If you’re a person of a certain age (like I might be) and a lover of books (aka awesome), then the BOOK IT! program at Pizza Hut is probably a part of your fondest childhood memories. To win a personal pan pizza, you had to read five books (teachers gave you stars on a little button!), have them checked by a teacher, and voila!
But even if you loved and participated – or have a kid doing it now – there are a few things you might not know about the program.
If you keep reading, though, you will!
10. Vintage buttons are for sale on Ebay.
The logo button debuted in 1985, and you can buy one of dozens of pins from the ’80s and ’90s on Ebay. It’s also fun to see how the logo changed over the years.
9. The program was inspired by the then-president’s son.
BOOK IT! was created in Wichita, Kansas, in 1984, by then-president Arthur Gunther. His son, Michael, had trouble reading as a child due to eye issues, and Gunther thought that a program designed to encourage reading would be a great help to other children who struggled with it.
Just over a month after its inception, more than 7 million grade school kids in 233,080 classrooms were participating across the country.
8. There’s an official store with some pretty weird merch.
There are USB car chargers, magnetic fridge clips, and squeezable dart rockets along with a retro t-shirt design and reader rewards.
7. President Ronald Reagan was a fan.
He sent a message to BOOK IT! organizers in 1987 that read (in part):
“During this ‘Year of the Reader,’ we can all reflect that reading is essential to the vitality of the mind and to the success and accomplishment of almost every endeavor. As the Book-It Program prepares for yet another tremendous year of bringing the gift of reading to youngsters, I want to commend all those associated with the program for the outstanding work you do. Your efforts give help and inspiration to many and strengthen our Nation. I salute you.”
6. And so was President Bill Clinton.
On October 3, 1988, the Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton issued an official proclamation to declare an official BOOK IT! Day. He believed that the program was “an effective tool in motivating elementary students to read.” Which it clearly was.
5. The program made a television cameo.
An episode of Small Wonder featured the program when Vicki’s 1988 class participated, with two students working to finish their reading assignments.
4. Justin Bieber once participated.
In 2011, Justin Bieber read The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss as part of “America’s Biggest Bedtime Story.” That program exists to encourage parents to read bedtime stories to their kids, and the next year, BOOK IT! recruited Tim Tebow to read Green Eggs and Ham.
3. Homeschoolers can participate, too.
The BOOK IT! program runs from October 1 through March 31 every year, and students from Kindergarten to 6th grade can participate – even if they don’t attend public school. It’s available to homeschooled kids, as well as virtual and online schools, as well.
You do still have to complete the proper paperwork to claim your rewards – and these days, there’s an app for that.
2. Pizza Hut co-founded National Young Readers Week
In 1989, BOOK IT! hosted a week-long reading event that brought celebrity role models into schools to promote reading. They called it National Young Readers Week, and, along with the Library of Congress Center for the Book, Pizza Hut challenged school principals to “become shining examples for literacy by choosing one day to read their heart out all day long, from first bell to last during National Young Readers Week.
The even still runs annually the second week of November.
1. Class redemptions are prohibited.
Their FAQ page states that “group redemptions and parties” are verboten.
“An important part of the BOOK IT! Program is individual recognition of your students for meeting their reading goals and our team members are trained to provide individual recognition.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m craving pizza.
Do you have fond memories? Are you encouraging your kids to participate? Tell us about it in the comments!