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U.S. Department of Education, First Book and Random House Children’s Books Launch 2008 Summer Reading Initiative


Initiative provides 850,000 free books for schools, libraries and community organizations to encourage children to keep reading over the summer and throughout the year
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings; Wendy Bhagat, senior vice president, First Book; and Heidi Kilgras, editorial director, Random House Children’s Books today announced the availability of free books through the 2008 Summer Reading Initiative. Announced at Edward Brooke Charter School in Boston, Mass., the Initiative marks the first stage of a national distribution of over 850,000 free, new Random House children’s books to schools, libraries and literacy organizations serving low-income youth across the country.

Secretary Spellings stressed the importance of summer reading to help students succeed in school and prepare for their future. “Summer is the perfect time for students to do a lot of reading. Summer reading ensures reading skills are fresh when students start a new school year, and we know from the Nation’s Report Card that the more time students spend reading, the better they perform,” said Secretary Spellings. “I am proud that the Department’s partnership with First Book continues to inspire students to develop a love of reading, which will hopefully develop into a lifelong passion.”

Adds Kyle Zimmer, President of First Book, “The magic of book ownership is transformative for children. We are grateful to our determined allies at the Department of Education and our long time publishing partner, Random House Children’s Books, for helping us bring this magic to disadvantaged children across the country. With the help of these tremendously committed partners, millions more children will have books in their hands, and will learn to love them.”

First Book is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. They provide an ongoing supply of new books to children participating in local mentoring, tutoring, and family literacy programs. Since its creation in 1992, First Book has distributed more than 50 million books to children in over 3,000 communities around the country.

“Reading is a gift that sparks the imagination and opens new doors for children of all ages,” said Chip Gibson, president of Random House Children’s Books. “Random House is proud to be part of the 2008 Summer Reading Initiative to help make a lifetime of difference to children in need and ensure they keep reading and learning during the critical summer time months.”

Random House Children’s Books is the world’s largest English-language children’s trade book publisher, creating books for toddlers through young adult readers, in all formats, from board books to activity books to picture books and novels. The company’s website, offers an array of materials and activities free of charge for children, teens, parents and educators.

Today’s announcement marks the latest phase in the Book Donation Campaign. The Campaign is a multi-year effort of the U.S. Department of Education, First Book and a host of major U.S. book publishing companies to promote literacy and supply books to children in need. Since June 2006, the Department, First Book and major book publishers have collaborated to distribute over 2.9 million children’s books to schools, libraries and literacy organizations serving low-income youth across the country.

For more information on the U.S. Department of Education and First Book’s book donation campaign, visit:


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