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MPS Partnership Yields Half-Million Books for Alabama Students

A half-million brand-new books will soon be in the hands of children in Alabama schools and across the region, thanks to a partnership between First Book, Montgomery Public Schools and the business community.

Beginning today, more than 200,000 free books will be distributed from MPS to public schools, childcare centers, afterschool programs, and community organizations that work with underserved children. The goal is to increase access to high quality reading materials for children in high poverty schools and communities.

According to the National Assessment for Educational Progress, children who score highly on reading achievement tests tend to have an abundance of books in public libraries, easy access to books in the community at large, and greater numbers of textbooks per student. In addition, the availability of reading materials in a child’s home is a stronger predictor of later academic achievement than socioeconomic status.

“By partnering with First Book, our schools will be able to provide reading materials that will help our students improve literacy skills, spark creativity and imagination, and broaden their vocabularies,” said MPS Superintendent Margaret Allen. “Books are fundamental in helping a child develop the skills they need to create their own best future. I hope this partnership will help us fill our school libraries and classroom shelves to capacity while fostering students’ love of reading.”

State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice said the collaboration was an important one for Alabama teachers, too. “We are supplying educators serving children in need with an easy-to-use, sustainable resource for free books and educational materials.  That makes the important work they are doing for our students a little easier.”

First Book is a national nonprofit organization that has distributed more than 118 million books and educational resources donated by corporate sponsors and publishers to more than 100,000 programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada.

The partnership was made possible due to the efforts of local businessmen Greg Calhoun, CEO of Calhoun Enterprises, and Dr. Alfred Seawright, President and CEO of The Medical Place. The two worked with state Board of Education Vice President Ella Bell and MPS board member Mary Briers to bring First Book to Alabama, then approached MPS to serve as First Book’s regional book bank.

“Getting the book bank to Montgomery took some time, but Dr. Seawright and I felt it was important to do whatever we could to help close the achievement gap for students who either don’t have enough books in their schools or don’t have books in their homes or communities,” said Calhoun.

Seawight said First Book is a good example of how public-private partnerships can work to benefit schools. “Businesses and public schools are natural partners. Schools need businesses to provide funding, and businesses need schools to produce a strong, viable workforce,” he said. “The business community has the resources to help bring opportunities like the book bank to our local communities. Partnerships are one way we can help our schools stay strong.”

Over the next three days, First Book staff and volunteers will fill nearly 1,000 requests for new books with an estimated retail value of $4 million to schools and community organizations in Alabama and across the nation.

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