To Pizza Hut’s Book It! Program: A Fond Love Letter

I was a voracious reader as a child, as I’m sure many of you were. Homework was one of my favorite things and when school got out for summer, I enrolled in as many summer reading programs as I could. My hometown had — and still has — a single-branch public library and a tiny (seriously, tiny) privately-funded library that both did summer reading programs. And we had a Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut, though not a library, had a reading program of its own called Book It! which ran from October 1 to March 31 — perfect for filling in the time between summer reading programs. This is a love letter to Pizza Hut’s Book It! program.

Pizza Hut Book It Program

Look, I have to admit that I am not a fan of Pizza Hut pizza (though, to be fair, I haven’t had it in a while, so it’s possible they totally changed things up and now have delicious pizza — this is some way to start of a love letter). I was not much of a fan of Pizza Hut’s pizza as a child, either. But even bad or just-okay pizza is good pizza, and when that pizza is free? It’s even better.

The idea behind Book It! is that schools set up a goal for students to read toward — it may be number of pages, minutes, or some other metric. Each month, students read toward their goal (or have others read to them if they don’t already read independently). Prizes for accomplishing a goal might include something from the Book It! Store (if someone wants to buy me that sweet blue T, I’ll be waiting to hear from you) or, the ever-coveted Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza. Stickers might help track progress, depending on your experience with the program, too. You can find out more about Book It!’s history here.

The great thing about Pizza Hut’s Book It! program is that, when you’re a kid, doing a task to earn your own food makes you feel like an adult. Mom and Dad can’t tell you that you can’t have pizza because, guess what? You’re buying (sort of). Well, at least it was one debate point solved (Mom or Dad still probably had to drive you). I always felt an enormous sense of pride, ordering my own pizza that I had worked for and would devour. And the food was all the more satisfying for having earned it myself. Rioter Andy agrees.

Honestly, Pizza Hut’s Book It! program had become a part of my faded memory until I started working on planning my library’s summer reading program. I asked some friends if they remembered it and one said he didn’t recall much of the actual program, “But [he] cleaned up on that pizza shit.” And that motivation and pride was the point of the program.

Pizza Hut’s Book It! program is still going strong. I’m not a child and I don’t have a child, so I’m out of luck for now, but I can’t wait for an opportunity to jump back into the Book It! world.

Did you participate in Book It! as a kid? Are your kids giving it a go? Let us know in the comments.

Do you like podcasts like This American Life, RadioLab, or Planet Money? Annotated is kinda like those, but for books. Go here to find out more, or click the image below:
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