June 28, 2017

JetBlue & Random House are at it again, this time in Florida


This is a map of Book Deserts in the United States. You’ll notice that the reddest (driest?) spots—where the estimated percentage of homes with more than 100 books is between 1% and 10%—tend to stretch across the south, with a few exceptions in northern states like Montana, the Dakotas, and… Michigan.

Unite Book Desert Map.jpg
By Michael McGuffee – Unite for Literacy, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Last June, Detroit was the beneficiary of a joint initiative between the airline company JetBlue, Random House Children’s Books, and “Magic Tree House” author Mary Pope Osborne to bring free children’s books to a city where they might be most difficult to access otherwise. We reported on it here. The program, which is called “Soar with Reading,” installed five book vending machines in that city last year, allowing residents to take as many as they liked, for free, all summer long.

A press release yesterday announced this year’s recipient is Fort Lauderdale, where four vending machines will distribute 100,000 free children’s books — including, for the first time in the program’s seven-year-history, bilingual Spanish and English books as well as “a selection of titles appealing to adults” in order to “encourage a cross-generational love of reading.” Like the vending machines in Detroit, they’ll be restocked bi-weekly.

Looking ahead to next year, four cities—Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco—will go head-to-head in a competition to bring the “Soar with Reading” to their residents. Voting will be open here through August 31!



Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.