Vending Machines to Dispense Free Kids Books

In News by Dennis Abrams

Jet Blue, Random House and Mary Pope Osborne are giving away free kids books through a new program that places book vending machines in underprivileged neighborhoods.

By Dennis Abrams

Upworthy reports that as “part of its Soar With Reading program,” US airline Jet Blue, in partnership with Random House Children’s Books and Magic Tree House author Mary Pope Osborne is “placing vending machines in communities it calls “book deserts.”

The machines are fully stocked with books, and children are allowed to take as many as they want. For free.

The pilot program has placed three vending machines in different locations in Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood.

The program was started on the back of some dire research. In 2001, one study found that in “underserved communities, there was “only one age-appropriate book available for every 300 kids.” And after commissioning a new study by childhood literacy expert Susan Neuman, they learned that things have become even worse

JetBlue’s website notes that “in the shadow of our nation’s capital, in 2015, there is access to only one-age appropriate book for every 830 children.”

That qualifies it as a “book desert.”

Their website continues:

This summer, JetBlue will place thoughtfully designed vending machines that will dispense brand-new, free books for kids aged 0 – 14. Three vending machines will be placed in locations where families naturally are in the community. Our 2015 locations are the Salvation Army, 2300 Martin Luther King Jr, Ave. SE; Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, 2616 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE; and the Safeway grocery store in Good Hope Market Place. Kids will be allowed to take as many books as they’re interested in – no strings attached. It is our hope that providing free access to books in a fun and convenient way will encourage reading.

Additionally, in support of the vending machine program, the community will have the opportunity to opt-in to a SMS campaign where JetBlue will provide age-appropriate reading tips, updates on vending machine book selections and information about “special-guest readers” appearing at the machines.

Throughout our intervention, we will measure 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.

Since 2011, JetBlue has provided over $1.25 million in books to children through Soar With Reading.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.