Now Available: A Library of Opportunity

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What if we could ensure that every student, no matter where they live or the income of their parents, could get access to a great book?  What if they had access to not just one book, but a library of thousands of titles – and could read them from anywhere?

We’ve taken a big step toward that vision thanks to Open eBooks, a stakeholder-driven project that the President highlighted last April, and that after months of hard work by a team of libraries, publishers, and non-profits, is launching nationwide today. For millions of America’s kids, Open eBooks can be a passport to a world of learning and opportunity – delivering over $250 million of reading material to students who need it most, and introducing them to a love of reading.

Why is this so important?  Ask Colin Rogister, who helps lead the Administration’s ConnectED initiative. Colin began his career as a 2nd grade teacher at a low-income elementary school in California, where he taught Marlene, a DREAMer whose parents emigrated from Mexico to find a better life. An advanced reader, it only took Marlene a few months to finish every chapter-book in Colin’s classroom. If she had been able to access a resource like Open eBooks, she would have had thousands of popular and award-winning books at her fingertips. Stories like Marlene’s help inspire efforts like Open eBooks.

Open eBooks helps advance ConnectED’s vision of seizing every opportunity technology affords to ensure students, inside and outside the classroom, have access to the best teaching and learning. Thanks to President Obama’s leadership, we’ve already cut the connectivity divide in half in schools. Meanwhile, more students than ever – at all income levels – have access at school or home to a digital device, whether a tablet, laptop, or mobile phone. According to a national survey, 85 percent of families with young children (6-13 years old) living below the poverty line have access to mobile devices. That translates into a unique opportunity to deliver more and better content to students with a hunger to learn.

Open eBooks is not a federal program; it was created by a breakthrough coalition of literacy, library, publishing, and technology organizations who worked together over the past year to make the initiative possible. This team – Digital Public Library of America, First Book, and The New York Public Library with content support from digital books distributor Baker & Taylor – created the app, curated the eBook collection, and developed a system for distribution and use. They received support for development of technology critical to the app from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and content contributions from ten major publishers — including today’s big announcement that National Geographic will include all its age-appropriate content in the app.

But they can’t do this alone. To make sure students can take advantage, they need the help of a responsible adult — those who work with children in need through libraries, schools, shelters and clinics, out-of-school programs, and early childhood programs; and those who work primarily with students in military families. This includes teachers, librarians, after-school counselors, and others primarily serving students in need. Students with codes can then download the free Open eBooks app to mobile devices from their mobile app store and enter their access code to start enjoying Open eBooks.

For more information on how to sign up and to connect young people with the eBooks they need, visit www.OpeneBooks.net.