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National coalition announces commitment at Clinton Global Initiative 2023 Meeting to distribute 600,000 diverse children's books

Announcement on collective action comes as First Book study reveals significant academic benefits of diverse books

NEW YORK, Sept. 19, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- At the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2023 meeting today, the Diverse Books for All Coalition presented an urgent plan designed to ensure that our increasingly diverse population of children have access to books in which they can see themselves, their families and communities. Through its Commitment to Action, the Coalition will aggregate its collective market power to purchase and distribute 600,000 new, high-quality, affordable children's books by and about diverse cultures, races, identities, and abilities over the next 18 months. The Coalition represents more than 40 nonprofits and member organizations supporting millions of children from low-resource communities.

Of the 600,000 books, the Coalition has already initiated the purchase and distribution of 130,000 diverse books through four selected publishers – Abrams, Barefoot Books, Candlewick, and Penguin Random House. The collection of 18 bilingual and paperback books will be distributed to children served by Coalition members this year to launch this national effort and ensure access to high-quality, affordable diverse books for low-income communities across the country, all to foster a powerful sense of self-worth and a love of reading and early literacy skills from birth. 

"The critical need for diverse books is evidenced by reading scores which have reached historic lows," says Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book, which founded the Coalition. "Families and educators are calling for books that reflect their students and communities, but children's books that convey authentic, lived stories of diverse populations are too rare and too expensive. A new study from First Book Research & Insights demonstrates the positive impact that diverse classroom libraries have on student outcomes and illustrates the importance of the Diverse Books for All Coalition."

The results of the six-month study of nearly 450 educators revealed the significant positive impact that increased access to diverse books has on interest in reading and reading scores. Students with access to diverse classroom libraries delivered scores 3 percentage points higher than national annual expected averages, with the greatest gains being felt by students with the lowest scores entering the assessment phase (+5 points). As diverse books were added to classroom libraries, educators reported student reading time increasing by 4 hours per week on average. Allowing students to choose which diverse books to read also positively impacted the amount of time students spent reading, as well as reading outcomes.

"More than half of the nation's youth are children of color, but children's books don't reflect that diversity," said Ernestine Benedict, Chief Communications Officer of ZERO TO THREE and a member of the Coalition. "Reading stories with authentic portrayals of diverse characters from an early age helps children develop a strong sense of self, empathy for others, and a love of reading. These books are vital to all of our nation's students and are particularly impactful for the children in low-income communities served by the Diverse Books for All Coalition. The potential of these books in the hands of our youngest learners inspires our commitment to combat inequities of representation in children's books, support early literacy development, and foster healthy development."

The study provides specific insights into the effects of diverse books on students across the country:

  • Classrooms that added bilingual titles and titles representing the LGBTQ+ community had the greatest improvement in student reading scores.
  • Every additional book from these two respective categories added to the classroom libraries, improved student assessment scores by 7 points on average for bilingual books and 4.5 points on average for LGBTQ+ books.

These findings underscore the vital work of the Diverse Books for All Coalition, and further galvanize collective action to expand the production and distribution of diverse titles to best meet the pressing needs of students across the country.

In addition to expanding access to affordable, diverse books over the next 18 months through collective purchasing efforts, the Coalition's CGI commitment includes the creation of a Parent Leadership Cohort to co-develop resources that are centered in the lived experience of parents and caregivers and creating tools and resources to help educators and early childhood professionals better access, use, and advocate for diverse books. The Coalition is working to raise $1 million to support its ongoing strategic, multi-faceted approach. Co-created and co-owned by its members, the Coalition and its work have been supported through an initial grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

To learn more about the work and goals of the Diverse Books for All Coalition, or to donate to support their work, go here. First Book's full report on the impact of diverse books is available to download here.   

About the Diverse Books for All Coalition
The Diverse Books for All Coalition is an unprecedented national consortium of 40 nonprofits and membership organizations spanning all 50 states and reaching millions of young children every year. We are dedicated to increasing access to and affordability of young children's books by and about diverse races, cultures, identities, and abilities, supporting families & educators in using diverse content, and creating a positive narrative around representation in books. Learn more at www.diversebooksforall.org.

About First Book
Education transforms lives. First Book is building a world where every child has access to a quality education. We work to remove barriers to education and level the playing field for kids in need. At the heart of our work are the 575,000 members of the First Book Network, the largest online community of educators and professionals dedicated to children in need across North America. This Network is the key to creating systemic change. Through our research arm, First Book Research & Insights, we conduct studies that aggregate their voices to identify barriers to equitable education and inform strategic solutions. To address their needs, we provide free and low-cost books, resources and access to leading experts through the First Book Marketplace, which uses aggregated buying power to support this underserved community. Founded in Washington D.C. in 1992 as a nonprofit social enterprise, First Book is dedicated to eliminating barriers to learning and inspiring young minds. Learn more at FirstBook.org and visit our award-winning eCommerce website at FBMarketplace.org

About Clinton Global Initiative
Founded by President Bill Clinton in 2005, the Clinton Global Initiative is a community of doers representing a broad cross section of society and dedicated to the idea that we can accomplish more together than we can apart.  Through CGI's unique model, more than 9,000 organizations have launched more than 3,900 Commitments to Action — new, specific, and measurable projects and programs.

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SOURCE First Book

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