April 13, 2013

NYSUT launches First Book program

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: RA Reporter
first book
Caption: Kyle Zimmer of First Book presents the program to delegates. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Once upon a time - Friday, to be exact - NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi invited educators attending the RA to make a new story for their students: providing a book of their own to take home.

Through a new partnership with First Book and the AFT, NYSUT members can receive new books at low to no cost for students in schools that are Title I or Title I eligible. Iannuzzi said his hope is to have 50,000 NYSUT members register with First Book over the coming year at www.firstbook.org.

What will educators receive? Boxes of brand new, colorful books, with spines ready to crackle when opened. More than 4,000 titles are available, from poetry, plays, classics and counting books to young adult releases. Other titles can also be requested. 
First Book has stories kids clamor for and books that feature characters and cultures not always abundantly represented in children's literature. Books can be ordered for students through age 18.

"We believe people closest to the kids know what gets kids most excited," said Kyle Zimmer, president and founder of the not-for-profit First Book, which provides books to schools and organizations that serve low-income families. "We give you the tools to do the magic you do," she said.

NYSUT locals in Buffalo, Schenectady, Albany, Central Islip and Freeport - where many students do not own books - are already partnering with First Book and were highlighted in an RA video.

"Families value having books, but don't have the opportunity to get them," said Juliet Benaquisto, president of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers. Many students' families in the district struggle financially, she said, and some schools lack libraries and librarians. 

First Book also is donating books to educators in areas affected by Superstorm Sandy.