In 2011, JetBlue launched Soar with Reading, a program designed to encourage kids' imaginations to take flight through reading and to get books into the hands of kids that need them most. Since its inception, JetBlue and their partners have donated over $2.75 million worth of books to kids in need. In 2014, JetBlue commissioned a study by Susan Neuman, childhood literacy expert and one of the researchers of a 2001 study that illustrated there is access to only one age-appropriate book for every 300 children in underserved communities. Neuman was tasked with finding out if the landscape was better or worse for our nation's children. Focusing on three key JetBlue communities, Neuman's early research (presently on-going) has shown the problem has become much, much worse. In fact, it's a book desert for children in underserved communities.
After receiving the early findings of Neuman's research, JetBlue created an advisory board made up of childhood literacy and development experts representing several esteemed organizations. With the assistance of the advisory board, JetBlue developed a plan that was piloted in one of the communities in need: Anacostia, Washington, DC., where there is access to only one age-appropriate book for every 830 children.
This past summer, JetBlue thoughtfully designed vending machines that dispensed brand-new, free books for kids ages 0-14. Three vending machines were placed in family-friendly locations in the community. Kids were allowed to take as many books as they were interested in – no strings attached. It is our hope that providing free access to books in a fun and convenient way will encourage reading.
Throughout this time, we measured our impact. The goal of our research is to find out if providing a fun, unique way to receive free books will not only increase access to books in the Anacostia neighborhood, but also increase demand, reading comprehension and exposure. STAY TUNED!
For more information on Soar With Reading, please visit the Soaring With Reading website.