As part of a literacy initiative, the kids of New York can now receive books for free from vending machines around the city.
Soar with Reading is a literacy initiative that aims to tackle the issue of book availability in communities where children often cannot access age-appropriate books. The initiative, launched this time last year, has placed six free book vending machines throughout New York City’s five boroughs, in areas where age-appropriate books are sorely needed. One machine has been placed in each borough, with Queens receiving two. JetBlue, the company behind it, has donated more than $3.5 million worth of books to kids in need.
“New York City is home to thousands of JetBlue crewmembers who work in the airline’s New York Support Center and JFK International and LaGuardia Airports,” said U.S. Congressman Gregory Meeks, who represents New York’s Fifth Congressional District, mostly in Queens. “I encourage children and their families to take as many books as they want, as often as they want, throughout the summer – no strings attached – in the hopes that offering free access to books in a fun and convenient way will spark a lifelong love of reading.”
The vending machines will be restocked every two weeks with new titles available in both English and Spanish
“As New York City’s hometown airline, we’re excited to bring our Soar with Reading program home. Over the past five years, we’ve made a tremendous impact with our book vending machine program,” said Icema Gibbs, JetBlue’s director of corporate social responsibility. “We can’t deny the need right in our own backyard. This year, it was important for us to focus our efforts on the city that welcomed us from day one and made us who are. Although we’re located in Long Island City, there is so much more to New York City, from Brownsville to the South Bronx, Harlem and the Rockaways to Port Richmond. Our goal is to help improve book access for children in every borough and beyond.”
The vending machines will be restocked every two weeks with new titles available in both English and Spanish, powered by Innovate Vending Solutions. Publishing partners include HarperCollins Publishers, Little Bee Books, Lil’ Libros, Scholastic, Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group and Barefoot Books. Furthermore, the vending machines will include select books for adult readers as research shows that parents displaying behaviours like reading can improve educational outcomes for children.
“It’s so important to keep our kids entertained and engaged in learning while school is out during the summer. In Queens, we’re thrilled to welcome two free book machines that will be dispensing titles that are appropriate for all ages and reflect the incredible diversity of our borough,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
“For kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, summer often marks the beginning of the infamous summer slide,” says Dr. Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education at NYU Steinhardt. “Studies have shown that owning 25 books or more has a sizable effect on achievement, with each additional increment of books, such as 10 or more, improving achievement. This program allows children to own books and combat the knowledge loss that so often accompanies summer.”