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43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
2007 Social Capitalist Winner

First Book

Washington, DC
Year Founded: 1992
President: Kyle Zimmer

First Book is an award-winning international nonprofit organization with a single mission: to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. First Book has provided more than 46 million new books to children in need in thousands of communities. Our goal is not just to fight illiteracy but to end it.

First Book provides a critical resource to children in need. Research has confirmed that the critical factor determining whether a child becomes a reader is his or her access to reading materials. Most recent data describes a profound, even shocking gap: while the ratio of books to children in middle-income neighborhoods is approximately 13 books per child, the ratio in low-income neighborhoods is 1 book per 300 children. By providing children with books they can take home and keep, First Book targets the only variable that correlates significantly with reading scores--the number of books in the home.

First Book supports the hardest to reach children and elevates the quality of the programs that serve them. The children served by First Book are found in existing literacy programs in youth centers, housing projects, pediatric clinics, migrant worker camps, daycare centers, and other community-based initiatives serving children in need.

First Book's unique model provides innovative solutions for ending illiteracy. First Book reaches existing preschool and after-school programs through a carefully designed national network that encompasses local Advisory Boards, the First Book National Book Bank, and the First Book Marketplace.

First Book Advisory Boards

The First Book community-based model brings together a group of diverse local leaders to form self-sustaining Advisory Boards. First Book Advisory Boards mobilize communities to supply those already at work with the tools they need to provide new books to the children they serve. Advisory Boards raise funds locally and select the most effective programs in their community as First Book grantees. All books distributed by First Book are brand new and are provided at no cost to the child or the program.

First Book National Book Bank

First Book created the First Book National Book Bank--the first-ever centralized system that enables publishers to donate large quantities of new books and educational materials to the nonprofit sector for distribution to children from low-income families. First Book's proprietary technology permits community-based literacy organizations nationwide to select books online and give them to the children they serve. The First Book National Book Bank converts a private sector problem for publishers--excess books--into an innovative solution that advances First Book's mission.

First Book Marketplace

The First Book Marketplace revolutionizes the way community-based programs teach our country's hardest-to-reach children by offering award-winning books at 50-85% below retail prices. A web-based venture, the Marketplace sells carton quantities of high quality titles exclusively to community programs serving disadvantaged children. The books are available at the lowest possible prices and new titles are constantly being added. The Marketplace is also the 2005 grand prize winner of a national business plan competition sponsored by the Yale School of Management and the Goldman Sachs Foundation.

Book Relief

In response to the terrible devastation of the 2005 hurricanes, First Book launched Book Relief, the nation's most comprehensive effort to place brand new books back into the Gulf Coast region. Book Relief is an unparalleled, publishing industry-wide program to place at least five million books into the hands of those displaced by the hurricanes, as well as into schools, libraries and literacy programs in the devastated areas.

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