Bears Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long, in partnership with First Book, recently sent thousands of Chicago kids in need home with brand-new books as part of the Chris Long Foundation's "First Quarter for Literacy" campaign.
The initiative is designed to get books to children in underserved neighborhoods and encourage family engagement with reading. Kyle is donating $25,000 as part of the effort to support early childhood literacy for Chicago area students.
Former NFL defensive end Chris Long, who helms the foundation and is Kyle's older brother, is matching the donation from the Bears offensive lineman, making for a donation of more than 12,000 books to over 2,400 kids.
"It's a priority of mine to invest in Chicago kids, especially in the most underserved areas, and one of the best ways to do that is through reading resources," Kyle said. "I am excited to partner with my brother's foundation and First Book to ensure thousands of Chicago kids have books of their own to take home during the vital summer months."
Teachers across the city will host "unboxing events" all week in their classrooms and programs to share books with students and celebrate the importance and joy of reading. Each child will start the summer with new books from First Book's curated, diverse book collection.
"Putting books into the hands of a child is one of the most effective ways to impact their academic trajectory and their future achievement," said Kyle Zimmer, president, CEO and co-founder of First Book. "Kyle Long, the Chris Long Foundation, and the First Quarter for Literacy initiative are giving so much more than books with this gift—they're opening doors to opportunity and possibility. We are so grateful for Kyle's donation, and to Chris for matching it."
Books and resources are critical, but scarce, for kids in need. Access to adequate resources is one of the greatest contributors to educational inequality in the United States, but research has identified vast 'book deserts' concentrated in low-income communities across the U.S.—with one community having only a single book to be shared among as many as 830 children.
"I think that books and being able to have the understanding and the lessons that you can get from reading are really crucial," Long said. "It's a great escape for a lot of kids. Even as an adult, it's something that I lean on. There are a lot of kids out there that don't have the opportunity, so we wanted to make that kind of an easier process for them."