NEW YORK—The AFT launched AFTBooks4Keeps this week, donating 10,000 bilingual, multicultural, and social and emotional learning books from First Book to the more than 2,100 children living in Win shelters, the largest provider of shelter and supportive housing for families in New York City.
The effort is part of the union’s multifaceted initiatives to support our members, our students and our communities that have been deeply affected by COVID-19. AFTBooks4Keeps is focused on getting children books, via First Book with which the AFT has had a longtime partnership and distributed more than 5 million books. This new effort is aimed at ensuring that—through reading—the children can be engaged and stimulated in this very uncertain and isolating time.
“These books were specifically chosen by Win and First Book staff for the children and families living in all 10 Win shelters to help them cope with the stress and trauma we are all feeling, to stay engaged and safe inside their temporary home, and to inspire a lifelong love of reading and learning,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.
“Every day during this pandemic, our members are helping students stay engaged and stay safe, as a result of remote learning. However, this crisis has exposed all the inequities of society,” Weingarten said. “And just like our healthcare professionals are taking so many risks every day to take care of others, as a union of educators, healthcare professionals and public employees, it is our responsibility to take special care of those of us with the greatest need. Our hope is that AFTBooks4Keeps serves as a model for others to provide books and learning resources to help communities navigate this difficult time and prioritize one of the most fundamental things we can all do together: read.”
This week, every child in a Win shelter will choose two books to keep and to help create their personal reading collections. Books include bilingual titles such as Catch Me If You Can!/¡A que no me alcanzas!, as well as Booked by Kwame Alexander for teens, and All Are Welcome, a warm and welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids.
“Over the past six weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the 2,100 children living in shelter at Win to adapt to difficult challenges, including social isolation, virtual learning, and fewer opportunities with friends and family,” said Christine C. Quinn, president and CEO of Win. “Thanks to the support of our partners at First Book, the American Federation of Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers, every child living at Win will now have engaging books to call their own—providing opportunities for enrichment and growth and imagination during these unbelievably difficult times. During this moment when homeless New Yorkers are feeling forgotten, we are grateful to be able to share these gifts with our families and bring joy to children who need it most.”
Next month, every child will receive an additional book and journal to help express their feelings and practice writing and drawing skills. This summer, permanent libraries with hundreds of books will be created in each of Win’s 10 family shelters.
“In this crisis, one of the most hopeful developments has been the creation of new partnerships and collaborations that can serve as a model for other cities and organizations to replicate,” said Kyle Zimmer, president, CEO and co-founder of First Book. “These partnerships, like the one we’ve created here with Win and our longtime partner AFT, will extend far beyond this crisis to make an impact for children in need for many years to come. We are so grateful to be working together to help children living in shelters have access to the books that can change their lives.”
The AFT is providing funding for AFTBooks4Keeps and brought together the partners; Win is providing on-the-ground support and access to families; First Book worked with Win on title selection and distribution to each shelter. UFT volunteers will help with future book distributions and creation of the Win shelters’ permanent libraries.
Along with the books, the AFT is providing bilingual bookplates for kids to write their names inside their books to give them a sense of ownership and pride in their books; bilingual bookmarks with reading tips for parents on how to help their children become strong readers; and bags so children and families have a place to keep their books and transport them as they transition to permanent homes.
“No matter the crisis, educators always find ways to keep teaching and learning alive. AFTBooks4Keeps puts books into the hands of the children most in need, at a time when the power of books—to engage, to revitalize, to comfort— has never been clearer,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
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Since 1983, Win has been transforming the lives of New York City homeless women and their children by providing the housing, programs and services they need to succeed on their own. With more than 1,200 units of transitional housing providing shelter for more than 4,700 people every night, Win focuses on solutions for the many causes of homelessness by helping women improve their job skills, life skills, personal health and more. Win’s children’s services include child care, after-school programs, and Camp Win, a summer day camp program. Win also provides permanent supportive housing offering dedicated, long-term support to mothers with additional needs. Win transforms the lives of New York City homeless women and their children by providing a holistic solution of safe housing, critical services and programs they need to succeed on their own—so the women can regain their independence, and their children can look forward to a brighter future.
About First Book
Founded in Washington, D.C., in 1992 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise, First Book is a leader in the educational equity field. Over its 27-year history, First Book has distributed more than 200 million books and educational resources, with a retail value of more than $2.0 billion. First Book believes education offers children in need the best path out of poverty. First Book breaks down barriers to quality education by providing its network of more than 475,000 registered teachers, librarians, after school program leaders, and others serving children in need with millions of free and affordable new, high-quality books, educational resources, and basic needs items through the award-winning First Book Marketplace nonprofit eCommerce site. The First Book Network comprises the largest and fastest-growing community of formal and informal educators serving children in need.
First Book also expands the breadth and depth of the education field through a family of social enterprises, including First Book Research & Insights, its proprietary research initiative, and the First Book Accelerator, which brings best-in-class research to the classroom via relevant, usable educator resources. First Book Impact Funds target support to areas of particular need, such as rural communities or increasing diversity in children’s books.