This life-or-death industry isn’t what you’re expecting. It’s children’s education.
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First Book

Last year, librarian Rajeeni Galloway met a student that others had already deemed a lost cause.

This student's record was riddled with suspensions, and her grades had suffered so much that she could no longer keep up. She was failing.

Galloway knew all too well what was at risk if the student didn’t get help. She decided to step in.


Luckily, Galloway specializes in helping struggling kids, not just with their current classes, but also to identify and fill in the gaps from their earlier education. "Those early skills are so integral," she says. They can also be much harder to teach kids later in life.

Through intense work and mentoring, the student started to improve. Before long, she began to excel.

"Now she’s on the honor roll," Galloway says. In fact, she’ll be graduating this year — a full year ahead of schedule.

Galloway works hard to get her kids the resources they need to succeed. Photo courtesy of Rajeeni Galloway, used with permission.

This student was lucky. Many others don’t have access to this kind of help and support.

And, unlike Galloway’s students, their futures can be a lot bleaker.

Without the proper help, students’ educational struggles continue. They start to fail classes. Their frustrations build and they begin to act out. They get into trouble both in and out of school.

Ultimately, many kids who struggle drop out — and it only gets worse from there. Once a student fails academically, it often leads to failures throughout the rest of their life.

High school dropouts are three and a half times more likely to be arrested and eight times more likely to get jailed than people who get their degree. Young women who drop out of high school are nine times more likely to be or become single mothers. Dropouts are also more likely to end up on some sort of government assistance.

Galloway leads a class in the library. Photo by Washington Teacher's Union.

How do we prevent high school dropouts? Teach kids to read.

Early literacy in particular is important in keeping kids engaged in school through graduation, Galloway says.

That’s because kids who struggle with reading will struggle with concepts in every other subject, and by the time they’ve reached high school, their academic struggles have become a compound problem: one that started with reading but has now branched out to include every subject they encounter.

But with more than half of U.S. public school students coming from low-income families, many kids don’t have access to the tools they need in order to learn how to read in the first place.

Vast "book deserts," or low-income communities without bookstores or libraries, can mean that kids have literally no way to get their hands on a book — much less one that’s the right reading level for them. In some families, parents are too busy working to keep food on the table to read to their kids at night. Low-income kids simply don’t have what they need to start reading early.

Galloway's students love to read. Photo courtesy of Rajeeni Galloway, used with permission.

That’s why Galloway’s district works with First Book to make sure that kids are supported throughout their literacy journey.

To combat book deserts, First Book provides brand new books and resources at low or no cost to educators serving kids in need, so that income is never the reason a child doesn't have access to books.

Galloway’s school also provides resources for parents to provide academic nurturing at home. "We have parent workshops where parents come in, especially in elementary school, and we show parents different strategies to support students at home," she says.

In addition, First Book reports significant progress in increasing kids' interest in reading by making sure they provide not just any books, but books that are diverse and relevant, that speak to kids of all ages, and that help kids see the positivity reading can bring into their lives. When children can read, they can tap into their potential — no matter their circumstances.

Increasing access to books could be the first step to solving a lot of our nation’s most pressing social problems.

Most kids who don’t learn to read come from low-income backgrounds, and, as Galloway’s teaching experience shows, those who never learn to read are at risk of remaining stuck in that cycle of poverty.

By increasing access to books and reading resources at a young age, organizations like First Book could be helping solve not just the literacy issue, but also issues like income inequality, incarceration, welfare dependency, and more, which are deeply connected to early literacy and education.

So next time you see a kid with a book, know that it’s not just for fun. Sometimes, it’s for survival.

Millions of children from low-income areas don’t have the tools needed to learn, placing them at a disadvantage that perpetuates poverty. First Book is a community that believes education is the way out of poverty for kids in need.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.