150825_gma_vending_fix_16x9_992We covered this story back when we were still doing link roundups, but another story about it just popped up, and it’s worth taking another look.

In southeast Washington D.C., JetBlue Airways is co-sponsoring an initiative to put vending machines stocked with children’s books in a church, a grocery store, and a branch of the Salvation Army. The books are free, and kids can take as many of them as they want.

The “Soar with Reading” program came about when a study JetBlue commissioned found that in some D.C. communities, there was only one age-appropriate book available for every 830 kids, and they set about attempting to do something about that.

Kids seem happy about the program. “Books tell you stuff. If you don’t read then you don’t know stuff,” one said. Other stores have expressed interest in bringing the books there, as well.

I didn’t put it together before, but the statistic about one book for every eight hundred kids reminded me of the use of a similar statistic by the founders of Indianapolis’s “Public Collection” free library art installations. And indeed, when you think about it, these vending machines are effectively just another variation on the same theme. Like the art installations, they’re self-contained dispensaries where books can be had for free. They’re focused on kids where the Indianapolis program is all-ages, but even the Indianapolis program has a lot of shelves with just children’s books.

And just as art installations would appeal to people, vending machines would appeal to kids. Kids love being able to push buttons and make things happen. If you can push a button and get a free book, so much the better.

I hope these programs are successful enough that they start to show up everywhere. After all, they’ll be a great thing to do with all the print books that are already starting to clog up second-hand bookstores, and at the same time they can promote literacy. I’m all for that.


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