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First Book Announces Pioneering New Initiative to Create More Diversity in Children’s Publishing

Nonprofit Creates Market Demand with First-of-its-Kind $1 Million Special Purchase

WASHINGTON, March 13  – First Book – a nonprofit social enterprise that aims to end knowledge poverty – today announces a new initiative to put new books featuring characters, cultures and voices rarely represented in children’s literature into the hands of children in need.

HarperCollins Publishers and Lee & Low Books submitted the winning proposals for diversity-focused titles that First Book will make available – at deeply discounted prices – exclusively to the organization’s network of schools and programs serving children in low income communities. This special purchase marks the launch of The Stories for All Project through which First Book is establishing a strong and vibrant market representing children in need who want and deserve content that speaks directly to their lives.  

"For years educators and parents have lamented the lack of high quality children’s books that represent diverse cultures and communities, but the problem still persists,” said Kyle Zimmer, First Book’s president and CEO. “Through The Stories for All Project, First Book is aggregating the market of educators and programs serving children in need, proving that these communities are here, they are full of potential readers, and they are willing book buyers. As we grow this market, publishers will welcome the opportunity to respond with more relevant content for a variety of cultures."

First Book’s mission is to help end knowledge poverty by getting high quality books and resources into the hands of children who risk falling behind because they do not have access to the same educational materials as their more affluent peers. In a recent survey of more than 2,000 First Book schools and programs, 90 percent of respondents agreed that the children in their programs would be more enthusiastic readers if they had access to books with characters, stories and images that reflect their lives and communities.

"We are thrilled to be a part of The Stories for All Project," said Susan Katz, president and publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books. "By partnering with First Book, we can provide our award-winning multicultural titles to the children in greatest need."

"As the largest multicultural children’s publisher in the U.S., our mission is so aligned with that of First Book," said Craig Low, president of Lee & Low Books. "We aim to publish books that reflect how people live today and this incredible initiative will help our content reach their audience in a huge way." 

First Book originally planned to award one publishing partner with a $500,000 purchase, but was so impressed with the 24 proposals responding to its competitive bid that the group chose two winners, doubling the impact.

The Stories for All Project

This $1 million purchase marks the official kick-off of The Stories for All Project, First Book’s groundbreaking, multi-year initiative to meet the need for books that better reflect the rich and growing diversity of the population, including minorities, LGBT and special needs populations.  The Stories for All Project will include: continued growth and expansion of diverse content and inventory; convening a leadership council of noted authors, illustrators and others to inform content; outreach to schools and programs to drive registration and purchases; and ongoing measurement to evaluate impact of the program.

With the reality that for the first time, racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half of children born in the U.S,  the facts supporting The Stories for All Project are staggering:

Of the 3,600 books the Cooperative Children’s Book Center reviewed in 2012:*

  • 3% were about Africans/African Americans; 1.8% were written by Africans/African Americans

  • 1.5% were about Latinos; 1.6% were written by Latinos

  • Less than 1% were about American Indians; less than 1% were written by American Indians

  • 2% were about Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans; 2.3% were written by Asian Pacifics/Asian Pacific Americans

  • The last Newbery Medal featuring a black protagonist was for Christopher Curtis’ "Bud, Not Buddy" in 2000 ; the last featuring a Hispanic protagonist was 48 years ago for Maia Wojciechowska’s "Shadow of a Bull"

Diverse Books on the First Book Marketplace

The hundreds of thousands of books First Book purchased from HarperCollins and Lee & Low Books will be available beginning in May through the First Book Marketplace, a website offering deeply discounted books and educational materials exclusively to schools and programs serving kids in need – ensuring these communities access to affordably priced, relevant resources. Anyone that works with children in need is eligible to receive drastically reduced cost or free books from First Book. Sign up at

Some of the new books include:

  • "Shooter", Walter Dean Myers (HarperCollins)

  • "Tofu Quilt", Ching Yueng (Lee & Low Books)

  • "In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson", Bette Bao Lord (HarperCollins)

  • "The Storyteller’s Candle: La Velita de Los Cuentos", Lucia Gonzalez (Lee & Low Books)

  • "El Bronx Remembered: A Novella and Stories", Nicholasa Mohr (HarperCollins)

  • "Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story", Ken Mochizuki (Lee & Low Books)