Literary Machine: Detroit Community Center Spreads Literacy With Free Kids’ Books

Photo courtesy of Fox 2

Photo courtesy of Fox 2

By Daniel Ford

Earlier this month, I ran across a feel-good news story about Detroit’s Northwest Activities Center distributing free summer reading to local kids through a nifty book vending machine.

The vending machine is courtesy of JetBlue’s “Soar With Reading” program, which aims to “encourage kids’ imaginations to take flight through reading and get books into the hands of kids that need them most.” According to the airline’s website, $1,750,000 worth of books have been donated to kids in need by JetBlue and its partners.

The Center, which opened its doors in 1975, serves more than 250,000 Detroit residents annually, and offers “programs and activities for youth, families, and seniors that enhance the quality of life in the Detroit community.”

Norris J. Howard III, the Center’s social media manager, graciously talked to me about the community’s reaction to the initiative and how it has helped give local youths access to books and literature.

Daniel Ford: How did the Northwest Activities Center become involved with JetBlue’s summer reading program, “Soar With Reading?” What are some of the objectives of the program?

Norris J. Howard III: JetBlue actually reached out to us based on our proximity to schools and our central location. Our objective with this partnership is to increase literacy in our area. Many Detroit youth have limited access to bookstores and libraries, and this was a way for us to make books (especially Early Childhood material) available to our community.

DF: What has the reaction been like from kids and their parents to this year’s book vending machine?

NJH: Overwhelmingly positive! The community has responded in an amazing way to the program. We have to restock the machine two to three times a day during peak hours and sometimes overnight due to our evening events.

DF: According to your executive director, Ronald Lockett, you’ve distributed more than 7,000 books in six weeks through your book vending machine. That’s a lot of books! Did you ever imagine restocking the machine so much?!

NJH: No, we had no idea the program would be so successful. We are absolutely thrilled that the community enjoyed the books so much.

To learn more about the Northwest Activities Center, visit their official website or like their Facebook page.

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