FT. LAUDERDALE, FL — JetBlue Airways is installing four custom vending machines at different locations in Ft. Lauderdale to distribute 100,000 books, free of charge, to children who need them most. Vending machines are a central component of JetBlue and Random House’s Children’s Books seventh annual Soar with Reading initiative.
The program aims to help fight “book deserts,” areas offering limited access to age-appropriate books. New this year is the addition of bilingual books (Spanish/English) and, given research supporting higher reading scores among students who see their parents reading, a selection of titles appealing to adults.
The vending machines, supplied by Dayton, OH-based Innovative Vending Solutions, will be restocked throughout the summer with new titles. Children and families can visit the vending machines as often as they would like and can take as many books as they want. This is the third year JetBlue has funded the vending program. The machines were previously installed in Detroit and Washington, DC.
To measure the program’s impact, Dr. Susan Neuman of New York University conducted research in these markets before and after the vending machines were installed. Research findings suggested the program had tangible effects on local residents.
Three out of four children with access to the vending machines reportedly scored higher on early literacy exams than before they had access to the machines. And parents in neighborhoods with the machines had more knowledge about their children’s reading habits than parents in areas without them.
The Soar with Reading book vending machines will be available through Aug. 31 at three parks, a recreational center and a library. Soar with Reading ambassadors, including actress and singer Victoria Justice, a south Florida native, and author Mary Pope Osborne, were on hand to introduce the machines to students.
Last summer, JetBlue’s vending machine program visited Detroit. During that time, the annual online #BookBattle voting competition also took place, where JetBlue’s customers and crewmembers and the local community overwhelmingly voted for Ft. Lauderdale to receive 100,000 free children’s books in 2017.
This year, four cities — Boston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco — will go head-to-head in the national online #BookBattle to receive the 2018 donation. Voting is open at SoarwithReading.com through Aug. 31. For the first time, anyone who casts a vote online will also receive a special 99¢ digital children’s book from Penguin Random House.
Continuing the program’s investment in Detroit, a selection of Random House Children’s Books titles will be donated to local partners there throughout the summer. Since its inception, Soar with Reading has reportedly supplied more than $2,750,000 worth of books to kids in need.