Press Release

Powering Global Education: First Book to Provide Books and Digital Content to 10 Million Children Worldwide by 2016

First Book Announces Commitment to Action at Clinton Global Initiative

NEW YORKSept. 24, 2013 -- In July, 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai mesmerized the United Nations – and inspired millions watching – by urging a united effort against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and calling for free, compulsory education for every child. After having been shot in the face in 2012 for promoting education for girls in her nativePakistan, Malala's powerful words struck a chord worldwide: "One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world."  

But for the millions of children living in poverty around the world, books are simply not available. 

Kyle Zimmer and Bill Clinton (with Dr. Jo Beall of the British Council) at the CGI Annual Meeting in New York CityToday, at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting, hosted by former President Bill ClintonFirst Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and educational materials to schools and organizations serving children in need in the U.S. and Canada, unveiled its CGI Commitment to Action.  First Book will expand its proven model globally, bringing high quality books and resources—including ebooks and digital resources—to 10 million children worldwide by 2016.    

First Book will focus its new efforts initially in IndiaBrazilEgypt and other parts of the Middle East, where strong partner interest exists, and will expand partner-based book distribution efforts in other geographic areas.

"Education is the most powerful tool to open the doors to self-determination and equality," said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. "This truth is universal—whether you are in South AfricaSouth Korea, or South Carolina.  Perhaps that is why those who seek to control people – through terrorism, intimidation, violence or economic means – are so afraid of it." 

"Millions of children worldwide are hungry for knowledge, and we are committed to support their right to learn," said Zimmer.  "All of us have a shared responsibility to see that every child is given the opportunity for a quality education. This responsibility transcends cultural, geographic, religious, political and socio-economic differences."  

First Book's commitment includes taking its market-driven, flagship book distribution model—the First Book Marketplace – to the global level, making high quality, culturally-relevant books available for purchase only by educators and organizations serving children in poverty worldwide, with content for ages 0 to 18 years old.  By combining the voice and purchasing power of educators and NGOs, First Book is able to negotiate deep discounts with publishers and create an ongoing supply of new books and resources, with content dictated by and, where needed, specially created for, the educators and programs working with children in poverty. 

First Book already has a strong record of double-digit annual growth and award-winning performance. Having supplied over 100 million new books exclusively to classrooms and programs serving children in need in the U.S. and Canada, First Book's three-year, $9-million plan will expand its proven market-driven model to: 

  • Feature extensive global content.  By 2016, First Book will increase the number of books and educational materials offered on the First Book Marketplace from 5,000 to 10,000 titles and offerings, and will feature content from publishers around the world, reflecting a range of cultures and materials in 10 languages and special content for women and girls.  
  • Increase the number of resources distributed— By 2016, First Book will increase the number of books and resources distributed to children in need from 12 million units annually (US$96 million retail value) in North America to 30 million units annually (US$240 million retail value) worldwide for a total of 62 million units (US$500 million retail value) over three years. 
  • Empower educators globally.  By 2016, First Book will automate its current feedback system, enabling educators and organizations serving children in poverty to direct the selection of books and digital content available on the Marketplace, as well as influence the languages and formats available.  First Book will also give educators tools for raising funds to fulfill their needs through the First Book Marketplace.
  • Reach programs and classrooms serving 10 million children annually. By 2016, First Book will add capacity domestically and globally to grow from serving 2 million children annually in the U.S. and Canada to serving 10 million children globally within three years, laying the groundwork for further growth.  First Book's outreach will include a special focus on supporting young women and girls.

"Touch A Life has been partnering with First Book in Ghana since 2008, and I've come to know that this organization is doing tremendous work in a way that few others are," said Pam Cope, co-founder, Touch A Life Foundation. "First Book has allowed us to give hundreds of brand-new books to children who were once living in slavery.  Words cannot describe how amazing it is to watch a former trafficked child open a book, knowing it now belongs to them."

Classrooms, programs and NGOs worldwide already have access to an initial collection of books on the newly-launched First Book Global Marketplace. The initial selection includes books in English, French and Spanish; stories from IndiaTanzania, Tibet and Cambodia; and titles with universal appeal. First Book will continue working with publishers to add more titles for which they have global distribution rights. 

First Book has undertaken a variety of pilot projects to provide new books to children around the world--including working withFeed the Children in GuatemalaHonduras and other parts of Central America, and World Vision in Uganda and Nicaragua.  In addition, First Book is exploring pilot projects with The Asia Foundation, the International Rescue Committee, Ashoka, and other organizations.  First Book has also worked with multinational corporations, like Tata Sons, with interests in improving literacy worldwide.

"Since 2007, Tata has partnered with First Book in the United States and Canada to provide new books to children from low-income families in accordance with our Founder Jamsetji Tata's principle that, 'in a free enterprise, the community is not just another stakeholder in the business but is in fact the very purpose of its existence,'" said Niharika Chibber Joe, General Manager North AmericaTata Sons Ltd.  "Our experience suggests that First Book has deep capability in effectively addressing the provision of education equality."

"We are developing strategies to connect our Ashoka fellows – numbering nearly 3,000 social entrepreneurs in more than 80 countries – with First Book's resources," said Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka: Innovators For The Public. "Given its record of providing more than 100 million books to children in need and its commitment to innovation and impact, First Book is perfectly positioned to bring paradigm-shifting change to support quality education worldwide."

Over the next three years, First Book will be developing content, outreach and partnerships – including partnerships for funding – to support First Book's mission of bringing books and educational materials to 10 million children worldwide.  

About First Book
First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that puts quality books and resources into the hands of heroic educators serving children in low-income communities, providing the wealth of knowledge they need to read, learn and succeed.  Through unprecedented breakthroughs, robust partnerships and an acclaimed business model, First Book is working to end knowledge poverty throughout communities in the U.S. and Canada. For more information, please visit us online or follow our latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

About Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,300 commitments, which are already improving the lives of more than 400 million people in over 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $73.5 billion.

CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting focused on collaborative solutions to economic recovery in the United States, and CGI University (CGI U), which brings together undergraduate and graduate students to address pressing challenges in their community or around the world, and, this year, CGI Latin America, which will bring together Latin American leaders to identify, harness, and strengthen ways to improve the livelihoods of people in Latin America and around the world. For more information, visit clintonglobalinitiative.org and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative.