Ask someone, "What's your favorite childhood book?" Most have a quick answer and a smile on their face. But for some people, there isn't a quick answer. Or an answer at all.
A lack of books in the home is directly linked to an increased likelihood that a child will read below his or her grade level by the fourth grade. In fact, 25 million children in the U.S. cannot read proficiently. And students who can't read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers2, a huge barrier to meeting their full potential as adults.
That's why Pizza Hut, the nation's longest-standing corporate supporter of literacy, is kick-starting a giving program to tackle issues that lead to illiteracy. Through Pizza Hut: The Literacy Project—the company's global commitment to literacy—the program will enable access to books and educational resources, empower teachers and inspire a lifelong love of reading.
"Literacy is a critical, foundational life skill that can have a profound impact on quality of life, yet it is an often overlooked social issue," says Artie Starrs, president, Pizza Hut U.S. "The reality for many children growing up is that they do not have access to books in their home. Working alongside our 150,000 team members in the U.S., we are committed to help millions of children start a new chapter by providing books and educational resources they need to reach their full potential."
The Literacy Project fundraising campaign, which runs February 26 through April 15, is a critical part of achieving the company's goal to transform the lives of 100 million people in just 10 years through reading. Pizza Hut is partnering with First Book, a recognized nonprofit, social sector leader, on its journey to fulfilling this goal. Supporters can join Pizza Hut on its mission by donating when they order from Pizza Hut in store, by phone and online or by visiting PizzaHut.com/TheLiteracyProject to give directly. All funds raised will provide educators with credits to obtain books and resources on the First Book Marketplace for selected schools and programs located near Pizza Hut restaurants.
"First Book is proud to continue to partner with Pizza Hut on its journey to impact 100 million lives through reading," says Kyle Zimmer, First Book president, CEO and co-founder. "We share a mission to elevate opportunities for children in need, but we recognize that too many low-income communities simply don't have the resources to provide children with access to books, with the result that teachers in these classrooms and programs often spend hundreds of dollars of their own money to try to provide what students need. Pizza Hut: The Literacy Project can help unlock the potential of millions of underserved children and communities."
As part of the campaign, Pizza Hut is asking consumers to help jumpstart an important conversation about literacy. Tapping into the nostalgia many people have for reading their favorite childhood book, Pizza Hut is encouraging consumers to share the joy they experienced reading that book and to ask people to donate to help every child have that same experience.
As an incentive to share, Pizza Hut is giving away a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience to bring one lucky person's favorite book to life. To enter for a chance to win, consumers can share the title of their favorite book and why it's important to them on Instagram or Twitter, tag @PizzaHut and use the hashtags #HelpStartANewChapter #sweepstakes. The winner will be announced by April 30.
Nick Lachey, a multi-platinum recording artist, television personality and father of three, has joined Pizza Hut on its mission to raise awareness for literacy. Together, Lachey, Pizza Hut and First Book will give books to students at a public elementary school in Lachey's local community to help inspire their love of reading.
"As a father of three young children, I witness the impact that reading has on their lives and imaginations every day," says Lachey. "Pizza Hut and The Literacy Project are making an incredible impact by providing kids who may not have abundant access to books with resources that inspire their creativity. I'm proud to participate in this campaign and raise awareness for this important cause."
For 33 years, the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Program has nurtured a love of reading in more than 65 million students across the country, but the company wanted to make a greater impact. Building on this legacy, Pizza Hut established The Literacy Project in 2016 to raise awareness for literacy-related issues and engage consumers to help make a difference. In its first year, the campaign impacted 15.9 million people and distributed more than 275,000 books and educational resources to communities in the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica and South Africa.
As a global brand, Pizza Hut is a strong corporate citizen and committed to supporting the communities it serves to ensure its team members, customers and neighbors have a chance to be their best. Supporting and encouraging literacy is one way Pizza Hut supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by helping to ensure all youth achieve literacy and numeracy by 2030.
While the company's largest corporate social responsibility commitment is to literacy, Pizza Hut serves its communities in many ways. Pizza Hut is also a part of the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, which engages youth age 16-24 who face systemic barriers to jobs and education in apprenticeships, internships, training programs and employment. The company also encourages its team members to continue their education through the Life Unboxed EDU initiative, which offers online courses along with tuition discounts and reimbursements.
Pizza Hut partners with Food Donation Connection on its Harvest Program, which donates food to hunger relief organizations. In 2016, Pizza Hut achieved a milestone, donating enough food to provide meals to more than 100 million people in need. The company also participates in the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, an industry coalition created by the National Restaurant Association and the Grocery Manufacturers Association working to reduce the amount of food waste generated, increase food donations to those in need and encourage recycling of unavoidable food waste to divert it from landfills.