June 30, 2016
JetBlue now offering direct flights to the hearts and minds of Detroit children
by Chad Felix
Since 2011, JetBlue and Random House Children’s Books’ “Soar with Reading” program, spearheaded by “Magic Tree House” author Mary Pope Osborne, has provided some $1.75 million dollars worth of free books to children across the country, commissioned a study from a childhood literacy expert, and created a Google Play app that provides additional free books and activities to users. At Michigan news site MLive.com, Edward Pevos writes that the initiative has also polled its social media followers to determine which U.S. city would be the next to benefit from increased visibility of children’s books. Candidates included New York City, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, and Detroit.
The winner—receiving a remarkable 48% of the total votes—was Detroit.
So, this summer, “Soar with Reading” is installing five book vending machines in the city’s “book deserts,” areas where access to books, in particular children’s books, is minimal or non-existent. Unlike some vending machines we’ve written about, these offer books for free—and amazingly, residents are welcome to as many as they’d like, all summer long. The machines will be restocked every two weeks.
The program was announced last Tuesday at Detroit’s Matrix Center with the help of actress and singer Victoria Justice, as well as Detroit Tigers outfielder Justin Upton. Justice is a veteran of the program: she’s been helping spread the word about it since 2014. At the launch, she read Anna Walker’s I Love My Mom to the kids in attendance. Upton, who is new to the program, read Tatyana Feeney’s Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.