Through a new White House-led initiative, First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise, is helping connect children in need across the country with access to thousands of e-books.

The initiative, announced by President Obama at the Anacostia Library in Washington, is part of a broad effort to ignite kids’ love of reading by improving access to digital content and public libraries.

Through the initiative, called Open eBooks, major publishers are providing $250 million worth of e-books to children from low-income families for free, including 10,000 of their most popular titles. The books will be accessible through an Open eBooks app, currently being developed by the New York Public Library, the Digital Public Library of America and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Together, the organizations will curate and deliver the e-books to programs and classrooms serving low-income students.

The app and all the e-books will be made available to programs and classrooms serving children in need through First Book. Anyone working in the lives of children in need is urged to sign up with First Book at www.firstbook.org/register.

“This historic partnership recognizes the need to increase access to books – in all their forms – to children growing up in low-income families,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “Access to books is critical for children to develop their reading skills, yet books are scarce for millions of our children. First Book works directly with hundreds of thousands of educators and community programs serving children in need, and we are eager to help connect them and others with these digital resources to spread the joy of reading.”

Commitments from publishers include:
• Macmillan: Providing unlimited access to all of the K-12 age-appropriate titles in their title catalog of approximately 2,500 books.
• Simon & Schuster: Providing access to their entire e-catalog of books for children ages four to 14, comprised of 3,000 titles.
• Penguin Random House: Committing to provide an extensive offering of their popular and award-winning books.
• Hachette: Offering participating students access to a robust catalogue of their popular and award-winning titles.
• Candlewick: Providing unlimited access to all relevant children’s and young-adult e-book titles in their catalog.
• Bloomsbury: Providing unlimited access to over 1,000 of its most popular titles.
• Lee & Low: The leading independent publisher of multicultural books is providing unlimited access to over 700 of its titles.
• Cricket Media: Offering full digital access to all of its market-leading magazines for children and young adults, including Ladybug and Cricket.
• HarperCollins: Providing a robust selection of their award-winning and popular titles.

Additionally, the participation of the partnering organizations and libraries includes:
• First Book: Will connect its growing national network of 175,000 classrooms and programs serving children in need with access to the Open eBook app, as well as work to bring new programs into the network.
• The Institute of Museum and Library Services: Investing $5 million to support the development of the e-reader app and tools and services to help the public more easily access e-books and other digital content.
• The Digital Public Library of America: Their network of librarians will volunteer with the New York Public Library to help make sure popular books reach the most appropriate audience. DPLA, in conjunction with Recovering the Classics, is also adding age-appropriate public domain titles whose text and cover art have been redesigned by leading graphic designers and artists.
• New York Public Library: Developing a cutting-edge e-reader app and working with industry and technology leaders to improve the experience for students.

In addition to Open eBooks, the President also announced a complementary effort, the ConnectED Library Challenge, with more than 30 communities making a commitment to put a library card into every student’s hand so they can access the programs, learning resources and books available at public libraries.

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