By Sandy Nesoff
JetBlue Airways’ award-winning Soar with Reading® program in its fifth consecutive year is placing age appropriate books into the hands of children in need.
In honor of the fifth anniversary of the Soar with Reading initiative, JetBlue has selected New York and four other cities to battle for these books -- Detroit, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, and New York City. The city with the most online votes will win and the books will be donated in 2016.
To quench one of the biggest book deserts, JetBlue has also launched a pilot program as an extension of this year’s Soar with Reading initiative. In an effort to make an immediate impact, JetBlue has placed book vending machines in Washington, D.C. to provide children in the Southeast neighborhood with free access to books. Washington, D.C. was chosen to launch this program after a study commissioned by JetBlue found that the Anacostia section of D.C. is a large book desert, leaving residents little or no access to purchase age-appropriate children’s books.
“Innovative solutions, that involve and engage the community, are necessary to combat the current slump that happens especially in underserved communities,” said Icema Gibbs, JetBlue’s director of corporate social responsibility.
JetBlue’s book vending machines are placed in select locations in the community and allow children to receive books, free of cost. Parents can opt-in to a SMS campaign to receive reading tips, updates when new books are restocked into the vending machines and to learn about reading events.
“As we celebrate our fifth year of Soar with Reading, we decided to conduct more research and devise a plan to make an even greater impact. Learning that communities right in our own backyard are in such dire need of books, we convened an advisory board, enlisting the help of top education experts to help us develop a strategy to combat this growing imbalance,” said Gibbs. “Not only do we want to combat these book deserts, but also show that there is a demand to purchase books in underserved areas.”
Returning for the second consecutive year as a Soar with Reading ambassador, actress and singer-songwriter Victoria Justice will help to generate awareness for the initiatives through social media engagement, videos and an appearance in New York. Justice, who turns to reading as an escape from her hectic schedule, will encourage her fans and followers to take time to read.
Since 2011, Soar with Reading has donated over $1,250,000 worth of books to kids in need. The program website and mobile app provide the latest #BookBattle and event updates, as well as features new activities and games, resources for families, reading recommendations and more.