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$50,000 Grant Funds 13,000 Books for Tennessee Students

Press Release

Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Department of Education was selected to receive $50,000 in grant funding from First Book’s OMG Books Awards to purchase 13,000 books for Tennessee students. These books are intended to help develop a love of learning among students in Tennessee’s rural and distressed communities, in alignment with the department’s Best for All strategic plan and early literacy strategic priority, as well as Governor Bill Lee’s initiative to support rural counties across the state.

The grant award will be used to provide books to teachers and students who visit the Tennessee Residence and to distribute one book for every child in grades K-5 at schools in rural counties that were identified with an Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) or Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI).

“Building proficiency in reading and developing a love for learning early in a student’s education is so important for life-long learning,” said Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “In the Department’s Best for All Strategic plan, improving early literacy is a top priority, and this grant supports that work by putting high-quality texts into the hands of thousands of students across the state. Thank you to First Book for investing in Tennessee’s students, and to First Lady Maria Lee for her partnership in sharing these books with students and teachers who visit the Residence.”

Today, seventy-five third graders from Glendale Elementary visited the Tennessee Residence, where First Lady Maria Lee and Commissioner Schwinn read to the students. Teachers in attendance received new books for their classrooms. 

The Department specifically chose high-quality texts focused on building the whole child and emphasizing service to others, which aligns with the First Lady’s Tennessee Serves initiative and her annual Tennessee Kids Serve Summer Challenge where she encourages kids to devote a portion of their summer break to service.

“We are delighted and deeply grateful to partner with Commissioner Schwinn and the Tennessee Department of Education in bringing high-quality, service-oriented books to the students and teachers who visit the Tennessee Residence,” said First Lady Maria Lee. “This grant helps us encourage a love of reading while inspiring students to serve their neighbors.”

First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise focused on equal access to quality education for children in need, awarded the funds as part of its OMG Books Awards, “Offering More Great Books to Spark Innovation,” a program that will give more than $4.7 million in funding to distribute 1.5 million brand new books and eBooks to children living in low-income communities in 33 U.S. states and territories.

Awardees are using the funding to select books and eBooks from the First Book Marketplace, First Book’s award-winning eCommerce platform, that best meet the needs of the children they serve. First Book estimates the total value of the books distributed will be more than $12 million.

“We know that access to books and eBooks makes a significant difference in a child’s future success,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book president, CEO, and cofounder. “Children do not thrive in deeply under-resourced environments and too many of the schools and programs have far too little. This deprivation has long-term consequences for the children, their families, their communities and our nation. This could not be more urgent. With the OMG Books Awards, First Book and the Tennessee Department of Education are investing not only in the future of the kids we’re reaching, but in the overall wellbeing of our nation.”

Access to adequate resources is one of the greatest contributors to educational success in the United States.[1] Research indicates that just the presence of books in the home improves educational outcomes, yet low-income communities across the U.S. are plagued by vast ‘book deserts’—with one community having only a single book per as many as 830 children.[2] Additionally, members of the First Book Network, who exclusively serve kids in need, have indicated that without First Book, the children they serve would have access to very few books, if any at all.[3] (References below).

Eligible educators, librarians, providers, and others serving children in need can sign up to receive resources from First Book outside of OMG Books Awards at firstbook.org/join. For more information, please visit firstbook.org or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

About First Book
First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. Through sustainable, market-driven models, First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by making new, high-quality books and educational resources, including sports equipment, winter coats, snacks, and more, affordable to its member network of more than 400,000 registered educators who exclusively serve kids in need. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more learning materials than any other program of its kind: 175 million books and educational resources, worth more than $1.5 billion, reaching more than 5 million children annually across the U.S. and Canada.

First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources.
Eligible educators, librarians, providers, and others serving children in need can sign up at firstbook.org/join. For more information, please visit firstbook.org or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.