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Pioneering Early Literacy Campaign Arrives for SEPTA Riders

April 6, 2022

Today, April 6, 2022, Early Literacy Advocates in Philadelphia unveiled the country’s largest effort to transform public transit commutes into fun interactive learning experiences for children.

Partners in this campaign include Read by 4th, the Free Library of Philadelphia, William Penn Foundation, and SEPTA.

The Come Aboard the Reading Promise (CARP) campaign was launched to engage families in reading experiences, making daily commutes fun and enjoyable. This collaborative effort is expected to turn high-traffic public transit spaces into public learning spaces for all children at no additional cost.

The campaign spans over two subway stations on the Broad Street Line (Tasker-Morris in South Philadelphia and Erie in North Philadelphia). Stationed at the stations are kiosks that dispense short stories on-demand at no charge. Families can read these short stories during their travels to and from their destinations. The campaign even encourages story submissions from children throughout the school year to share with riders.

Along with the kiosks, the stations are decorated with engaging signage which includes 36 buses, 70 bus shelters, two subway cars, and hundreds of subway and rail signs across the city. All signage is at children’s eye level to invite them to come aboard the reading promise adventure. Families are encouraged to share their stories on social media as well via QR prompts.

The campaign features 24 characters all inspired by kids from different Philadelphia neighborhoods. The characters encourage families to “talk it up, take turns, and tune in” to one another as they indulge in riddles, tongue twisters, alphabet hunts, neighborhood pas, career explorations, poetry, songs, and more!

“This campaign takes the five Reading Promises—informed by research and developed with and for Philly families—literally on the road,” said Jenny Bogoni, executive director of the Read by 4th Campaign at the Free Library of Philadelphia. One of the nation’s leading efforts focused on grade-level reading, Read by 4th is a citywide coalition of families, community, and systems leaders protecting every child’s right to read. “Come Aboard the Reading Promise complements and reinforces Philadelphia’s multi-layered approach to improving literacy outcomes for our children.”

The Come Aboard the Reading Promise campaign is designed to appeal to learners of different ages based on playful learning principles. Younger children can have fun with their caregivers as they sound out words and make animal noises while older children can ask their parents "would you rather" questions.

“SEPTA is proud to be a partner on the Come Aboard the Reading Promise initiative,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards. “Tens of thousands of students use SEPTA every day, and we look forward to seeing this powerful educational endeavor help spark their creativity and further their achievements.”

The campaign leverages the citywide network of over 500 Reading Captains who have volunteered to help families grow and nurture strong readers. Reading captains will be the main distributors of “Busy Bus Bags” which are filled with reading materials such as word journals designed to be utilized while waiting at bus shelters and during rides.

“We are excited to see SEPTA join the growing list of institutions in Philadelphia that recognize an opportunity to engage families in children’s learning and development,” said Janet Haas, M.D., board member at the William Penn Foundation. “Come Aboard the Reading Promise meets families where they are, adds joy to their commute, and creates playful learning opportunities for children.”

Guided by the award-winning Philadelphia creative agency Mighty Engine, Come Aboard the Reading Promise builds on the latest education principles and research on child literacy. “We’re out to show that even small changes in what we do as loving grown-ups can help our children make the biggest leaps in literacy,” said Heseung Song, Mighty Engine’s president/CEO, a Harvard-trained researcher and developmental psychologist. “So, families, let’s talk it up, take turns, tune in while riding on SEPTA.”