First Book distributes new books (80 million and counting) to kids from low-income communities all over the U.S. and Canada, but we do have a special place in our heart for schools and programs in Washington D.C. Not only are they are neighbors, but First Book got its start here in the District of Columbia 19 years ago.
So we were pleased to be able to provide grants to twenty schools and programs serving low-income kids here in Washington D.C.
Many schools in D.C. face the same lack of resources that affect so many programs serving children in low-income neighborhoods. Most public high school libraries have eleven books per student, but the library at Ballou High School has less than a tenth of that. The library at Woodrow Wilson High School no longer has a single fiction title. And the D.C. public high school for incarcerated youth has no library at all.
“Our needs are very great,” said Melissa Jackson, Ballou’s librarian. “We’re trying to build our nonfiction and fiction collections, so whatever we can get from First Book we will gladly accept.”
“We’ve recorded about 16,000 books over the last twelve years,” said Carol Fennelly of Hope House, a program that records videos of incarcerated D.C. fathers reading for their children. “And probably 50% to 75% of those books come have come from First Book.”
Each school or program received a grant of 500 free books from the First Book National Book Bank and $1,575 to spend on the First Book Marketplace, an online store serving eligible schools and programs in First Book’s network.
The books were made possible thanks to the support of the Philip L. Graham Fund.
“We will use these books for many purposes,” said Abraham Clayman of KIPP DC: LEAP Academy, a charter school that serves three-, four- and five-year-olds in the District. “We send them home with families, we put them in classroom libraries, teachers use them. I want to say thanks to First Book … we’re really excited about what we’re doing.”