Kids in low-income communities will have access to $250 million worth of free e-books, President Barack Obama is expected to announce Thursday at the Anacostia Library in Washington, D.C.
The initiative, which will give millions of kids around the country access to free digital content, is part of ConnectED, a White House initiative that aims to get high-speed broadband access in all schools by 2018. Right now, there is a ratio of one book per 300 children in low-income neighborhoods, National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients said.
“By expanding kids’ access to books, we can help foster a love of learning,” Zients said in a call with reporters. “This is a huge show of support for giving kids the opportunities they need.”
Five major trade publishers — Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Random House, HarperCollins and Macmillan — will provide 10,000 of their most popular titles.
The bigger question is how children in poor communities will be able to access the digital books.
“There’s no question that devices are an important part of the picture,” said Zients, adding that the content would be available on a host of devices including laptops, desktops, tablets and smartphones. “Smartphone adoption continues to increase in lower-income families.”
He added that more school districts, like Miami-Dade County Public Schools, are putting devices in students’ hands to create a more personalized 1-to-1 learning environment.
And through ConnectED, companies like Apple have provided $100 million in devices to schools in poor neighborhoods.
Zients declined to say which communities would benefit from the e-book initiative.
“We’re targeting the whole country, so every student has access and connectivity to high-speed Internet and content,” he said.