It is very rare that children in need in many neighborhoods in the U.S. get free access to books but JetBlue is doing something about it through their “Soar to Reading” program by bringing the books closer to the children.
Since 2011, the pioneering airline company, through its reading program, has donated books worth more than $1,250,000.
Pilot project launch
Last Wednesday, a pilot project was launched as part of the company’s annual summer program with the installation of free book vending machines in a neighborhood in Washington, D.C. where children had limited access to books. The program is a joint effort of the airline with Random House Children’s Books. The book vending machines were installed in Anacostia, Southeast D.C. at a branch of the Salvation Army, at the Safeway Store located on Alabama Avenue and close to the entrance of the Matthews Memorial Baptist Church along the Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
The program has a selection of books suitable for children up to age 14. The 12-book selection will be changed every two weeks, with a total of 42 titles to be made available for the duration of the summer reading program.
The launching event in Washington, D.C. kicked off with special guest Robert Griffin III, an NFL quarterback, reading to 200 children present at the launch. JetBlue’s Icema Gibbs, the director of corporate social responsibility said that they are very excited about the pilot project. They believe that innovative solutions that engage and involve the community are essential to fight the summer reading slump, particularly in communities that are underserved.
Other cities involved in the project to provide 100,000 new books for children annually are Fort Lauderdale, Florida, New York City, Los Angeles, Houston and Detroit. They have an online page where voters can choose which cities could be the next recipients for the summer reading program. The current voting is still open until the end of August.
Anacostia is one of the underserved communities in the District that have the lowest literacy rates, with about 25 percent of the middle school children in Ward 8 able to read only at grade level, based on the school data. The number is down to about 18 percent in the high school level.
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