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First Book-Greater Kingsport provides books to children in need

January 30th, 2014 10:00 am by Whitney H. Parker

First Book-Greater Kingsport provides books to children in need

“Access to books and educational materials is the single greatest barrier to literacy development in the United States and beyond. If we can solve the problem of access, we will be well on the road to realizing educational parity - a goal which has eluded this country since its founding.” - Susan B. Neuman, Ph.D. University of Michigan, Center for the Improvement of Early Learning Achievement.

This quote embodies the mission of First Book-Greater Kingsport, which obtains its funding from corporate and individual donations which it, in turn, uses to make book grants to local programs serving low-income children.

The First Book-Greater Kingsport Advisory Board is part of First Book’s national network of volunteer-led advisory boards, a national 501(c)3 charitable organization that provides free new books to children in need.

Comprised of volunteers from all sectors of the community, First Book-Greater Kingsport works to promote and facilitate the distribution of new books to children in literacy programs in Greater Kingsport and Southwest Virginia.

“Any area literacy program that serves children where at least 70 percent are from low-income households or Title I eligible schools could benefit by putting free books in the hands of children who have few, if any, books at home,” said Brenda Whitt, First Book-Greater Kingsport Outreach Committee chairman.

Since its establishment in 2004, First Book-Greater Kingsport has provided over 82,000 books to children in need. In 2013 alone, FBGK raised over $40,000 to distribute 15,166 books to children in need. In addition to these books, FBGK provided an additional 2,000 books for the Santa Train in November. 

In 2013, FBGK distributed books to 15 recipient groups. These recipients included school classrooms, community organizations, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kingsport, and Girls Inc., with local grants focusing on students in grades 1-5. 

“In order to participate, local literacy programs (school or after-school) must complete a grant application. Once the application is approved and funds are made available from First Book-Greater Kingsport, the person in charge of the grant at that site orders books from First Book National Market Place,” said Whitt.

Students who attend a Title I school that has been granted a book grant by FBGK are also eligible to  receive free books.

“Title I schools may apply for a book grant through First Book-Greater Kingsport and the books may be used as part of the classroom curriculum. In all cases, books provided by First Book-Greater Kingsport are given to the children to take home and to read again or to share with their family,” said Reggie Martin, chairman of First Book-Greater Kingsport.

In addition to providing books for those in need, volunteers with FBGK dedicate their time to working with children at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kingsport on Tuesday afternoons. Volunteers like Alee Hopkins, a retired teacher, spend around an hour with the children during each session. 

“I volunteer to interact with students in a positive manner and because I believe our work is important to the community. I believe the Boys and Girls Club is a perfect venue for this activity,” Hopkins said. “The best part of my volunteer work is sharing my experience in the classroom with these students and receiving the satisfaction of seeing their faces light up with understanding. Our intent is to foster the belief that good reading skills are important throughout life.”

For grant information/applications, to volunteer, or to make a monetary donation, contact First Book-Greater Kingsport through its website or via email at

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