PizzaHut’s Literacy Project

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It’s difficult for anyone to improve their life or work prospects if they are unable to read and write.

Pizza Hut’s Literacy Project, The Book It literacy Programme, has been working to turn that around for more than 30 years and has an ambitious goal of fostering that love of words in 100 million lives all over the world.

The incentive, of course, is Pizza – students are set a goal by their classroom teacher, and if they reach their reading goals they are rewarded with a Pizza Hut certificate, exchangeable for an individual pizza. Outstanding classrooms can take their reward race one step further, as classes who read the most books are rewarded with a pizza party.

The programme has not been without criticism, as this kind of reward-based incentive to learn may make the end reward the focus rather than fostering any lifelong love of learning and reading. Campaign groups who are concerned about the pester-power of advertising also have deep concerns about product placement in school, and an emphasis on junk food as a reward for learning. However, children are likely to eat pizza in moderate quantities anyway, and an incentive to learn can reinforce the learning and reading habit to the point where getting to the end of the story and immersion in the characters is its own reward.

Around one in five Americans have taken part in the Book It programme, and even at age 32, it is still growing.

Fundraising efforts still continue, such as the recent partnership with First Book – representing a pairing up between a corporate brand and a not for profit social enterprise organisation. The funds raised from this partnership are likely to help those who read it most have access to books, and provide their teachers with wider resources.

It is thought that around one billion people in the world cannot read, leading to a lack of prospects for social and personal improvement, and not all of those people are in developing countries; pairing up with schools in low-income areas where the children are deemed at risk of failing academically, and giving them the tools to learn. The impact on communities where books are not a priority at home through cost or through parental literacy is extraordinary.

Big business often gets a bad rap, and it would be disingenuous to suggest that Pizza Hut gets nothing back for their efforts.

However, 32 years and counting is quite a commitment to social responsibility, and continues to show people all across America and the rest of the world that books are something for them and not just for ‘other people’.