Press Release

Hillsborough Teachers Join with First Book and Community To Provide Free Books

For Release: 

Thursday, May 31, 2012


Tom Lansworth

Leaders of National Organizations Gather with Students and Educators
At Crestwood Elementary School; Event Includes Reading by Award-Winning Children's Author

TAMPA, Fla.—Leaders of organizations working together to get free books into the hands of Hillsborough County children spent this morning at Crestwood Elementary School, where they gave a book to every student.

The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association is partnering with First Book, a national nonprofit organization that has distributed more than 90 million new, high-quality books to kids from low-income families across the country. The First Book partnership with Hillsborough educators—launched today during student assemblies and a classroom reading by an award-winning children's author—is one of several pilot projects being developed with the American Federation of Teachers and its affiliates across the country.

AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson and First Book Executive Vice President Chandler Arnold joined with HCTA leaders and local school officials for events at Crestwood that included two student assemblies and a visit to a fifth-grade classroom, where children's author Erica S. Perl read from one of her books.

"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 Johnson. "Kids won't become readers if they don't have books.

"The AFT and Hillsborough CTA members are working with First Book to level the playing field so that all kids can have books of their own," Johnson added.

"More than anyone, teachers and school staff understand the transformative power of books," said Arnold, who introduced Perl to students at the assemblies. "At First Book, our mission is to support teachers by helping them get the resources they need to turn their students into readers. Thanks to this partnership, kids in Hillsborough County will have new books of their own."

Events at Crestwood began with Perl telling students during morning announcements over the school's intercom system about the assemblies and the book distribution. At two assemblies—one for second-graders and the other for fourth-graders—national and local education leaders helped hand out new books, which students had selected with their teachers from hundreds of titles available through First Book.

"Hillsborough County educators jumped at the chance to be part of this partnership with First Book, which will expand their students' access to books in their homes," said HCTA President Jean Clements. "Being able to have books—especially ones they can keep as their own—instills a love of reading that helps make children lifelong learners."

Johnson and Clements noted that the project has drawn financial backing from community supporters, including Baron Craiger, of Horace Mann Insurance; Jack Sardegna, of AXA Equitable; and Melissa Erickson, president of the Hillsborough PTA. All three were recognized during the student assemblies at Crestwood.

In a fifth-grade classroom at Crestwood, author Perl read from her book When Life Gives You O.J. Perl also signed a copy of the book for each student in the class.      

Others participating in today's launch events included Crestwood Elementary Principal Rosalind Daigneault, Crestwood reading coach Mary "Genna" Linkous, Crestwood PTA President Jacqueline Rodriguez and Leto High School Principal Victor Fernandez.



Tom Lansworth
American Federation of Teachers

Brian Minter
First Book

Sue Morgan
Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association

# # # #

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.