Leaders of Partner Organizations Gather with Students at Ethel M. Taylor Academy
CINCINNATI—Leaders of two national organizations working together to get free books into the hands of children across the country joined with local and state partners today to launch a project to expand access to books for Cincinnati students.
American Federation of Teachers Executive Vice President Francine Lawrence and First Book President and CEO Kyle Zimmer, whose organizations are collaborating to distribute free books to kids through their teachers, spoke today during an event with students, parents and teachers at Ethel M. Taylor Academy.
Locally, members of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, with support from United Way of Greater Cincinnati, are working with First Book, a national nonprofit organization that has distributed more than 90 million books to children over the last 20 years.
"We know that having books of their own at home is so important to instilling the love of reading that starts children on the path of lifelong learning," said Lawrence. "Kids won't become readers if they don't have books. By working with First Book, we can level the playing field so that all kids can have books of their own."
The first project in Cincinnati is giving new books to students registered for the Cincinnati Public Schools Fifth Quarter extended summer learning program. At Ethel M. Taylor Academy this afternoon, representatives of the organizations involved discussed their new partnership, presented free books to students at the school, and listened to children's author Sharon Draper—a former Cincinnati teacher—celebrate reading, literacy and learning.
"We're taking a stand with our friends at the AFT to make sure kids in Cincinnati get the help they need—from all of us—to succeed," said Zimmer, First Book's president. "More than anyone, teachers understand the transformative power of books. By working together with teachers, First Book is ensuring that Cincinnati's kids have new books of their own."
Other partners who were at the Ethel Taylor school for the project launch included United Way of Greater Cincinnati President Robert C. Reifsnyder, CFT President Julie Sellers, CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan and Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper. They were welcomed by school principal Sean McCauley.
"United Way of Greater Cincinnati is very pleased to partner with the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers in the First Book program, which will bring new books to children who might otherwise not own any and will help those students succeed in school," Reifsnyder said. "Evidence shows that, over the summer, at-risk students can lose much of what they learned during the regular school year unless they have reinforcement through programs such as Cincinnati Public Schools' Fifth Quarter extension of the school year."
He said that First Book's mission "fits with United Way's early grade reading strategy and our ultimate goal of ensuring that youth graduate from high school. We are making a grant of up to $26,000 to support this initiative." The AFT's Lawrence, who serves on the board of trustees of United Way USA, praised the local organization's involvement.
The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers is reaching out to parents and community organizations to expand the partnership and build support and long-term commitment.
"This is just the beginning of what Cincinnati educators hope will be a permanent relationship with First Book," said CFT's Sellers. "As we move ahead through this summer, over the coming year and beyond, we know the partnership begun here today will enhance learning for our students for years to come."
CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan noted that the collaborative project shows how Cincinnati's Community Learning Centers draw strength from partners in their neighborhoods and across the city. "This is a perfect example of the kind of public-private partnership that we embrace in Cincinnati Public Schools to expand learning resources and prepare our students for life," Ronan said. "I'm especially pleased that it fits so well with two of our major initiatives—early literacy and extended learning."
Earlier this week, a similar project was launched in Cleveland with a partnership between First Book and the Cleveland Teachers Union.
Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper attended both the Cleveland and Cincinnati events. "Reading helps build a foundation for how well a child performs in all areas of learning," she said today in Cincinnati. "As a school librarian, I have seen how reading not only expands a child's vocabulary, but helps children learn how to express their own thoughts and feelings.
"Having access to books—especially ones they can call their own—is immensely important to a child's learning," Cropper added.
American Federation of Teachers
Cincinnati Public Schools
Cincinnati Federation of Teachers
Lisa K. Zellner
Ohio Federation of Teachers