Mission: A nonprofit social enterprise, First Book works to address one of the most important factors affecting literacy — access to books — by providing new books to children in need.
About the Organization: In 1992, Kyle Zimmer, a corporate attorney, was volunteering at a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C., when she realized the kids she was serving had no books in their lives. Zimmer set out with some friends to build a market-driven solution to the problem. Since then, First Book has distributed more than 130 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families in the United States and Canada. The organization works through existing community programs, literacy efforts, and schools to provide a supply of new books and reading materials at low or no cost and obtains its books from twenty designated publishing partners that, in turn, receive publicity and access to new customers. The organization also works with nonprofit and government partners to increase its reach to children across the country who need books, and with corporate partners to develop private-sector strategies for the public good.
Current Programs: Through its National Book Bank program, a clearinghouse for large-scale book donations, First Book puts over eight million books each year into the hands of kids in need. Its self-sustaining marketplace sells new children’s books to eligible community programs and schools at prices 50 percent to 90 percent below retail. Participants in the authors and illustrators program help eligible schools and programs gain access to the organization’s pipeline of free and affordable books and resources. And the organization’s Stories for All project takes a market-driven approach to increasing the diversity of voices and promoting inclusivity in children’s book publishing.
Website: Visitors to First Book’s stay connected page can sign up for the organization’s monthly newsletter, subscribe to its social media channels, and/or access the Bookmark blog. The site also features a media center that includes press about the organization and fact sheets on literacy in America, a gift catalog, and an FAQ page to help organizations determine their eligibility to receive donated books.
Funding: Although FirstBook receives cash donations from individuals, the majority of its support comes in the form of new books contributed by its designated publishing partners.