In 1992, Kyle Zimmer, then a corporate attorney, was volunteering at a soup kitchen in Washington, DC. Realizing that the kids she was working with had no books in their lives, she set out with two friends to build a market-driven solution to ensure all children have access to critical books and resources.
More than 20 years and 140 million brand-new books later, Kyle continues to lead First Book, the nonprofit social enterprise she co-founded. First Book provides schools and community programs serving children in need with high-quality books and other essential needs. The organization has built the largest and fastest growing network of schools and programs across the United States and Canada – currently serving over 225,000 – and growing by more than 5,000 per month.
First Book has pioneered groundbreaking market-driven models, including the First Book National Book Bank, which serves as the nation’s largest clearinghouse for new books donated by publishers, and the First Book Marketplace, an award-winning, self-sustaining program that purchases new books and makes them available to educators and program leaders at unprecedented prices. First Book is continually innovating, and has branched into school supplies, digital resources, non-perishable foods and winter coats to meet the needs of the members of the First Book Network. Current innovations underway include First Book University, First Book Research, and First Book Global Initiative.
Kyle’s commitment to innovation and collaboration has earned her a reputation as a social sector leader. She currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Ashoka, Youth Venture, and James Patterson’s ReadKiddoRead.
Kyle was featured at the opening plenary session for the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America. The same year, she presented at the University of Oxford Said Business School conference entitled “Power Shift: Forum for Women in the World Economy” and the Fourth Annual Impact Investing Colloquium. She is a regular lecturer at the Wharton School of Business, Columbia Business School, and Georgetown University. She participated in the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Dubai in 2014, and was also a presenter and blogger at the WEF in Beijing in 2012. She served as a member of the WEF’s Global Agenda Council on Social Entrepreneurship, and was featured as a presenter at the WEF in Davos in 2010. She is currently serving as a member of the WEF’s Global Council on Values. She was named the first-ever American Marketing Association Nonprofit Marketer of the Year in 2008 and Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the Year in the United States in 2007 by the Geneva-based Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.
Kyle is a passionate advocate for social entrepreneurship, educational equality, and the importance of education to economic competitiveness and civil rights. Among her awards is the National Education Association Foundation’s Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education (2013) and the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award (2014). In 2009, Kyle was honored as a Carle Honors Angel Award recipient. In late 2015, Kyle also received the Library of Congress Literacy Award – David Rubenstein Prize.
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