They say if you don’t use it you lose it, so to keep underserved kids engaged in learning and prepare them for the upcoming school year while they’re on summer vacation, Save the Children has taken its youth reading campaign on the road. With help from brand partners T.J.Maxx, SC Johnson and Nickelodeon, the organization is delivering school supplies-filled backpacks and educational games to children and families from coast to coast through Aug. 29 on a 10-city mobile tour.
Arriving on the heels of a two-city educational tour activated in 2020, this year’s program serves as the face-to-face manifestation of Save the Children’s 100 Days of Reading campaign, which provides tips and activities on the organization’s Instagram account and a microsite to ensure kids are actively engaging in reading and education all summer long. For every link that is clicked or tapped through Sept. 8 (International Literacy Day), donations of books, educational materials and healthy food are unlocked for 750,000 kids living in some of the country’s most impoverished, rural communities. To bring the concept into the real world, Save the Children and its partners are working with local organizations to identify the most underserved elementary school-aged kids in each city, and provide them with hands-on learning activities and essential resources.
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“After the year we’ve all faced with learning disruptions, it’s more important than ever that every kid remains engaged,” says Jennifer Kendra, head of cause marketing and partnership development at Save the Children US. “But those that are from the lowest-resource communities have the biggest gap. So we hit the road this summer with our partners to demonstrate the impact because we’re bringing backpacks and putting them into the hands of kids who need them most. And that’s a huge help for families who have had to make some really hard decisions this year and takes a little bit of that pressure off of back-to-school.”
The objective is to hand-deliver backpacks filled with school supplies, educational materials and personal care products to 2,000 children in each market. But beyond the bags, the tour provides a platform for family engagement, learning and some good clean fun. At each stop, a full event pops out of Save the Children’s tour vehicle—a wrapped school bus powered by clean propane that vastly reduces the tour’s carbon footprint—including, tents, games and in some markets, food and beverages.
Young attendees are encouraged to participate in a range of educational activities that center on literacy, math and STEM. An interactive kindergarten readiness activity, for instance, features a larger-than-life magnetic storybook developed around Nickelodeon’s “Blue’s Clues & You!” program. Similar to Mad Libs, the activity encourages kids to fill in blanks within the story with their own pictures and words. There’s also a math race game themed around Nickelodeon’s “Blaze and the Monster Machines” series, and a Greatest Catch activity from SC Johnson that teaches kids the importance of recycling. Participants use magnetic poles to fish a water bottle out of the “ocean,” then either recycle the bottle or take it to a crafts station to repurpose it.
Rounding out the activities is T.J.Maxx’s Longest Story Ever Told, which empowers kids to help author a book by adding a sentence or drawing to a crowdsourced story. When the campaign wraps, Save the Children will package the stories into mini digital books in each market and share them with the community.
“Bringing together like-minded partners who want to make a difference for children is really key to helping make events like this even more impactful and meaningful for kids because it helps put a little more fuel into the bus tour, so to speak,” says Kendra. “SC Johnson, for example, really believes in contributing to the wellbeing of communities, and particularly communities where they operate, by supporting initiatives that enhance that quality of life. And they, like many of our other partners, believe that education is an essential part of helping families move out of poverty and have access to greater economic mobility… So it’s bringing together all these like-minded folks into an opportunity for us to really engage hands-on.”
Looking ahead, Save the Children and its brand partners say they’re just getting started. The organization has plans to continue to, as Kendra puts it, “bring those resources, bring the joy, bring the fun” to underserved communities in the future through a larger-scale mobile tour featuring multiple vehicles. Buckle up. Agencies: Inspira Marketing Group, Norwalk, CT (production, creative); Trinity Displays, Chesterton, IN (mobile build).