First Book Combats American Childhood Illiteracy

first bookIlliteracy is a terrible problem in the US, a place where everyone should learn to read in public schools. Michelle Obama recently announced her plan to help students maintain what they have already learned throughout the summer, but another contributing cause to the problem is that 80 percent of preschools and after-school programs – the places where many children learn to read – do not have age-appropriate books for students to practice reading.

How can we expect anyone to learn to read if they do not have the appropriate materials?

That’s the question that plagued Kyle Zimmer in 1994. Zimmer worked as a corporate lawyer during the day, and spent her evenings tutoring inner-city children at a soup kitchen in the Washington D.C. area. Zimmer was deeply upset by the fact that the children she was tutoring were unable to read at an age-appropriate level because they simply did not have any books to read.

Sadly enough, in low-income populations, there is only one age-appropriate book for every 300 children. After seeing the difference that providing children with the correct literary materials, Zimmer decided to quit her day job, joined forces with two friends, and created First Book.

First Book is a nonprofit organization that “provides new books to children in need, addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy – access to books.”

First Book accepts monetary donations from across the country, and then provides students with brand new books to read. Every $2.00 donation allows First Book to purchase a new book and give it to a child in need. Since First Book was founded in 1994, they have distributed more than 65 million books to students across the country and in Canada.

“Access to books and educational material is the single biggest barrier to literacy development in the United States and beyond,” said Susan B. Neuman, a member of the Center for Improvement of Early Reading Achievement. “If we can solve the problem of access, we will be well on the road to realizing educational parity – a goal which has eluded this country for generations.”

If you would like to make a donation to First Book to help combat childhood illiteracy, please visit the First Book website.

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