Paving a Path to Education Through Books


KenCrest, in partnership with First Book, paves the way to education for children and families below the poverty level.

By Sydney Kerelo

Since 1992, First Book has built a path out of poverty through education by distributing books to children and families below the poverty level. Recently, KenCrest partnered with First Book and the Pennsylvania Early Intervention program to give books to approximately 700 eligible families within our Early Intervention program.

First Book has distributed over 225 million books and educational resources to programs and schools across the United States, reaching an average of 5 million children annually. Since they started, millions of children have gained a greater education and are given educational support, basic needs, and wellness support.

“Children that receive First Books through their relationship with KenCrest have some combination of economic disadvantage, developmental delay, and sometimes lack of permanent, stable housing,” says Edie Harrison, KenCrest’s Director of Program Services for Birth-to-Five, Home, and Community-Based Early Intervention. “The books they receive provide them with opportunities to start a change in all those factors.”

Reading books helps children build language skills but also helps them build empathy, learn how to manage their big emotions, and create an unbreakable parent-child bond.

According to Harrison, the infant and toddlers that receive First Books are thrilled to have them, and it helps encourage interactions with others as they read with caregivers, friends, and peers. It also allows for opportunities to embed therapy strategies into a fun and motivating activity.

Most First Book recipients are children either receiving support through KenCrest’s Early Intervention program or residing in supportive housing shelters on behalf of the Philadelphia Infant-Toddler Early Intervention program.

Chosen contacts from First Book, like Harrison, travel to every site to encourage children to pick out books, and afterward, they get to keep every book they pick out. Families must request books directly through a KenCrest interventionist rather than through First Book.

As a part of Pennsylvania’s Early Intervention program, KenCrest only receives referrals from local pediatricians or schools. Please get in touch with your doctor for more information about getting involved with Early Intervention.

Typically, when a family moves into a shelter, they leave behind many of their personal belongings, including books. So, when children can pick out what books they like and keep them, it gives them a sense of security and normalcy, something many of them have been lacking.

Harrison recalls one supportive housing visit, “when we walked in, the mother was very excited to see that we had a book from her childhood. She picked that one out for her young daughter and took it to a reading nook in the back of the room. She spent 15 minutes reading with her daughter, and they both had huge smiles by the end. That one book brought happy memories to the mother, formed new memories for her daughter, and provided them both with a bonding opportunity.” 

It was a memorable moment for the family and Harrison, something she hopes continues with other families throughout Philadelphia.

Harrison recently placed her first, First Book grant and ordering process, where she received a $5,400 grant to purchase books. First Book offers a wide variety of discounted books on their marketplace aimed at children aged 0-3 years old, allowing Harrison to access diverse books featuring various cultures, languages, concepts, skills, and even a few quirky characters.

“There is nothing like opening a box and seeing tons of pristine board books that will be going to young families,” says Harrison. “I look forward to KenCrest’s continued partnership with First Book and to keep our office bookshelves filled up as our interventionists empty them and put each book into the hands of children and their caregivers.”

Want to learn more about First Book or KenCrest’s partnership? Click the link below!