Local First Book groups have been gifting children in Hood River and Wasco counties with brand new, but totally free, books.

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books, learning materials and other essentials to children in need. 

First Book Hood River County continues its decades-long mission to provide new books to children in need. Since March 2020, First Book has received $4,188 in donations (includes $750 United Way of the Columbia Gorge) and a $2,000 grant from the Salvador Fund of the Gorge Community Foundation, for the benefit of migrant students. Also, Christa Rude of Four Rivers Early Learning Hub paid for First Book’s post office box for the year.

On Oct. 8, First Book awarded grants to four local literacy programs: Klahre House ($312 — about 104 books); ExCEL ($2,565 — about 855 books); Oregon Child Development Coalition Migrant Head Start ($2,026 — about 675 books) and May Street Elementary ($1,285 — about 428 books).

Each child will receive multiple books for a home library and reading is highlighted in various ways in each program’s daily schedule. It is worth noting that parents, too, have loved sharing the magic of books with their children, said coordinator Nancy Johanson Paul.

Family Services Home staff visiting from The Next Door said, “Parents expressed great joy when they received their books during the recent drive-through at the October Hood River Children’s Fair. We observed children in their cars, reading their new books as they waited in line for their flu shots.”

First Book Hood River County grants will be awarded again in January 2021.

Wasco County

On Sept. 21, the First Book Wasco County Advisory Board awarded grants to three programs: Family Services/The Next Door ($2,362 — about 792 books); Chenowith Elementary School ($672 — or about 224 books) and Tygh Valley Head Start ($336 — or about 112 books.)

Books will be given to 348 children from birth to 5 years, with each child receiving about four books over the 2020-2021 school year. The books are ordered through the firstbook.org Marketplace where the quality book prices are about $3 per book.

The board received $1,000 from Wasco County First Book Champion Nancy Johanson Paul; $1,500 from United Way of the Columbia Gorge; $500 from Northwest Natural Gas; $150 from The Kidz Dental Zone and $270 in individual donations.

The mission of First Book is to eradicate illiteracy by getting books to children from low income families, who own few books of their own, and to inspire a love for reading.

“Anytime we receive a book from my Family Services Next Door home visitor through First Books it becomes the highlight of our day,” one recipient told program volunteers. “To be able to build a little library for my baby and use them to develop her skills and love for books is an absolute blessing!”

The next First Book Wasco County book grants will be given out in September 2021. Donations are tax deductible.

How to help

Volunteers are needed for fundraising and publicity in both counties.

Volunteers can help by holding an event honoring the mission of First Book, purchasing book owner labels, or displaying the opportunity to purchase labels at their place of business.

For more information on the Wasco County First Book program, contact Nancy Johanson Paul at 541- 490-5330 or nancypaul@gorge.net. Tax deductible donations can be sent to First Book/Wasco County, P.O. Box 82, The Dalles, OR 97058.

For more information on the Hood River County First Book program, contact Nancy Johanson Paul at 541-490-5330 or nancypaul@gorge.net.

Tax deductible donations can be sent to First Book Hood River County, P.O. Box 221, Hood River, OR 97031.

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