AFT affiliates helping kids get thousands of free books

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Nearly half a million free books are finding new homes nationwide in the latest push by First Book, a nonprofit group that has distributed more than 90 million books to children across the country.

Thanks to a partnership among the AFT, AFT Michigan and First Book, members in Michigan and Ohio alone will be distributing well over 30,000 books to give the gift of reading to their students in need. The book bank operation was the opening act for the AFT's national convention in Detroit July 27-30.

First Book DetroitChildren of Toledo Federation of Teachers members take a peek at books awaiting distribution. Photo by Jim West.

First Book set up a warehouse in Detroit for a national distribution of books from July 16-19. The distribution got under way bright and early on July 19, with 20 members from the Toledo Federation of Teachers and their children in a caravan to the Detroit warehouse, where they loaded more than 350 boxes containing nearly 11,000 books for students in and around Toledo.

"Our teachers and paraprofessionals are committed to ensuring that all children have books in the home," says TFT president Kevin Dalton, among those from Toledo making the trip. "This is a huge factor in promoting literacy."

As they worked, the TFT members couldn't resist taking a peek at some books, including best-selling fiction and nonfiction for children at all reading levels. About 20,000 free books were ordered for students by Detroit-area teachers, school staff and community organizations.

"When children have books of their own, they are so much more likely to develop the love of reading that is important to lifelong learning," says AFT president Randi Weingarten. "That's why AFT members around the country are working with First Book to get books into the hands of children who otherwise cannot afford them. We want to level the playing field so that all kids can have books of their own."

Throughout the final day of the book bank, Detroit-area teachers and school staff picked up books for their students. The nonprofit has developed projects with AFT affiliates across the country—all designed to get books to children who may not have any at home.

"Learning is a year-round activity, and AFT Michigan members are thrilled to have this opportunity," says AFT Michigan president David Hecker, also an AFT vice president.
"We're working with our friends at the AFT to make sure kids in Michigan and around the nation get the resources they need to thrive and succeed," adds Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. She and other First Book officials will take part in events at the AFT convention.

Members can register online with First Book. [Leslie Getzinger, Tom Lansworth, Annette Licitra, Lauren Samet]

July 23, 2012