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Growing Support for RCBC's Historic First Book Project to Increase Literacy in the State

First Book

Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC) announced today that the First Book project, an initiative that supports literacy in New Jersey by donating free books to children in need, will see a major expansion in the 2015-2016 academic year.

Cumberland County College, Essex County College, and Rutgers University-Newark, are joining RCBC and Mercer County Community College in this year’s First Book project. Thanks to these additional partnerships, New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks’ vision for the First Book project to spread statewide is being realized.

“Higher education has been critically important to the success of the First Book project in New Jersey these last three years. College community members, the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, and the non-profit First Book organization are making a direct impact on the future of our children by instilling a love of learning through reading,” said Secretary Hendricks. “Each year, I am pleased that more of our precious young people's lives are enriched by the show of support and increased access to books.”

Through the combined efforts of the partners, it is projected that they could distribute as many as 100,000 books to children this academic year, doubling the amount distributed in the first two years.

“Two years ago, Rowan College at Burlington County became the first college in the nation to incorporate First Book into its curriculum,” RCBC President Paul Drayton said. “Since then, this partnership has distributed 91,000 new, high-quality books to children in need who are served by more than 150 organizations in four counties. With the power of hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members, we are making a real difference in children’s lives.

The First Book initiative was first proposed by the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey as part of its education initiative called “Making New Jersey More Competitive.” The chamber’s President and CEO John E. Harmon, Sr., IOM, is a graduate of MCCC, holds an honorary degree from RCBC, and serves as Chairman of the National Black Chamber of Commerce and on the national First Book Board of Directors.

“The more First Book partnerships we can form, the more opportunities we can create. Through our combined efforts, countless young people in New Jersey will now have a more direct path to academic and career success. Books are an essential transformational component t​o which ​every child should have access,” Harmon said.

The first half of the books have been delivered and are being bundled and organized for distribution. They will be divided among all the colleges for distribution to organizations that support children in need. Another batch will arrive in March.

“A child’s success is often determined by the ability to read, which is why our partnership is growing with the goal of increasing childhood literacy,” said RCBC Senior Vice President and Provost Dr. David Spang. “A college’s commitment to lifelong learning begins early. These books are a symbol of Rowan College at Burlington County’s commitment.”

For a video recap of the press conference, please visit Rowan College at Burlington County's YouTube Channel.

Photo Caption: Partners in this year’s First Book project, which donates free, high-quality books to children in need to increase literacy throughout the state, gathered at Rowan College at Burlington County to announce the project’s major expansion for the 2015-2016 academic year.