JetBlue’s Soar with Reading Initiative brings 100,000 books to South Florida

Kids choose a book from a book vending machine during JetBlue's Soar with Reading event at The Matrix Center on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, in Detroit. This year, Fort Lauderdale played host to the initiative with over 100,000 books donated. Photo Credits: Rick Osentoski/AP Images for JetBlue

JetBlue teamed up with publisher Random House Children’s Books for its seventh annual Soar with Reading™ initiative, starting in Fort Lauderdale this week with the distribution of 100,000 books, free of charge throughout the city. The initiative is one of several philanthropic programs that JetBlue has conducted in the communities it serves, including its support for STEM and aviation education programs, its JetBlue for Good initiatives and JetBlue’s Philanthropy Month.

JetBlue installed four custom vending machines in parks and libraries to combat “book deserts”: areas in which children have limited access to age-appropriate books. The vending machines feature different children’s books; this year’s program included an expansion to incorporate bilingual books in Spanish and English, and a selection of titles for adults, as research conducted indicates that children who see parent figures reading were more likely to read themselves.

Kids using a JetBlue vending machine to get one of the 100,000 books that JetBlue donated this year. Photo Credits: Business Wire / JetBlue

“Soar with Reading empowers children to take pride in owning books,” said Icema Gibbs, director of corporate social responsibility, JetBlue. “Students who visit the vending machines are able to take as many books as they want as often as they want to build their own personal libraries. Our research shows that children are more interested in reading when they see their parents reading. As a result, we’ve added titles that appeal to grown-ups, allowing families to enjoy reading together.”

Fort Lauderdale is the third location to feature JetBlue’s award-winning vending machine program, after previous stints in Detroit and Washington D.C. Dr. Susan Neuman and her team at New York University conducted a research project involving the vending machines, with stunning results: over 75% of students who took books from the vending machines scored higher on early literacy exams than before the vending machines were put into place, and that when vending machines were put into place, parents had more knowledge about their children’s reading habits than parents without vending machines in the area.

JetBlue’s customers, crew members and communities vote each summer to see what city will receive the vending program the following year. During the program’s run in Detroit last summer, those who voted in the online #BookBattle overwhelmingly voted for Fort Lauderdale, which is one of JetBlue’s largest bases, with around 25% of the airport’s daily operations being operated by the airline. This summer, Boston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco will compete online to host the program next year.

Last summer, JetBlue’s vending machine program visited Detroit. During that summer, the annual online #BookBattle voting competition also took place, where JetBlue’s customers, crew members and the local community overwhelmingly voted for Fort 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. Anyone can vote at SoarwithReading.com through August 31st.

To commemorate this year’s initiative, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler dedicated June 27 as Soar with Reading Day and June 27 – August 31, 2017 as the Soar with Reading Summer.