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Around the UFT

10 million strong!

Celebrating the power of putting a book into a child’s hands
New York Teacher
10 million strong
Erica Berger

A young reader receives the 10 millionth book from “Hair Love” author Matthew Cherry and AFT President Randi Weingarten.


10 million strong
Erica Berger

Wang Yiwen and her daughter select books to take home.


10 million strong
Erica Berger

Shailyn Rivas (left), a teacher at PS 5 in Manhattan, and her daughter Liana Rivas gather books to read to Liana’s 2-year-old son.


10 million Strong
Erica Berger

Yesica Bello of the Bronx and her 2nd- and 4th-grade sons are delighted as they comb through stacks of books. 


Toney Jackson’s 7-year-old daughter Jillian is a budding artist. While browsing at the Reading Opens the World book giveaway organized by First Book, the AFT and the UFT, Jackson found the perfect book: Andrea Beatty’s “Aaron Slater, Illustrator,” a book about a young Black child who discovers the power of art. He said he got the book for Jillian in the hope that it will “encourage her with kids that not only look like her but also are doing the things that she loves to do.”

Jackson joined hundreds of public school educators and families at the Graphic Communication Arts Educational Campus in Manhattan on May 11 to choose from 50,000 free books for children of all ages. This special event, along with similar book giveaways the same day in Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Florida, was organized to celebrate the 10 million books given away by First Book nationwide. First Book co-founder and CEO Kyle Zimmer was on hand to mark the moment.

Darryl McDaniels, also known as DMC from the hip-hop group Run-DMC, signed copies of his picture book, “Darryl’s Dream.” Matthew Cherry signed copies of his New York Times bestseller “Hair Love.” Both authors interacted with delighted children and adults.

Educators could choose up to 50 books for their classroom libraries, while families could select up to five books per child.

Besides picking up free books, the attendees enjoyed student performances, a DJ and kid-friendly art projects. Members from the Federation of Nurses/UFT offered blood-pressure checks.

The union has helped give away millions of books to educators and families at 19 First Book events in New York City since 2011. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the popular events debunk concerns that physical books would be rendered obsolete by digital media.

“There’s nothing better than watching a child pick up a book,” he said.

Jennie Anglim, a 9th-grade world history teacher at Stephen T. Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship HS in Manhattan, said it was exciting to be part of an event meant to spark the joy of reading in children. “Social media has really changed kids’ attention spans,” she said. “They give up on a book after two pages because it’s not exciting.”

To tackle this issue, Anglim’s school offers a class two times a week dedicated solely to independent reading. Anglim collected a wide range of books at the event for her students to read during those periods.

Ilona Tylina, a science teacher at the Urban Assembly School for Leadership and Empowerment in Brooklyn, collected books to stock her classroom library. Because the school shares a library with other schools in the same building, she said her students have limited access to books. In response, all the teachers in her school have set up their own classroom libraries.

“We put so much of our own money into our classrooms,” Tylina said. “We don’t often get funding, and especially with Eric Adams and the current administration pulling funding from schools, events like this are so, so important.”