I got a nice surprise last week. My math picture book, Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci has been accepted into the First Book Program.
First Book is a nonprofit org that helps teachers and schools buy books for kids in need. First Book makes tons of titles available to select schools at astounding discounts of 50 to 90 percent below retail. That’s a huge discount. I was clicking through First Book’s online store and I came across brand-new books by major authors that are going for as little as a buck a book. That price is only available if the teacher or school has been vetted and accepted into the First Book program.
When Blockhead first came out, I used to get emails from teachers, parents, and librarians asking if I could donate a book to a classroom or library, because they just didn’t have the funds to do so.
That’s a hard thing to ask of an author. In the first place most of us just don’t have the money to help schools out in this way. For a while I donated a few, but it wasn’t something I could keep up forever. While I do get a discount from the publisher, every book I mail out costs me darn near retail price by the time I cover the distributor’s sales tax and shipping and my own re-shipping. It just wasn’t smart for me to continue doing that, as much as I want kids to have my book. On top of the cost, authors like me are simply not equipped to assess whether a school or library is truly needy. No matter what I did, I felt guilty.
LaToniya A. Jones loves her kids—with math!
A few years ago, I did a Skype visit with some classes led by LaToniya A. Jones, a former middle school principal and math specialist in Detroit who founded an 501c3 organization called P.O.W.E.R., which, among other things, runs workshops to teach parents how they can empower their kids through math. LaToniya, who uses a bunch of “math-lit” books in her seminars, wrote to First Book, asking that they add Blockhead to their menu of titles.
I’m really touched and glad that she did that. I had heard of First Book, but it would not have occurred to me that I could propose that the org make my book available. When Blockhead finally hits the First Book store, I’ll add the link to my site permanently so teachers and librarians will know that they have options that are cheaper than even the big online retailers. (If you are a children’s book author, you might consider looking into First Book.)
In any case, thanks, First Book. Thanks, Ms. Jones!