Client: California Office of the Secretary for Education
PR Team: Porter Novelli (LA)
Campaign: READ California
Time Frame: September 2000-June 2001
Budget: dollars 1 million
Suppose only 20% of adults could read well enough to work, shop or bank.
California was headed that way two years ago, when only 20% of the
state's fourth-graders could read at or above grade level.
Read California - the result of legislation signed by Gov. Gray Davis -
sought to change that by using PR and advertising to encourage
schoolchildren to read every day outside of class.
The state's secretary of education chose New York-based Porter Novelli
to handle the PR.
The goal was to make kids feel that reading can be interactive, engaging
and fun, says Michelle Kurland, VP at Porter Novelli. This year (the
campaign also occurred in 1999-2000), more emphasis was placed on
reaching adults - parents, business executives and community members -
to support kids' enthusiasm for books.
'Businesses are going to be hiring these kids at some point,' explained
Lisa Fisher, director of Read California in the governor's office,
adding, 'These are our children. We owe them.'
The program focused on Sacramento, San Francisco, Fresno, LA and San
Diego. Readapalooza Too, an interactive, multimedia comedy show toured
schools from October 10 to December 8, reaching more than 30,000
Audience members were plucked to play 'Who Wants to Win a Million
Words?' a spoof of the famous game show, and to vote on who among young
readers' favorite literary characters should be president and vice
president. The kids elected Harry Potter to the top office and Clifford
the Big Red Dog to the deputy spot.
The on-stage antics were a shoo-in for TV and local newspaper coverage,
Kurland says. 'Shots that were picked up in city after city were so
visual, with the huge blow-up stage that looks like an open book,' she
recalls. 'They really captured the moment and the kids having fun with
To put young faces on the campaign, 12 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders
were selected to make up a Page Flippers-Kids Advisory Council. In
mid-February, the council kicked off its 'Reading Adventure,' in which
members would race to host library card sign-up rallies and book drives
in their hometowns. Local library and literacy advocates attended.
A 14-member, multi-ethnic advisory counsel of newspaper editors and
reading experts oversees the literacy effort. Ten corporate sponsors,
including Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Scholastic and Hewlett-Packard
back the program with funding, book giveaways and reading lists. Porter
Novelli sends them newsletter updates regularly.
Parents can receive information on how to promote reading at home and
can download tips from www.readcalifornia.org.
By late February, media impressions totaled 754 million. The campaign is
credited with improving reading scores by as much as 5%, according to a
test given by the governor's office.
'Read California is in the budget for next year,' Fisher says. Next
year, more effort will be directed toward teenagers.