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SC Johnson Reading Challenge Leads to 1.8 Million Books Read in a Single School Year

Education has been at the heart of SC Johnson’s corporate philanthropy strategy for decades — from offering scholarships to employees’ kids, to investing in STEM education, to supporting Cornell University. And it all begins with literacy.
As our Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson has said, “Reading is a critical and basic skill that must be a part of every child’s elementary education. Reading opens the world to children and lays the foundation for future educational success.” 
Yet important as it is, in the United States only half of kids read for fun, and the number is even lower in some places in the U.S. and around the world. Getting kids to read is fundamental.
Reading opens the world to children and lays the foundation for future educational success.

Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of SC Johnson

A Reading Program with a Community Challenge

In 2011, we led our community in a unique literacy program designed to energize kids and create lifelong readers. We challenged the children of Racine to read one million books during the school year. 

Our partners included the City of Racine, Racine elementary schools, the Racine Civic Centre, Racine Literacy Council, Family Literacy of Racine, Cops ‘N Kids and Girls Inc.

The idea was that the 10,000 elementary school kids of Racine - in nearly 500 public, private and parochial classrooms - would each read an average of 100 books during the school year.

Children in the community would be surrounded by reading in all aspects of their lives, from the classroom where teachers and principals would be given program tool kits, to the community as a whole through author visits, live performances and readings, and volunteer opportunities. SC Johnson also funded the community’s mobile library, to help more kids have access to books. 

To generate extra motivation and buzz, a company donation would celebrate the elementary school with the most books read with $100,000 for a new library. Along the way, we also threw pizza parties and presented rewards to celebrate the children’s efforts. 

Fisk Johnson launches the Racine Reads: Dream Big! community literacy program in Racine, Wisconsin
Our Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson kicked off the challenge at a fun-filled community event.

Kids Reading Books: 125 Million Pages Later...

The kids of Racine out-read our most optimistic expectations, completing 1.8 million books as part of the challenge. They more than quadrupled the national average of 40 books per year per student. During the first quarter of 2012, circulation for children’s material at Racine Public Library increased nearly 25%.

At the end of the Challenge, we awarded Racine's Wadewitz Elementary School with the $100,000 grand prize library. Runner-up elementary schools each received $25,000 to update their libraries. Additionally, over the course of the program, SC Johnson donated more than 10,000 books to elementary students and school libraries.

At a celebratory event in May, some classrooms received iPads, Kindles and gift cards. Teen pop-star Jasmine Villegas even performed at the celebration. 
“Today’s event was about celebrating accomplishments,” said Fisk Johnson. “As a family company and long-standing Racine community member, we are vested in our children’s future and reading is a fundamental part of that.”
Kids who participated in SC Johnson-sponsored Racine Reads literacy program
See what children in our community had to say about the SC Johnson program that helped them read a million books.