First Book Literacy Initiative
This model development project has gone through two phases: the first, in 2009-10 examined how to deliver printed and digitally formatted books and other rich interactive educational media through existing distribution channels to low-income and minority children in the United States. The Center established a partnership with First Book, an internationally acclaimed literacy network of preschool, afterschool, and school-based programs that have distributed more than 100 million books in the U.S. Key partners in the planning are Dr. Allison Druin, whose Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland developed prototypes and exhibitions of digital books from the International Children’s Digital Library and Christopher Cerf of Sirius Thinking Ltd., the noted children’s literacy expert and Creative Producer of the Public Broadcasting System’s Emmy Award-winning early literacy program, Between the Lions. The project tested how digitally formatted books that provide global educational content can be disseminated in combination with printed books. A creative “off-price” marketplace that convenes more than a dozen educational publishers committed to make excellent educational media available at low cost will be complemented by digital producers who wish to reach low-income households and struggling readers. The Longview Foundation provided project support for this first phase.
In the next phase of work, the Center and First Book are collaborating on building a new platform called the First Book Digital Marketplace. In this phase First Book is designing a new content distribution system that will curate—in addition to already established print book titles, a series of “high quality” e-books, apps and digital games intended to brandish the literacy, STEM, social and inter-cultural knowledge and skills of underserved children and youth across the United States. The Center is providing expert advice, creating survey instruments and working with research-based industry product developers to ensure that the new marketplace promotes innovative forms of digital technologies and has greater educational impact.