My kids and I went grocery shopping at H-E-B last week, as usual. While we were there, I also saw evidence of the grocery chain’s efforts to improve children’s literacy.
H-E-B’s Read 3 program uses the store’s marketing power to spread the message to parents of preschoolers: Read to your kids at least three times a week, and they will be better prepared to learn once they reach kindergarten. They will start to recognize letters and will build their vocabulary. They will pick up classroom skills and social skills.
Between the produce section and the deli, I saw a tempting display of board books for only $1 each. Having children’s books for sale at the grocery store is a great idea. We are lucky to live near several bookstores (The Twig, Barnes & Noble, etc.), but sometimes there’s not enough time in the day to go grocery shopping and go to the bookstore. Besides, some parts of town have no bookstores.
Just past the checkout, I saw a basket for book donations. In a partnership with SAReads, H-E-B is trying to collect one million used children’s books by the end of the year; organizations can apply for books to distribute at their own literacy events.
On our way back to the car, my kids took turns on the Buddy Bucks machine. My daughter had a couple of lucky spins.
The H-E-B Read 3 program goes beyond what I saw at my local store:
- Opening literacy centers in several stores. “H-E-B opens two Southside literacy centers”, Marissa Villa, San Antonio Express-News, November 7, 2012.
- Conducting reading workshops for families. “H-E-B fills pre-school reading gap with Read 3 Family Literacy program”, Christi Fish, UTSA Today, May 25, 2012.
- Promoting the H-E-Buddy Book of the Month
- Book giveaways with Meal Deals and Combo Loco promotions; we bought the “1 2 3 Sí!” book last year
- Printable sheets for an in-store scavenger hunt that encourages kids to read while shopping
- The H-E-Buddy Summer Reading Club: read ten books and get an H-E-Buddy T-shirt
For a summary of Read 3 initiatives, see “H-E-B encouraging parents to read to preschoolers”, San Antonio Business Journal, September 6, 2011.
There are several things I like about the Read 3 program. First, there is real evidence of the program in my local H-E-B store. Also, the program plays to H-E-B’s strengths as a chain that reaches into every geographic and socioeconomic pocket in the region. Most of all, the program depends on the power of cumulative small changes — making books easier and cheaper for busy families to access every day. Real change means new habits: making small changes stick, making good choices easy. Read 3 has the potential to make that happen.