February 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Penguin and First Book Team Up in Red Mitten Campaign

Penguin Young Readers is celebrating Ezra Jack Keats’s 100th birthday with the Red Mitten Campaign, a collaboration between the publishing company and the advocacy organization First Book. Andrea Davis Pinkney’s A Poem for Peter, along with a pair of mittens, will be donated to a child in need for every copy of the book sold between now and December 31.

poemforpeter_jkt_finalA Poem for Peter tells the story of young Ezra’s struggle as the son of a poor immigrant family to follow his dreams of becoming an artist. The book, aimed at kids ages seven to 10, also imagines the life of the little boy who inspired Keats to create one of the most endearing characters in modern-day kid lit—Peter of The Snowy Day (and six more of Keats’s works). The 1963 Caldecott winner was one of the first picture books to feature an African-American child as its protagonist.

We felt that by sharing a piece of Peter’s snowy day gear with thousands of children nationwide, we’d help bring awareness to Keats, while also helping to warm hands with mittens and minds with books this winter,” says Jed Bennett, the marketing director for Penguin Young Readers.

Pinkney’s 60-page picture book is also a natural fit with First Book’s project, Stories for All, says Chandler Arnold, the chief operating officer of the 24-year-old organization. “It’s a book that addresses some tough topics that the kids we serve are wrestling with, like poverty and discrimination. But it’s also a story of hope and opportunity and equality, whether you’re Jewish like Ezra or African American like Peter or from any other kind of family. I think it’s a universal story that any child can relate to,” he notes.

Pinckney signs copies of A Poem for Peter at the book's launch event.

Andrea Davis Pinkney signs copies of A Poem for Peter at the book’s launch event.

Shortly after the New Year, Bennett and his team will tally up the number of books sold and ship up to 5,000 pairs of red mittens and books to First Book. Then the nonprofit will spread the word via social media and email to tap into its nationwide network of programs that serve kids in need, reaching children through libraries, aftercare programs, and homeless shelters.

Librarians who aren’t already part of the First Book network can sign up for free. “It’s a great first step to get connected to this initiative and to all the other things that we do,” Arnold notes, adding that First Book will distribute 15 million books in the coming year.

Pinkney Davis getting into the spirit of the book.

Pinkney getting into the spirit of the book.

As to how mittens fit into First Book’s mission to make sure all children have equal opportunities to high-quality education, Arnold explained. “We know that part of helping kids succeed at school is to give them access to wonderful books and stories. But we also know that there is a range of other things that stop kids from achieving that equal education. We have survey data that shows absenteeism really skyrockets during the winter because kids might not have winter clothes, and parents keep them home instead of sending them out in the cold to wait for the school bus. That’s why we not only offer books but warm winter coats—and these wonderful mittens are a great complement to that.”

Both Bennett and Arnold expect the books and mittens to be in (and on!) kids’ hands by the end of January. More information can be found at Penguin Kids on Facebook and Twitter.






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