Brenda Mocek, left, and Kristina Schwarzkopf of the Toledo Federation of Teachers sort through materials provided by First Book.
In the coming academic year, every student in Larchmont Elementary teacher Dolores Samson's fifth-grade class will receive a new copy of The Last Olympian, the final book in best-selling author Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.
On Thursday, Ms. Samson, who is affiliated with the Toledo Federation of Teachers, traveled with fellow teachers and students to a warehouse just outside Detroit to pick up more than 10,000 new books provided by a program called First Book.
"At first I was pretty much tongue-tied," Ms. Samson said. "There were thousands and thousands of boxes of books. We filled almost a whole U-Haul with books just for Toledo."
First Book, a national nonprofit organization which has distributed more than 90 million new books since it was founded in 1992, was created to provide new books to schools and programs that serve low-income families, said Brian Minter, the communications director for First Book.
Although the group is based in Washington, it works with 27,000 schools and programs across the country.
To qualify to receive books from First Book, those who register must be part of groups or schools in which 70 percent of the children come from low-income families.
Mr. Minter cited the group's ability to distribute new rather than used books as a major strong suit -- teachers or other registered individuals are given a list of new books that are available and are then able to select which books they would like to give to their students.
"Almost everything in [these students'] lives is gently used," Mr. Minter said. "It's important for them to have something they can get excited about that someone hasn't known before them. They're not going to become strong readers unless we give them something they're genuinely excited to read."
First Book works with every major publisher and exists as a clearinghouse between the publisher and the public, Mr. Minter said, because publishers "know we have the capacity and reach to distribute their books."
Kevin Dalton, the president of TFT, said he got the idea to register for the books from the partnership between TFT and the American Federation of Teachers
The national group has been affiliated with First Book for about a year, six months of which have been a pilot partnership. The group plans to announce an expansion into a national partnership at their convention in Detroit next week, said Leslie Getzinger, a spokesman from the national teachers group.
"They are trying to bring books to families who might not have books already in their home," Ms. Getzinger said of the group's interest in joining with First Book. "In the poorest neighborhoods in America there's only one book for every 300 children -- they're trying to address that."
Mr. Dalton said 40 to 50 teachers from Toledo registered individually to receive books for classes ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade.
He said TFT picked up fiction and picture books in addition to nonfiction books about subjects such as World War II on Thursday.
"I see reading and literacy as being fundamental to academic success," he said. "What better way to build a love for learning than helping students build their own home library?"
Contact Madeline Buxton at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6368.
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