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National Book Foundation > Literarian > Kyle Zimmer
Recipient of the 2014 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community – Realizing that the children she was working with had no books to call their own spurred Kyle Zimmer to take action and in 1992, she founded First Book. More about this author >
Recipient of the 2014 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community
Born in Zanesville, Ohio, Zimmer attended the University of Iowa and graduated from George Washington University Law School. She worked as a corporate attorney for several years in Washington, DC while also volunteering as a tutor for Martha’s Table, a multi-service community organization for the District’s families in need.
Realizing that the children she was working with had no books to call their own spurred Zimmer to take action and in 1992, Zimmer founded First Book. To provide quality books to underserved children, Zimmer developed two groundbreaking models of social entrepreneurship: the First Book Marketplace, an award-winning, self-sustaining program that purchases new books from publishers and makes them available to educators and program leaders at affordable prices, and the First Book National Book Bank, which serves as the nation’s largest clearinghouse for new books donated by publishers. In addition, First Book’s market-driven Stories for All Project is serving as a catalyst to increase diversity in children’s books, so that all children can see themselves in books.
With Zimmer at the helm, First Book distributes millions of new books and educational resources every year to children from low-income families through a growing network of schools, programs, churches, and institutions across the United States, as well as in as well as in Canada, Peru, Haiti, Jamaica, India and other countries.
A passionate advocate for social entrepreneurship, educational equity, and the importance of literacy to further economic competitiveness and global understanding, Zimmer has participated in some of the world’s most prestigious economic forums. In 2013, Zimmer was a presenter at the University of Oxford’s “Power Shift: Forum for Women in the World Economy” at the Saïd Business School at Oxford. Zimmer and First Book were also featured at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative. Zimmer was also a presenter and blogger at the World Economic Forum in Beijing in 2012, served as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Entrepreneurship, and was featured as a presenter at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2010.
Zimmer has won numerous awards and honors, including the Carle Honors Angel Award in 2009, the first ever American Marketing Association Nonprofit Marketer of the Year in 2008, and the Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the Year in the United States in 2007 from the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. She currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Ashoka, which works to ensure that social entrepreneurs and their innovations continue to inspire a new generation of local change-makers. She also serves on the Youth Venture Board of Directors and as a member of the board for James Patterson’s ReadKiddoRead.