First Book has unveiled a new Commitment to Action to expand its distribution model globally, pledging $9 million over three years with the aim of bringing books and resources—including ebooks and digital content—to 10 million children living in poverty worldwide by 2016. First Book made the pledge at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)’s meeting in New York City, hosted by former President Bill Clinton.
“Education is the most powerful tool to open the doors to self-determination and equality,” says Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book, in the company’s announcement. “This truth is universal—whether you are in South Africa, South Korea, or South Carolina. Perhaps that is why those who seek to control people—through terrorism, intimidation, violence or economic means—are so afraid of it.”
The nonprofit—which has provided more than 100 million new books and resources to schools and programs in under-served communities in the U.S. and Canada since 1992—hopes to leverage its years of experience in serving North American kids to serve a wider population, Zimmer says, noting that First Book will focus its new efforts initially in India, Brazil, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East, where strong partner interest exists, while expanding partner-based distribution efforts in other regions.
“Millions of children worldwide are hungry for knowledge, and we are committed to support their right to learn,” Zimmer says in the announcement. “All of us have a shared responsibility to see that every child is given the opportunity for a quality education. This responsibility transcends cultural, geographic, religious, political and socio-economic differences.”
First Book’s global plan through 2016 also includes doubling the number of books and materials offered on its First Book Marketplace to 10,000 titles in 10 languages; increasing the number of resources distributed from 12 million units annually in North America to 30 million units annually worldwide; and automating its current feedback system so participants can influence the selection of content available on the Marketplace, plus its languages and formats. The initiative will also include a special focus on supporting young women and girls, Zimmer says.
“[We have] been partnering with First Book in Ghana since 2008, and I’ve come to know that this organization is doing tremendous work in a way that few others are,” notes Pam Cope, co-founder of the Touch A Life Foundation, in the announcement. “First Book has allowed us to give hundreds of brand-new books to children who were once living in slavery. Words cannot describe how amazing it is to watch a former trafficked child open a book, knowing it now belongs to them.”
Classrooms and programs worldwide already have access to an initial collection of books on the newly-launched First Book Global Marketplace. The initial selection includes books in English, French, and Spanish; stories from India, Tanzania, Tibet and Cambodia; and titles with universal appeal. First Book will continue working with publishers to add more titles for which they have global distribution rights.
First Book has undertaken a variety of pilot projects to provide new books to children around the world—including working with Feed the Children in Guatemala, Honduras, and other parts of Central America, and World Vision in Uganda and Nicaragua. In addition, First Book is exploring pilot projects with The Asia Foundation, the International Rescue Committee, Ashoka, and other organizations. First Book has also worked with multinational corporations, like Tata Sons, to improve literacy worldwide.
“We are developing strategies to connect our Ashoka fellows—numbering nearly 3,000 social entrepreneurs in more than 80 countries—with First Book’s resources,” says Bill Drayton, Ashoka founder, in the announcement. “Given its record…and its commitment to innovation and impact, First Book is perfectly positioned to bring paradigm-shifting change to support quality education worldwide.”
Today’s announcement of First Book’s new global initiative comes on the heels of the nonprofit’s unprecedented diversity initiative known as “The Stories for All Project,” which committed $1 million to the purchase of titles featuring a diverse array of characters and cultures for kids in North America. The next phase of that project, proceeding now, includes the planned outreach to 30,000 new schools and programs, the establishment of special collections of diverse and multicultural titles, matching grants for educators, and the creation of an influential council of authors to help inspire new books.