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Social Capitalists: First Book

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
Social Capitalist 2008 Winner

First Book

Kyle Zimmer, president
Washington, D.C.
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First Book is a nonprofit organization with a simple mission: to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. Since 1992, First Book has placed more than 50 million new books into the hands of the most disadvantaged children –- books to read, to enjoy, and to keep as their own.

First Book was designed in response to significant research findings. Studies show there is a single factor that strongly determines a child’s future ability to read: the number of books in the home. Yet access to books is virtually nonexistent for children in low-income families.

  • In middle-income neighborhoods there is an average of 13 books for every child. By comparison, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio drops to just one book for every 300 children.
  • More than 80% of preschool and after school programs serving children from low-income families have no books at all for the children they serve.

By providing the most disadvantaged children with ongoing access to new books, First Book targets the only variable that strongly correlates with reading scores while also empowering local programs with the resources needed to help children succeed, as readers and beyond.

Private sector thinking is integrated into everything First Book does -– from its cause marketing campaigns to program innovation and design. Celebrated for its entrepreneurial vision and the efficiency and impact of its models, First Book reaches those programs serving children in need through a powerful national network that encompasses the following three distribution channels:

  1. First Book Advisory Boards mobilize communities to supply great educational materials to those already serving children in need. Bringing together a diverse group of local leaders, First Book Advisory Boards raise funds locally and select the most effective programs in their community as First Book grantees.
  2. First Book National Book Bank (FBNBB) is the first-ever centralized online system that enables publishers to donate large quantities of new books to the nonprofit sector for distribution to children from low-income families. The FBNBB converts a private sector problem for publishers -– excess books -– into an innovative solution that advances First Book’s mission, allowing thousands of community-based organizations nationwide to select books for the children they serve.
  3. First Book Marketplace (FBMP) 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. An online store, the FBMP sells high-quality, award-winning books in carton quantities exclusively to community programs serving disadvantaged children.