Pi Beta Phi Alumna Initiate Kyle Zimmer, D.C. Alpha, first had her eyes opened to the lack of educational resources available to low-income families while she was a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and volunteering at a soup kitchen on the side. Washington was struggling with a crack cocaine epidemic, and Kyle wanted to be part of the solution.
Knowing how critical education is to one’s success, she was moved to act when she realized the children she was working with didn’t own any books. So, in 1992, she worked with two friends to establish First Book®, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides schools and community programs serving children from low-income families with new, high-quality books and resources they so desperately need.
“Providing children with new books means bedtime stories, but the books mean more than that,” says Kyle. “They mean reduced poverty, unemployment, crime and health disparities. But most of all, they mean hope for the children who receive them.”
Leading First Book
Kyle continues to lead First Book as its president and CEO. The organization has evolved into a champion of educational equality, with a family of award-winning social enterprises and home to the largest and fastest-growing network of educators serving children in need across the United States and Canada.
Leading First Book ignited Kyle’s passion to advocate for social entrepreneurship, educational equity, civil rights and the importance of literacy to further economic competitiveness and global understanding. Her commitment to innovation and collaboration has earned her a reputation as a social sector leader.
Meanwhile, the need for placing books in the hands of children in need continues to increase.
“A few years ago, a research team literally counted books in a Washington–area neighborhood and found there was one book for every 830 children,” said Kyle. “It’s a sobering statistic with horrendous implications for us and our children, but it reminds us that there’s never been a more critical time for us to step up. Every child should have the ability to read, lead and achieve.”
Pi Beta Phi and First Book
Because Pi Beta Phi and First Book both understand the inherent value of providing resources such as books to children to improve literacy rates, the Fraternity launched a partnership with First Book in 2007. With access to new, high-quality books through the partnership with First Book, Pi Phi has utilized donations to The Literacy Fund to put more than 3.5 million new books in the hands of children since 2007 and improved countless lives through literacy service. It was Kyle’s passion for literacy and longtime partnership with the Fraternity that led Pi Phi to invite her to join the sisterhood as an Alumna Initiate.
“Before I became a Pi Phi, I only had two sisters, but now I’m thrilled to have over 300,000.”Kyle Zimmer
“Pi Phis have unleashed the power of books and reading for more than a million children,” Kyle says, “I can’t imagine a better organization for me to be a part of.”
To date, First Book has provided more than 185 million books and educational resources, worth more than $1.5 billion, reaching more than 5 million children annually across the U.S. and Canada. While these numbers are impressive, it’s the commitment to improving the lives of children that underscores the monumental impact this new Pi Phi sister is making — an impact that’s reflected in the smiles on children’s faces as they discover the joy of reading.