Making literacy a story for everyone

For Innovia Foundation

Early childhood literacy is a community issue. Our campaign created community solutions.


  • Creative strategy
  • Behavior change
  • Branding
  • Coalition building
  • Content strategy & thought leadership
  • Positive community norming
  • Public education
  • Public Relations
  • Social Change Marketing
  • Social media strategy & community management
  • Website design & development

The challenge

Innovia Foundation knew that early childhood literacy is about more than early childhood. Reading skills set children on a path to success.

But not every child has the access and support they need to read at their grade level. And when they fall behind, the lifelong effects often contribute to social and economic issues that touch entire communities. Those same students are four times more likely to drop out of high school. They’re also more likely to receive food stamps, go on welfare or go to prison.

Childhood literacy is a community problem requiring community solutions. Our client, a community foundation serving 20 counties in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, wanted to pilot a program that would make early childhood literacy a priority throughout an entire community. We would focus on the youngest students — K-3 — because research shows third grade is the tipping point for readers. Students who haven’t mastered reading by then often miss out on learning from that point on.

In Coeur d’Alene — a North Idaho city of the 50,000 — the school district was reporting that more than one-third of students’ reading skills were falling short of grade level. Innovia and its Coeur d’Alene partners were motivated to change that. Together, we set out to create a campaign that to educate and activate the public to boost K-3 literacy — and to provide resources to enable every community member to help.

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The strategy

Our campaign would make K-3 literacy everybody’s issue — and provide solutions that anybody could enact. We would:

  • Use simple, direct messaging to frame early childhood literacy as an urgent community issue.
  • Invite the community to promote literacy with specific calls to action — and provide tools to make it easy to do.
  • As social change marketers, use positive reinforcement and behavior modeling to show how those specific actions would boost literacy among kids in grades K-3 — building a stronger, healthier community.

Partnership with other organizations and local businesses would be key to the campaign’s success. Coeur d’Alene had existing resources and potential partners already working to help kids become better readers. We wanted to promote their work and to coordinate messaging among them, to make it more visible and likely to be internalized by audiences.

We also wanted to bring other potential partners on board as message carriers: business owners who could transform their spaces into literacy-rich environments; health care providers; counselors and coaches. So we would create a toolkit of ready-to-use materials that would make it easy for others to participate.

Ultimately, this community campaign’s success would depend on community ownership. So our messaging, visual design and coordinated campaign tactics would empower everyone to join parents and teachers to make a meaningful difference — and to keep creating that culture of literacy over time.

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What we did

We developed a theme — “This Book” — that demonstrates the power of a book in a child’s life, connecting early childhood literacy to adult concerns. As studies show, literacy has the power to open doors for success, including to college. Reading also is linked to lower incarceration rates and economic growth. And when you put a book into the hands of a child from a low-income family, you’re lifting a barrier — low-income communities only have one children’s book per 300 kids.

We recruited locally well-known figures — including Idaho’s governor — to be photographed reading to a diverse group of local kids. Our designers paired the photos in a simple design using a rich, vibrant palette and clear headlines such as “This book grows the economy,” “This book removes barriers” and “This book fights crime.”


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Our specific calls to action encouraged community members to:

  • Read to a child. This is the single most important way to help kids meet literacy milestones. Our materials also made it easy for community members to sign up to be “Book Buddies.”
  • Donate a book. With help from experts, we developed lists of in-demand children’s books, so donors’ gifts would make the greatest impact. We also invited residents to “adopt” classroom libraries or donate to Innovia’s Opening Books, Opening Doors fund to buy high-quality books for kids.
  • Keep reading top of mind throughout the community. We created a toolkit of materials and invited businesses and organizations to use it in creative ways — featuring books and displays in their waiting rooms or shops, or creating comfy reading spaces for customers and visitors.

We created a comprehensive set of tools and made it available online for anyone to download. We also mailed and hand-delivered toolkits of resources and materials to business owners, community leaders and nonprofit organizations.

The toolkit includes the reading lists (useful for partners initiating book drives), rack cards, bookmarks, posters and stickers. It also included social media posts for partners to share via their channels and informative pieces about reading milestones for potential “reading buddy” volunteers. To make the toolkit easy to use, we created a one-sheet campaign guide and an instructional video.

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In a fermentum metus. Aliquam pretium laoreet ante vitae faucibus. Suspendisse ultrices mi quam.
In a fermentum metus. Aliquam pretium laoreet ante vitae faucibus. Suspendisse ultrices mi quam.


Coeur d’Alene’s culture of reading is growing. Young kids are finding more books in more places, and community leaders have contributed their voices of support. Partners as varied as a bakeries, dentist offices and schools have tapped into “This Book,” creating reading nooks in their shops and offices, posting posters in their spaces and adapting social media graphics and messages for their own channels.

And Innovia has been able to use “This Book” as a model beyond Coeur d’Alene, as more partners have adapted the campaign and its tools for their own communities.