MSEA and First Book

Closing the gap with resources for students and educators

As a volunteer in a community soup kitchen, Kyle Zimmer asked the children to bring in their favorite book. One little boy brought in a phone book — it was the only book in his house. The others came empty-handed, because there were no books at all in their homes.

Zimmer started bringing as many books as she could with her to the soup kitchen, an effort that evolved into First Book — the educator-focused nonprofit that for over 25 years has distributed more than 160 million brand new books and resources. First Book reaches nearly one in four of the estimated 1.3 million edu­cators in the U.S. who serve kids in need from birth to age 18.

As issues of institutional and systemic racism and bias are better acknowledged and accepted in school settings, so is the need for multicultural and inclusionary literature. First Book and other research provides insights from edu­cators about what it means to their diverse populations of disadvantaged students when they see “kids who look like me” in their literature, media, and textbooks. First Book’s evolu­tion and its growing partnership with educators has led them to a huge increase in bilingual and multicultural books and an expansion into inventory beyond books, like school supplies, coats, nonperishable food, laptops, and hygiene kits to support homeless students.

In a First Book poll of educators serving children from low-income families, teachers validated the impact on their classrooms and programs: 87% of respondents said children’s interest in reading increased af­ter receiving resources from First Book, and 88% said First Book helps close the achievement gap for the kids they serve.

MSEA’s exciting new partnership with First Book will provide support and resources to educators working in high poverty schools across the state.

“We know that a great public school education can be a pathway out of poverty for students,” said MSEA President Betty Weller. “This partnership will help get needed resources immediately into the hands of educators and students.”

Over the summer, MSEA and First Book will work together, gathering feed-back from educators on what specific types of resources they need and how this part­nership can provide them with effective, targeted, and relevant help beginning in the 2017–18 school year.

Who Can Access First Book?

Classroom teachers, parapro­fessionals, and media special­ists can register at In addition, Title I and Title I-eligible schools, and programs and classrooms where 70 percent or more of their class represents children in need, are eligible for First Book resources. Once regis­tered with First Book, members have two options to access books and resources:

1. The First Book Market­place

The Marketplace features more than 6,000 items, including First Book’s Stories For All ProjectTM collection of diverse and bilingual books. Non-book resources are found in the Marketplace.

2. The First Book National Book Bank

The nation’s first and only centralized distribution system for large-scale donations of children’s books from publishers. Books are free and available only in carton quantities; educators pay only for shipping and handling.

By making new, high-quality books and educational resources available at the lowest possible prices, or for free, First Book helps reach more kids and enables resources to go further. And, knowing that teachers often spend out of their own pockets for what they need, First Book recruits spending power from partners to help defray the cost.