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Resource Watch: Free Books for Low-Income Students

Do you have any students in your class who don't own books at home?

According to her press agent, the founder of the nonprofit First Book, Kyle Zimmer, likes to share the anecdote about a teacher in a Title 1 classroom who asked her students to bring in a book from home to read in class. To her surprise, three students brought back a phone book, the only book they found at home.

"Access to a steady stream of books at home—from birth through high school graduation—is a key predictor of success in school," says Zimmer. "But the majority of low-income families have no age-appropriate books for their children. For these children this means starting school well behind their peers, an achievement gap that leads to poor school performance, poor attendance and lower graduation rates."

First Book, which delivers free news books to low-income children, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, offers resources to help educators tackle this problem, including a free "book bank," reduced- price books, and book-buying grants. In all, the organization has distributed more than 90 million free books, and is hoping to push that number to 100 million this year, in part by doubling the number of school programs in its network from 25,000 to 50,000. Recent donations from Random House and Disney Publishing Worldwide enabled it to give out one million books in just 10 days.

Teachers can find out if their classroom or school is eligible to register for free books here.

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