally relevant books throughout low-income communities in Philadelphia. The Philly Book Wish Program first launched in November 2022 and invites Philly-area literacy champions to apply for up to $5,000 worth of brand-new, diverse books. Anyone working in a Title I-eligible school or representing a program in which at least 7 of 10 children reached are from low-income families is eligible to apply for a Book Wish grant. To date, 87 Philly-based literacy champions have received Book Wish awards. Additional Book Wish application cycles will open in 2023.


Grants Awarded
Books Distributed
Children Reached


Promoting Equity Through Access for Kids Across Philly

Access to books is critical to a child’s learning and development, and access to books that represent diverse communities, cultures, and families, is a key to unlocking curiosity, empathy, and a love of reading. High-quality, new books are expensive at retail, which often means that low-income children and their families miss out on the opportunity for equal access to the very books that engage and inspire children the most.

Millions of kids grow up never seeing their cultures and lived experiences reflected in the books they read. In a recent survey of Philly organizations focused on book access, only 26% of all books distributed between September – November 2021 reflected the culture and/or community of the children who received the books. The Philly Book Wish Program aims to increase that percentage to at least 50% on an ongoing basis, for all participating organizations. This initiative makes diverse, relevant content affordable and accessible for kids and families in Philadelphia so that more children can see themselves as heroes in the stories they read.

This collaboration exemplifies a strategy that shifts philanthropic dynamics, prioritizes coalition building for collective impact, and aligns complimentary skills and resources to maximize partnerships. Philanthropic funding doesn’t have capacity to support every disparate social sector project, but layered partnerships offer an opportunity to efficiently utilize funding dollars by breaking down competitive, grant-seeking barriers. First Book and its Philly partners are enacting a community-driven and locally focused impact plan that leans heavily on the bandwidth and systems of a national organization, while relying on local expertise and knowledge to lead the vision.

How to Engage

To be considered for a Philly Book Wish Program Grant, you must:

  • Be a representative from a Title I-eligible school or an organization reaching low-income families
  • Be a registered First Book member
  • Be an eligible organization located in Philadelphia, PA

If not already a First Book member, sign-up now!

Round 2 of Book Wish applications open October 23rd, 2023. Two informational webinars will be hosted on November 2nd and 3rd during which you can learn more information about the partnering organizations, the Philly Book Wish initiative, and ask questions about the application process. Applications will be due Sunday, November 19th 11:59 EST.

Register for the webinars below: 

kids in line picking books from tent - outside - parking lot

Informational Webinar

To learn more about how the program works, watch the Round 2 informational webinar or check out the slide presentation here.

About the Partners

About First Book

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 30-year history, First Book has distributed more than 225 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 575,000 registered teachers, librarians, program leaders, and others serving children in need with millions of free and affordable new, high-quality books and educational resources through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site.

About The Philly Book Bank

The Philly Book Bank is part of a non-profit organization called Reading Recycled, a 501(c)3 located in the Delaware Valley area. The Philly Book Bank strives to eliminate children from growing up without books in their homes. This is accomplished by collecting new and gently used books and distributing them through the Book Bank to teachers and others serving children.

About Read by 4th

Read by 4th is a citywide coalition of parents and partners protecting every child’s right to read. Convened and managed by the Free Library of Philadelphia, this collective impact campaign works to create conditions at both the systems and grassroots level that will lead to a significant increase in the number of students in Philadelphia entering the 4th grade at reading level

About the William Penn Foundation

The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, provide inclusive and equitable public spaces and arts and culture experiences, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region.



For questions about registering with First Book or your Book Wish application: or 1-866-READ-NOW

For questions about partnering with First Book: