First Book-Monroe County has a simple and focused mission: To provide the children from low-income families in Monroe County free new books that they can take home and own. The books are distributed through qualified local literacy programs that receive book grants from us. The programs use our book grants to purchase books on the children's behalf. To qualify, the programs must have at least 70 % of the children from low-income families, and conduct regular reading or other age-appropriate activities to nurture the children's love of reading. The programs are selected every year based on their need and their ability to meet our requirements.
First Book-Monroe County is an advisory board, and the community arm of the well-respected national non-profit First Book (www.firstbook.org). First Book, a 501 (C) (3) organization, has been in existence for over 20 years and has distributed more 100 million books to programs serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada.
According to the 2009 Kids Count Study by the Annie Casey foundation, 18.1% of children (about 4000) in Monroe County live in poverty. Many of these children have no books or reading materials to call their own. Our goal is to reach at least 20% (800) of these children by March of 2013 through funds raised from various sources that include individual donations, business sponsorship, and grants.
Numerous studies have shown strong correlation between reading achievement and ready access to books at home. Studies have also shown that not having access to books is the single most barrier to literacy, and that low income families typically have little or no print material and books at home. The correlation between reading ability and educational achievement, which in turn leads to higher paying jobs, is well documented. The achievement gap experienced by low-income children translates to high school drop-out rates, juvenile crime, and cost to the community.
First Book-Monroe County was recently established to remove the critical barrier to literacy for low-income children, namely the lack of access to books. It has exceeded the 2011 goal of reaching 400 children in need in 2012, and is currently distributing over 3000 books to nearly 800 children through book grants to 5 Bloomington based programs that work with children from low-income families.
First Book-Monroe County provides unsurpassable value for the donor's dollars. Every $2.50 donation can provide a brand new and high quality book for a child to own. This is due to the virtually non-existent over head of First Book-Monroe County and the creative business model of First Book. First Book has established partnerships with well known publishers and is able to provide deeply discounted books at an average of $2.50 per book (inclusive of shipping costs) compared to a price of over $10 in the open market. The books are new with high quality content. A wide choice of books (from over 90 leading publishers) on a variety of topics (fiction, science math etc..) is available in the online First Book Market place, enabling the educator to choose books that are tailored to the needs of individual children ranging from ages 0 - 17. A 14 month longitudinal study of 2564 students showed 69% of program administrators found books from First Book were "very important" in children's decisions to read more and improve their reading skills, and more than 70% of children reported increased home literacy activities after receiving books from First Book.
First Book’s advisory board model effectively leverages community resources to minimize cost. Since the books are distributed through local literacy programs that already conduct reading activities, we can utilize the program's existing resources and infrastructure to deliver the books and activities at NO incremental cost to the programs or the community. In addition, the children receive the books in a context of guidance and literacy providing enhanced value to the child.
The advisory board model is set up for maximum efficiency and low cost. The advisory board can leverage the Financial, IT, and infrastructure resources of the national organization enabling it to eliminate the need for paid administrative resources. Our 2011 expenses were less than 0.3% of funds generated, returning virtually every dollar generated back to the Monroe county community.