The Child Center and JetBlue Help Kids Soar with Reading!

In 2016, The Child Center of NY launched its #DreamsTakeFlight campaign, encouraging children to let their dreams soar. This summer, JetBlue has joined us to help our kids rise to a new level in a different way with its Soar with Reading (SWR) campaign.

SWR is an initiative that places thoughtfully designed vending machines that dispense brand-new, free books for kids ages Pre-K–14 in under-resourced communities. Children are allowed to take as many books as they are interested in so that they can continue learning and reading during the summer and begin their own home library.

JetBlue has been offering these machines to under-resourced communities since 2015, but this is the first summer the machines are available in New York City — JetBlue’s hometown — and we are delighted that our own Ocean Bay Community Cornerstone in Arverne was selected as one of the sites. The machine arrived last week and began dispensing books on July 12. Almost immediately, children started making headway on their summer reading. In less than a week, 300 children have made use of the kiosk, and the machine has needed to be restocked six times.

The kiosk is geared toward counteracting the summer slide and will be available to the community until September 6. There is no limit to how many books kids can choose until that time. The center will receive approximately 60,000 books for the summer. It’s kept stocked with titles to appeal to all ages and features many books with protagonists or by authors who are female and/or people of color — including the book Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You!, written by 14-year-old Marley Dias, founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks and this year’s SWR reading partner and ambassador. A new set of books is delivered for distribution from the kiosk every two weeks.

So far, the children have been thrilled with the selection. “This makes me happy,” says 10-year-old Yeritza, referring to her chosen book, Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer by Megan McDonald. “The character is talking about the beach and I actually live by the beach so I can relate to her examples, and reading it reminds me of home in the Rockaways.” (See more children’s quotes below.)

Deborah Hoyle, Ph.D., Director of the Ocean Bay Community Cornerstone, is happy with how the book kiosk is inspiring the love of reading, while acquiring a bound book is becoming trendy again. She is also grateful to have been a member of the collaborative effort to bring the JetBlue Soar with Reading Book Kiosk to the Rockaways and the Ocean Bay Cornerstone. “It is important for us to collectively work together to do our part to increase the literacy rate, especially in communities where children are struggling to meet minimum school-based performance levels and where bookstores are scarce,” Dr. Hoyle says. “What a treasure to receive this royal blue gem right in the heart of the Rockaways! It is such a pleasure to work for an organization that wants the best for our participants.”

To make the kiosk even more inviting, Dr. Hoyle and her team, which included Senior Program Director Rob Closs, designed a small sitting area complete with two bistro chair sets, a book stand to display the most recommended reads per age group (peer voted), and plants, which represent “planting seeds one book at a time,” Dr Hoyle says. “We want to encourage the community to come in, sit down, feel welcome and relaxed, peruse a book, and feel the vibe!”

JetBlue started the Soar with Reading campaign after discovering how many communities across our country can be described as “book deserts” — neighborhoods that are bereft of print resources for children, which means that there are virtually no books to be found during the summer months when schools are closed. To give evidence of the extremity, JetBlue states that 830 children in one of these communities would have to share one book in order to read. The Child Center has long been dedicated to ensuring that the communities we serve are not book deserts, but rather oases of learning. We operate summer camps for school-age children that encourage summertime reading and learning in fun and engaging ways, and our Head Start centers are open year-round for our preschool-age children.

JetBlue Soar With Reading group at Ocean Bay in Far Rockaway, New York

If you have a child and live in the Arverne community or anywhere nearby (all are welcome!), we hope you will stop by and choose a book or two (or three or four…) and spread the word to other families.

Once you or your child chooses a book, share your #bookdrop moment on social media and remember to tag @childcenterny and @jetblue! For every post shared, JetBlue will donate a book to the communities it serves.

The kiosk has drawn community members to the center who may never have been here before. One parent brought her son for a free book and was intrigued by all the center had to offer. When she found out about its summer camp, she signed him up on the spot.

The Ocean Bay Community Center is a DYCD-funded Cornerstone program, which serves as a community hub for children, teens, and adults. Our goal is to provide a safe and fun place for community members of all ages to come together, and to provide them with a healthy, enriching environment through education, recreation, and the arts. We work especially with our young people in afterschool and summer programs to build character and set lifelong goals. Visit our Extended-Day and Summer Learning Opportunities page to learn more.

The Child Center is planning to host events surrounding the book kiosk, including a launch event and scheduled readings, so stay tuned for details! Dr. Hoyle also notes that the center is able to distribute books to other community centers and groups, day care centers, libraries, churches, medical offices, and youth groups who need books to build their own libraries. The book kiosk also always has one or more adult titles so that the whole family can ready together. Groups interested in receiving books should contact us at oceanbay@childcenterny.org or 718-577-5260.

Read what our young participants had to say:

“I love that we have the chance to take as many books as we need and it helps our parents who don’t really have enough money to get us all of the books that we need to read over the summer. I am reading Darius and the Twig by Walter Dean Myers.” — Desire, 11

“There are a lot of interesting books that I’ve gathered for my own collection. I have a great collection for my weekend read.” — Aaron, 11

“This is a fascinating book that is funny. I like the fact that I don’t have to go to the library to check out a book and check it back in…it is just not enough time to read a book…I can actually keep it! I love that I can keep them longer and also get more books without having to check a book in or out. It is mine to keep.”– Quentin, 10, reading Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer. “I like Peg and Cat’s Messy Room [by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson]. I like that I don’t have to walk to the library because it is too far and my legs get very tired. The books are right here and I’m really excited. I was happy to see all of the books and colors! I can go to camp and get books to take home because I love to read!” — Khloe, 6

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