Promoting Literacy and Reading

In today’s global, knowledge-based economy, literacy is essential. Providing easy access to books and promoting the joy of reading for pleasure from a young age is the mission of AAP’s numerous efforts, in cooperation with our member publishers, to support greater literacy.

    Importance of Reading and Literacy

    Reading and literacy are vital to a successful publishing industry, a thriving economy and an informed, engaged society. Studies from groups such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Literacy Partners, Children’s Literacy Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, LINCS (Literacy Information and Communication System, formerly National Institute for Literacy), and other industry watchers repeatedly show connections among literacy and reading rates, early access to print materials, and quality of life outcomes, such as:

    • A child’s reading ability at grade 3 is the biggest indicator of graduation: one in six third-graders who are not reading proficiently won’t graduate from high school on time (an outcome that is even higher for children in low-income and rural communities). This late-graduation rate is four times greater than for third-graders who are proficient readers.
    • More than two-thirds of prison inmates are high school dropouts, and high school dropouts are 63 times more likely to be incarcerated than college graduates.
    • 43% of adults with the lowest reading proficiency live in poverty—this is more than ten times the number of adults who have strong reading skills but also live in poverty.
    • Two-thirds of low-income families have no age-appropriate books in their homes.
    • Middle-income neighborhoods have an average of 13 books per child, while low-income neighborhoods have only one book for every 300 children.  
    • Adult literacy for parents helps close the achievement gap for low-income and immigrant children.

    Clearly, improving everyone’s ability to access, read and enjoy books and other printed materials is a critical goal, and it is one that remains central to publishers. AAP actively supports this goal through a number of programs and its broader mandate to defend the principles of free expression, which  ensure that publishers can create stories to reach all ages, nationalities and reading levels with a wide variety of works.

    Find out More: Celebrating Freedom of Expression

    Learn why freedom of expression is so important to publishers.  

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    How Publishers Promote Reading and Literacy

    AAP and member publishers stimulate reading and literacy for people of all ages and socioeconomic status through the Get Caught Reading campaign, annual Adopt-a-School program, our Book Donation Initiative, and a commitment to publishing titles that resonate with audiences of many cultures and creeds.

    Get Caught Reading Program

    AAP is the founder and ongoing supporter of Get Caught Reading, a nationwide campaign launched in 1999 to remind kids and adults how much fun it is to read. The program hooks people into reading by distributing posters of well-known actors, musicians, authors, artists, athletes, politicians, storybook characters and other personalities “getting caught” reading their favorite books and magazines.

    Our roster of hundreds of celebrity supporters includes Alicia Keys, NBA player Ray Allen, former New York Yankee Johnny Damon, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Whoopi Goldberg,  Olivia the Pig, Kiera Knightly, Miami Heat, NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, First Lady Laura Bush, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson,  and The Rugrats, among many others. A Spanish-language version of the program, ¡Ajá, Leyendo!, showcases Latino celebrities such as Gloria Estefan and Dora the Explorer to bring attention to the rich variety of books available in Spanish. Get Caught Listening, an offshoot to support audiobooks, was launched in 2008 with celebrities such as Dr. Seuss’ Horton the Elephant and L.L. Cool J.

    Throughout the year, AAP creates and distributes free campaign posters, videos and newsletters, and works with our publishers to engage all segments of the industry in the promotion. In 2014, AAP members packaged and distributed free celebrity posters to nearly 950 organizations ranging from K-12 schools and colleges, to libraries and booksellers, to churches and doctors’ offices. The posters reach millions of viewers.

    AAP also regularly updates the Get Caught Reading site with reading and literacy news and events, keeping visitors abreast of other relevant programs like Banned Books Week, the Children’s Choice Book Awards, writing and video contests, and the availability of newly released literacy data.

    Adopt-a-School Events

    AAP’s weeklong Adopt-a-School program, held each December since 2006, enables publishers to connect their authors and illustrators with school-age readers to foster literacy and a love of reading. Currently run in New York City, the event is a collaboration between AAP, the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Strategic Partnership, the Children’s Book Council and school librarians who have been selected for REACH grants to promote literacy.

    Publishers “adopt” a school, bringing in new or established authors and illustrators to do readings, answer questions and lead discussions with elementary, middle and high school students. Publishers also donate books and promotional materials to enrich the schools’ libraries. In 2014, the program involved nearly 25 large and small publishers, each bringing diverse authors and perspectives to the minds of thousands of young readers at close to 50 schools.

    Book Donation Initiative

    Many publishing houses donate books to non-profit organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Through its Book Donation Initiative, AAP maintains a list of organizations that accept such donations, verifying their eligibility and providing their mission, donation needs and contact information online. Individuals and publishers can use this list to support literacy and reading for specific groups, such as schools, library systems, prisons, churches, youth groups, coalitions, learning centers, foundations, college access programs, foster care services and many others.

    Publishing for Diverse Audiences

    Since the 1990s, demand has grown for a greater diversity of voices in U.S. publishing, to better reflect our nation’s population of widely varied races, cultures, languages and creeds.

    The hope is to get more people interested in reading by providing characters and stories that they can connect with personally and culturally. This is especially important for children’s books, in which being able to “see themselves” in a tale can launch a child’s lifelong love of reading. Having a diversity of published voices also enriches creativity, stimulates greater literacy and readership rates, and enables authors to reach new audiences with their works.

    AAP is exploring ways to support efforts by publishers and authors to produce a greater number of culturally relevant titles for a broader range of audiences.

    Several past AAP diversity initiatives include the creation of the Publishing Latino Voices for America Task Force, which focuses on supporting Latino audiences, who represent 17% (2013 U.S. census) of the U.S. population. In this vein, AAP also partners with Las Comadres Para Las Americas, a national Latina organization, on the Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club to select each year’s book club recommendations, all of which are English-language releases by Latino and Latina authors. We manage the “¡Ajá, Leyendo!” campaign (a Spanish-language version of Get Caught Reading), hold educational seminars for the industry, offer publicity at various industry events, have co-sponsored several Latino writer’s conferences, and have partnered repeatedly with REFORMA and the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) on Hispanic Heritage Month and El Dia de los Ninos/El Dia de los Libros.

    Additional AAP Resources

    See Also