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JetBlue’s Soar with Reading program

soar with readingYou’re in a bustling airport in a new city, weighted down with souvenirs and the dozen books you had to bring. (Or is that just me?) Amid the sea of strangers’ faces, two familiar travelers greet you from a display at your gate.

It’s Jack and Annie.

I saw plenty of the stars of Mary Pope Osborne’s super-popular Magic Tree House series (Random House) in my years as a children’s bookseller, and they frequently come through the Horn Book office. But when I spotted them in a JetBlue terminal, I was intrigued enough to take one of the Soar with Reading passports and investigate.

The passport acts like a regular passport, but without the jet lag; readers can color in the places they “visit” with Jack and Annie as they read the Magic Tree House books and their nonfiction Fact Tracker companions. But they also come equipped with that travel necessity: something to do. There’s a shark personality quiz, a shark word search, and other activities related to Jack and Annie’s adventures in the latest Magic Tree House book (#53, but who’s counting?), Shadow of the Shark. Even more enticingly, the Soar with Reading program runs events throughout the summer to encourage kids to keep reading when school’s out.

But what really warmed my children’s lit–loving heart was this: Soar with Reading has installed three  vending machines full of children’s books around Washington, DC. The books are totally free and children are encouraged to take as many as they’d like. According to the Soar with Reading website, $1,250,000 worth of books has been donated to children in need over the program’s five years. Most recently, a contest ran through the end of August to pick the city where another 100,000 books will be donated next summer; see the results here! (In July, author and educator Zetta Elliott wrote “An Open Letter to JetBlue,” praising the program but suggesting that the books offered should include more diverse authors and characters. Here’s hoping next year’s list takes her advice into account.)

If I was excited to see the Magic Tree House travelers in the airport, just think how exciting it must be for new readers. And for kids whose families can’t easily buy books, much less plane tickets, a free Magic Tree House book — or any good book — in their hands might mean even more.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for acknowledging the shocking lack of diversity in the vending machine titles offered to children of color in low-income communities. Just to clarify, the open letter was a collective statement post on my blog.

  2. Debbie Reese says:

    That series doesn’t just lack diversity. The one on Thanksgiving, for example, makes an even bigger mess of that glossy story.

  3. Margaret Garcia says:

    I just saw this program featured on Good Morning America. I’m so impressed with this concept. I would like to suggest to the airline to do the same thing on planes . I think children would love this and it would be great to see them read on a plane instead of playing a video game.

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