Press Release

AFT Surpasses 1 Million Book Giveaway Goal, Commits to Another Million in the New Year to Promote Student Literacy, Stoke Joy of Reading

Pathbreaking multimillion-dollar initiative aims to boost literacy across the country to create a nation of confident readers.

For Release:


Sarah Hager Mosby

PICO RIVERA, Calif.—This holiday season, after successfully distributing 1 million books to students and teachers in the last year, the American Federation of Teachers announced today it would distribute an additional 1 million books through its multiyear Reading Opens the World campaign to create a nation of confident and joyful readers.

“Reading is foundational,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “It is necessary for virtually everything we do—and for experiencing the joy of a great book. When children see themselves in books, they feel seen, welcomed and loved. When children are introduced to others in books, they experience the wonder of new ideas. Books bring joy—and they really do open the world. That’s why as others are banning books and denigrating educators, teachers and their unions are continuing our efforts to create a nation of joyful and confident readers.”

This time last year, we announced our commitment to distribute 1 million books to educators, students and their families to promote the joy of reading. And we did. We held more than 200 events in 28 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico at schools, community centers, faith-based organizations and union halls over the last 12 months. At each event, children, their families and their teachers were able to choose books from diverse titles for kids of all ages—for their classrooms and home libraries. Now we are taking that initial literacy effort to the next level.

“I am so proud to announce that we will give another 1 million books in the new year as part of our strategy to promote universal literacy,” added Weingarten. “Our goal is for all students to love to read and to read well. Through Reading Opens the World, we are celebrating reading and offering children a variety of titles and topics to help build their reading confidence and desire to read.”

Teaching literacy has always been essential to educators and the AFT, but helping all children read well has been a challenge, exacerbated by the pandemic. As Louisa C. Moats wrote in her latest American Educator article, “Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science”—an updated version of her seminal 1999 report of the same name—“The fact that teachers need better preparation, professional development, and resources to carry out deliberate instruction in reading … should highlight the chronic gap between what teachers need and what they have been given.” While some children learn to read easily, many others require systematic instruction over several years grounded in the science of reading. Too few teachers have had the opportunity to learn that science or to be supported by evidence-based literacy curricula. 

That’s why through our campaign, we’ve expanded the reach of the AFT’s Teaching Literacy courses. Hundreds of educators have been trained in the AFT’s reading course content, and our Reading Opens the World webinars have had more than 20,000 registrations, highlighting the thirst for additional professional learning opportunities.

Throughout 2023, we will be doing more—not just giving out books but helping students build confidence in reading. It’s part of our commitment to what kids and communities need to recover and thrive. 

You can see all updates at in the coming weeks. We look forward to families, community groups and other partners joining us, in addition to our founding campaign partners, First Book and the AFL-CIO.

“Thanks to the AFT’s commitment through Reading Opens the World, the excitement that we see here in Pico Rivera will be mirrored in communities across the country,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “Our hope for the future shines through the bright faces of these children. It is critically important to ensure that educators have the beautiful books they need to inspire reading and learning—and to strengthen that powerful bond between teachers, parents and caregivers. First Book is thrilled to join hands with the AFT as we work together to bring the power of books to more kids in 2023!”

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.