“JetBlue and Random House Reprise Soar with Reading” by Emma Kantor, Publishers Weekly

Random House Children’s Books has launched its seventh annual Soar with Reading program, in partnership with JetBlue. This year’s initiative will bring 100,000 free books to children in need in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., through custom vending machines. The program will run through August 31.

Soar with Reading was created as a way to fight book deserts by providing age-appropriate books to children in underserved communities. Barbara Marcus, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books, said in a statement, “We know that access to books is a foundational necessity for children, allowing them to achieve success inside and beyond the classroom. Books allow children and adults to explore the far reaches of their imaginations, and we are thrilled to be part of a program that provides young people with the opportunity to experience that adventure, regardless of where they live.”

Children take free books from the Soar with Reading vending machine.

Kerri Benvenuto, v-p of marketing, licensed and proprietary brands at Random House, told PW: “The Soar with Reading program was designed to encourage kids’ imaginations to take flight through reading and has provided more than $2.75 million in books to children across the country since its inception. The program started as a way to beat the summer slide, or the tendency for students to lose academic achievement gains made during the previous school year.”

Soar with Reading Ambassador Victoria Justice co-hosted the 2016 launch event in Detroit, Mich.

2017 Highlights

  • Book Vending Machines. The vending machines, powered by Innovative Vending Solutions, will be installed at four locations throughout Broward County. New this year are Spanish/English editions of select titles. And for the first time, books for adults will also be available to promote reading for the entire family. Readers are invited to take as many books as they like throughout the summer. They will also receive an additional book through digital download.

  • Soar with Reading Day. A 2017 kickoff event and reading celebration took place today, June 27, at Joseph C. Carter Park, one of the locations hosting a book vending machine. The event featured Magic Tree House author Mary Pope Osborne and actress/singer Victoria Justice—returning as this year’s Soar with Reading Ambassadors. Two hundred children from local partner organizations were present to try out the book vending machines.

  • In-Flight Video. A Soar with Reading video with authors Mary Pope Osborne, R.J. Palacio, Chris Grabenstein, Christian Robinson, and Judd Winick will air on JetBlue flights during the months of July and August.

  • #BookBattle. Four cities—Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco—are competing to receive a book donation in 2018. Voting to determine the winner is now open at SoarwithReading.com. Those who vote online will receive 99¢ digital children’s book downloads from Penguin Random House. Book Battle events will take place in the cities being voted on for next year’s program.