This summer, thanks to JetBlue’s Soar with Reading program, children in Washington, D.C. discovered big blue vending machines full of brand new books in their community.
The machines were stocked with free books, and children were allowed to take as many as they want, returning as often as they want – no strings attached. As the book selections rotated throughout the summer, parents could even opt in to getting text message alerts and updates about available books.
The three vending machines were installed in Anacostia, one of the District neighborhoods with the lowest literacy rates. The company decided to fund the book vending machines aftercommissioning a survey on areas with limited access to books, known as “book deserts.” In 2001, a study found that in underserved communities, there was only one age-appropriate book available for every 300 children. JetBlue’s more recent survey determined that there was only one age-appropriate book for every 830 children in the area just outside our nation’s capital.
JetBlue’s pilot program provided approximately 100,000 books to children up to 14-years-old this summer. Detroit has just won the Soar with Reading Book Battle 2015 and will be the next city to receive 100,000 children’s books from the company.
As we strive to improve early literacy here in Durham, we must continue to be innovative in how we find ways to get books into the hands of children who don’t have access to them. Book vending machines may not be a universal solution to this widespread problem, but it’s certainly a cool idea to get more children loving books as much as they love vending machine snacks!