Indigo keeps the love of reading alive

The retailer is asking consumers to pick favourites (books, that is) to support its child literacy foundation.

The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation is hoping to remind Canadians just how important books were to their childhood to get them to support its child literacy programs.

Looking to expand the foundation’s work beyond the annual six-week Adopt-a-School program in the fall, for its 10th anniversary, Indigo, along with cause marketing agency Public, have launched the “Top10″ campaign, which is running throughout February. On the Love of Reading website, users can vote for the one book they believe every elementary-aged child should read. A set of the top books will be donated to the libraries of 225 schools across Canada. Within the first week of voting alone, over 25,000 votes were cast.

The program is being promoted in-store, on the Indigo website and through email newsletters, with a paid digital ad buy handled in-house by the retailer and a push through Indigo’s social media channels. The foundation will take another break after the Top10 campaign wraps up at the end of February before coming back with another to-be-announced campaign in the spring.

Over that last 10 years, the Love of Reading Foundation has given more than 1,800 high-need elementary schools more than $17.5 million to help improve their libraries. But Jennifer Jones, VP of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, says getting the word out about the Foundation and the issue of child literacy continues to be its biggest issue. Unlike other charitable causes like terminal diseases, childhood literacy is an issue that only more educated Canadians tend to be aware of, and it lacks the same sense of urgency.

“There’s no images of hospital beds, and the Canadian demographic is aging and realizing that’s what’s coming for them,” Jones says. “All these other issues are very timely. Literacy is an issue that, if you invest in it today, you might not see the benefit for 20 years. As a society, I don’t think we have an appetite for the length of prolonged return.”

The foundation hopes reminding Canadians of books that had an impact on them as a child and empowering them by choosing which books today’s children should be reading will show them how important literacy is. Also, instead of doing the “hands out” charity approach, the foundation has been looking for ways for consumers to support the program without opening their wallets. This is something especially important, as many of the high-need schools the foundation supports are in communities that don’t always have the financial means to give to their own fundraisers.

This approach has also been integrated into Adopt-a-School. The program began six years ago as retail play, where individual stores fundraise for a school in their community. In 2012, Indigo revamped the online presence for Adopt-a-School, building scale and engagement with the program. In the fall, the foundation added a $10,000 prize to the program, given to the school that had the most online supporters in every province. Jones says the foundation saw a 500% lift in online users for Adopt-a-School compared to last year.

Jones adds that, despite the challenges book retailers in particular have been facing, the financial commitment to Love of Reading has increased as its reach has grown. While Indigo has previously identified the children’s market as an area to focus on for potential growth, she says that has been unrelated to the elementary-aged focus of Love of Reading, adding parents have been just as likely to donate as the general book lover, making the program relevant to the retailer’s entire consumer base.