NEW YORK, NY – JetBlue’s award-winning Soar with Reading program launched today with the addition of Detroit to its innovative free book vending machine program. In order to help halt students’ “summer slide” – the knowledge base lost during the summer months – JetBlue installed five vending machines in neighborhoods across Detroit.
Following its successful pilot vending machine program last summer, JetBlue will also return one machine to the Anacostia area of Washington, D.C. to continue to encourage children’s imaginations to take flight through reading.
The custom-designed book vending machines by Innovative Vending Solutions are stocked with books for children ages 0-14. In partnership with Random House Children’s Books and its Magic Tree House® series by Mary Pope Osborne, JetBlue will donate 120,000 free books to children living in Detroit, Washington, D.C. and other book deserts.
Book deserts, areas where children and their families have little or no access to purchase age-appropriate books, are often found in low-income areas. According to research commissioned by JetBlue, select areas of Detroit had only one age-appropriate book for every 42 children, while Anacostia had just one book for every 830 children. Children living in book deserts are at risk of falling behind with language, vocabulary and comprehension, leaving them in jeopardy of academically lagging behind their peers who have access to books.
“As Soar with Reading continues to grow, we developed an advisory board of educators and community leaders and engaged our partners to determine specific needs and make a real impact,” said Icema Gibbs, JetBlue’s director of corporate social responsibility. “The resounding response was access to books. This year, we’re bringing free books to locations where children are already visiting to help kids build their own libraries and take pride in owning books.”
To help celebrate the expansion of the Soar with Reading program, JetBlue enlisted the help of celebrity ambassadors – singer/actress Victoria Justice and Detroit outfielder Justin Upton to reveal the machines in Detroit. Justice returns for the third consecutive year to generate awareness through social media engagement, videos and an appearance at the Detroit launch event. As a first-time ambassador, Upton looks forward to spreading the word and supporting the local Detroit community while showcasing the importance of reading.
Last summer, JetBlue hosted an online #BookBattle voting competition, where customers could cast their votes for one of five cities – Detroit, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, and New York – to receive new children’s books. Nearly 1.3 million online votes were cast and Detroit beat out the other cities receiving 48 percent of the votes to bring books to children in its city who need them most.
This year, JetBlue is again asking the public for help choosing the next city to receive a donation of books in its interactive, online #BookBattle voting competition. Four cities – Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Long Beach and New York – will go head-to-head for the chance to win. Online voting is open at SoarwithReading.com through August 31, 2016. Books will be donated in 2017.
Last year’s vending machine pilot program in D.C., distributed more than 27,000 books via vending machines and more than 70,000 books through a variety community partners. Research conducted in areas where vending machines were placed found that parents had greater knowledge of their child’s reading habits and the titles of the books that their children had in the home. Additional research will be conducted this year to focus on the educational effects on children who regularly visit the machines.
Since launching in 2011, Soar with Reading has donated over $1,750,000 worth of books to children across the country. Anchored by bestselling Magic Tree House® author Mary Pope Osborne, an ardent advocate and supporter of child literacy, and the award-winning author of more than 100 books, Soar with Reading continues to promote the importance of reading for children.