First Book to Bring 100,000 Books to Arkansas

Little Rock, AR — First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise that provides books and educational materials to children in need, will distribute 100,000 brand new books next week to children throughout the state of Arkansas, thanks to the work of local partners, AR Kids Read and Goodwill Industries of Arkansas. The books were donated through the generosity of The Walt Disney Company, including Disney Publishing Worldwide and Disney|ABC Television Group.

The Walt Disney Company collaborates with First Book to support their mission of providing new books to children in communities who need resources most. First Book and Disney|ABC Television Group collaborated to launch the “Magic of Storytelling” campaign, which began on January 4, 2016 and ended on March 31, 2016, to invite the public to cast online votes for the state where they wished books to be awarded. More than 700,000 votes were cast, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The three most-voted states won books for children in their state: first place Arkansas was awarded 100,000 books; second place Massachusetts was awarded 25,000 books distributed; and third place Nebraska was awarded 10,000 books go to local classrooms and programs in communities across the three regions.

The books will allow AR Kids Reads and Goodwill Industries of Arkansas to expand their impact in the state of Arkansas now and into the future, by encouraging reading and recruiting mentors to work with local students. Additionally, participating local ABC-affiliate stations in two Arkansas cities will donate books to schools and organizations in their local communities.

“We’re so pleased to award AR Kids Reads and Goodwill these books as part of our long-standing collaboration with Disney,” said Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book. “Our fourth annual ‘Magic of Storytelling’ campaign was our largest and furthest-reaching effort yet. Working with Disney, we activated hundreds of thousands of citizens to vote in order to bring new books to local children in need, and we congratulate Arkansas for getting out those votes to further their mission.”

AR Kids Read has worked with communities, schools and educational non-profits to support First Book and Disney’s Magic of Storytelling Campaign to bring 100,000 free books to Arkansas. “AR Kids Read is excited to work with our partner elementary schools to provide adult tutors an hour a week to help model reading skills through the use of quality reading material.” said AR Kids Read Executive Director, Charlie Conklin. “Reading proficiently by 4th grade is critical to improving high school graduation rates, future employment and quality of life for the student and their families.

Goodwill Industries of Arkansas’ Little Rock facility will provide warehouse space to store and distribute the books, and volunteers to sort and label boxes of brand new books for local educators, who will be coming to Goodwill Industries to choose books for their schools, classrooms or programs. “We are excited to be able to provide access to books at such a critical time in Arkansas children’s development,” said Goodwill President & CEO Brian Itzkowitz. “Statistics prove that children who grow up with books in their homes reach a higher level of education. This is clearly a key issue that will affect the economic future of our state.”

The distribution event hosted today, August 31 at 1:30 p.m., provided access to educators, schools and educational nonprofits who are registered with First Book, allowing them to pick up their book orders. Education Commissioner Johnny Key spoke to the state’s continuing focus on reading and access to books. First Book, AR Kids Read and Goodwill also delivered remarks supporting book distribution efforts.

About Goodwill Industries of Arkansas
Goodwill Industries of Arkansas is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the mission of changing lives through education, training and employment. Revenue generated through the sale of reusable donated goods at Goodwill retail stores is used to create jobs and fund these critical training programs for Arkansans. Information may also be found at

About First Book
First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 150 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families through the United States and Canada. By making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education. For more information, visit or follow the latest news on Facebook and Twitter.

About AR Kids Read
AR Kids Read is a local initiative that supports elementary literacy through tutoring and community engagement. The program is designed to provide struggling readers with trained tutors who donate one hour each week. Tutors provide students with additional opportunities to read by using easy-to-implement tutoring methods. AR Kids Read partners with 47 schools in all four Pulaski County school districts and recruits tutors from over 75 partner organizations to foster community engagement in reading education.

Leslie Heizman
Goodwill Industries of Arkansas
(501) 372-5100

Gavin McGuire
First Book
(202) 393-2194

Charlie Conklin
AR Kids Read
(501) 244-2661

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