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Detroit kids get free books from vending machines thanks to JetBlue

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The literacy statistics in Detroit are grim. Many children in Detroit that do not have access to books in their neighborhoods. In some areas, there is only one book for every 42 children.

This summer there will be a bit of relief for this book desert. The airline JetBlue has partnered with five community centers throughout Detroit to put in book vending machines.

Victoria Justice (left) and Justin Upton (right) read to kids in Detroit. Photo: Shianne Nocerini

Victoria Justice (left) and Justin Upton (right) read to kids in Detroit. Photo: Shianne Nocerini

These vending machines give children up to age 14 free books. There are no strings attached, parents and their children can come and use the machines to get a book to take home. These books do not need to be returned, all they ask is that the children take good care of them and to create a home library.

The event  was held at the Matrix Center in the Osborn neighborhood of Detroit. Children from all over the city were in attendance along with actress Victoria Justice and Detroit Tiger Justin Upton. They each read a book from the vending machine before answering questions and taking pictures with the children and parents.

Before reading time began Justice and Upton both spoke about the importance of reading.

“Reading has been an important part of my life. I have been reading as long as I can remember,” Justice said. “It is something I have always loved because when you read a book it is a great way to escape. It is a great way to travel to places you’ve never been to, and your imagination take you anywhere.”

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JetBlue’s program is called Soaring With Reading, and it started in 2011.Detroit was the winner last year in JetBlue’s #BookBattle competition. Detroit took 48 percent of the 1.3 million votes cast. This summer Random House Children’s Books and JetBlue will donate 100,000 books to area children.

This is the second year for the vending machine program, last year the Anacostia area of Washington D.C., got the vending machines. There is currently one machine in the neighborhood for this summer.

“We’re really excited to be in Detroit, we’re new to the market and we’re a small player here. But making an impact on communities is important. When we did the research and found out all the areas you couldn’t buy a book we figured we could make a social impact,” said  Icema Gibbs, JetBlue director of corporate social responsibility.

The vending machines will be at five locations throughout the city.

The machines will be restocked with new titles every two weeks. Parents can find the vending machine locations, weekly story hours, and book title updates by texting SOAR to 77948.

Matrix Center 13560 E. McNichols; Detroit, Michigan 48205

Northwest Activities Center 18100 Meyers Road; Detroit, Michigan 48235

Patton Park 2301 Woodmere Street; Detroit, Michigan 48209 (There will be a selection of Spanish-language titles at this location.)

Rosedale Park Baptist Church 14179 Evergreen Road; Detroit, Michigan 48223

Samaritan Center 5555 Conner Street; Detroit, Michigan 48213

– Reprinted with permission from Daily Detroit

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