Last October I stood on a rickety stool in my son’s bedroom, trying to sort through the legions of books stuffed haphazardly on the top shelf of his closet. Some were old friends he read regularly, and those I put aside to keep. But others were picture books he had received as gifts over the years, or I had picked up at thrift stores and garage sales because, well, they’re books. And no one, I believe, can have too many books.
One can, however, have too few bookshelves, and as I balanced an armfull of hardbacks about trucks, trains, and big diggers, it became obvious that some of these needed to go somewhere, but not just any old place.
You know that icebreaker question that asks, “If you could only take two things with you to a deserted island, what would they be?” Easy. I’d take books. Big, fat, hardbound books that I could read over and over, because, as any avid word-devourer knows, you never read the same thing the same way twice. Or even three times. Food and water, meh. I’d be happy starving over a good book any day.
So, back to my kid’s books, now stacked in a thigh-high pile on his bedroom floor: Other kids would probably read them, and especially kids in Alaska’s more rural areas who don’t have access to cool grandmas or moms who love reading as much as their grandkids and kids, and thus spend hundreds of dollars annually to send tomes to the Last Frontier.
I briefly considered schlepping books with me on my travels and finding an organization that would accept a donation, but that would take a lot of time and probably a lot of resources, too, especially considering my own gear takes up a ton of room on smaller planes.
Finally, I settled on a small bin of books at the airport: Perhaps Alaska Airlines would allow me to stock the gate area and have something for youngsters to read while waiting for flights.
[Sidebar: I spend a lot of time in airports, and so do Alaska families who must utilize aircraft for everything from medical appointments to vacations Outside. The result is a plethora of children attached to their iPads, phones, and other electronics when they could be reading, for pete’s sake.]
I emailed Scott Habberstadt of Alaska Airlines’ corporate offices here in Anchorage. Would something like this even be possible? I’d be willling to take this on, I wrote, because I love books that much.
Not really expecting an answer, I moved on and stored my son’s old books in a large box in our garage, but continued to turn ideas over in my mind.
An hour later, a reply popped up on my screen.
“Hey Erin, funny you wrote this just now. I was just talking with John Parrot at the airport about ways to make it more family-friendly, and we’d love to have you come in and talk with us about integrating some bookshelves into our concourses.” ~Scott Habberstadt
Welcome, friends, to the birth of Read On the Fly.
A simple concept that we hope will have big rewards for all families traveling through Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Read On the Fly is truly a collaborative effort among AKontheGO, Alaska Airlines, and TSAIA, not to mention the long list of individuals and businesses who have offered books, time, space and effort to push this project to fruition.
Here’s how it will work:
- Kids traveling through TSAIA will have the opportunity to visit bookshelves in six areas of the airport: C Concourse (Alaska Airlines); B Concourse (other domestic airlines and international departures); Regional concourse (downstairs); and three other hallways or nooks determined by my amazing team at the airport.
- Books will be collected, vetted, and distributed to meet the needs of kids 0-16 in a fashion similar to the Little Free Library concept. Want to read a story with your child while waiting for a flight? Feel free to grab a book then return it before boarding. Need a book for the flight, or want to finish that gripping chapter book about your favorite character? Go for it and take the book along.
- To keep up with the revolving shelves, donations will always be welcome, and regularly inspected by me, now that TSAIA has issued me my very own security clearance badge. Look for me and my awesome book wagon and feel free to donate “on the fly” as well.
Want to donate? Book drives, collection bins, or an old-fashioned closet-cleaning are great ways to support Read On the Fly. For more details, go HERE. (This page lives at the bottom of the AKontheGO home page, by the way. I’ve just been keeping it quiet.)
Read On the Fly will officially launch in June. That gives us less than two months to meet our goal of 1,000 books. We’re halfway there. I have a storage shed filling up fast, but with a busy travel season nearly here, I know 1,000 books will be required to kick this project into high gear and carry it through the autumn months.
Email the Read On the Fly team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know how you want to contribute.
Vera Nazarian said “Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.”
Imagine the kids who are just waiting for that light to arrive.