Philadelphia residents could help support childhood literacy with a smile
Philadelphia residents could help support childhood literacy with a smile
Volunteering & Giving
September 3, 2015

Saying ‘cheese’ to support childhood literacy

With a touch of a screen and a smile, Philadelphia residents helped Wells Fargo support a citywide effort to increase the number of fourth-graders reading at grade level by 2020.

Just touching the plate-glass window — and smiling — at Wells Fargo’s Broad Street banking store in Philadelphia made it possible for passersby to support childhood literacy this summer.

From June 18 to July 31, almost 1,500 people had their pictures taken standing on special “Give a smile — be a hero” mats in front of two store windows that were equipped with touch-sensitive window coatings and 72-inch monitors. (Each photo, taken after the subjects first touched a “Be a part of the story” button in the window, then became part of a digital display facing the street.)

Philadelphia residents touch the “Be a part of the story” button in Wells Fargo’s Broad Street office window
A mother and daughter pose for their #smile photo to support READ by 4th!
Digital sign images of children encouraging residents to participate in Philly #smile
Give a smile. Be a hero. #smile ad image
Touching the "Be a part of the story" button began the experience, making it easy for people to support childhood literacy at Wells Fargo's Broad Street banking store in Philadelphia.
Face-sensitive technology captured smiles like these from a mother and daughter.
Children featured in digital signage messages encouraged passersby to become part of the story and "Give a smile."
Nearly 1,500 people did just that and gave a smile in Wells Fargo's #smile campaign, raising $20,000 for the READ! by 4th effort to increase the number of fourth-graders reading at grade level by 2020.

For each smile, Wells Fargo donated a dollar to the Free Library of Philadelphia to support its programs to help children read at grade level and not fall behind academically.

Those who smiled could share the pictures through social media with a unique code sent to their smartphones or email addresses with the #smile@WellsFargo hashtag.

Wells Fargo added $18,500, bringing the total to $20,000 for the library. The company has supported the work of the Free Library, one of the largest library systems in the U.S., for more than 25 years.

Grade-level reading effort

The $20,000 gift supports READ! by 4th ― a citywide effort to increase the number of fourth-graders reading at grade level by 2020. Involving the city, its schools, private companies, and nonprofits as well as summer reading camps, the effort is managed by the Free Library of Philadelphia and is part of the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading at 135 cities across the U.S.

According to the campaign, while reading proficiency by the third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success, more than 80 percent of low-income children fall short of that standard.

Free Library President and Director Siobhan Reardon says such statistics are why community efforts to help children read year-round and improve their reading skills are so important.

“Nearly 6,000 children attend our four-week summer reading camps at libraries, recreation centers, churches, boys and girls clubs, and other locations,” she says. “While there, they work with literacy coaches every day who share their progress with the schools.

“This was a fun and positive way to engage and connect people to the reading success of a child,” adds Siobhan, who gave the first smile along with Wells Fargo Greater Philadelphia/Delaware Regional President Greg Redden.

“It’s a creative way to help tackle the literacy crisis in our city, where nearly half of all public school students cannot read at grade level by fourth grade,” she says.

Maari Porter, executive director of the Philanthropy Network of Greater Philadelphia, was among those who stopped by Wells Fargo to add a smile. “As a passionate supporter of education who leads a nonprofit that is a customer of the bank, I was thrilled to experience the #smile campaign,” Maari says. “What a fun and creative initiative to give an opportunity for Philadelphia residents to make a contribution to children’s literacy.”

A Wells Fargo and Philadelphia first

The street-facing monitors are the first Wells Fargo has installed that feature facial recognition and other interactive capabilities, says Jason Carey of Wells Fargo Marketing, who manages digital signage strategy at the company’s banking stores.

“We’ll definitely be doing something again so it’s not if but when and what,” Jason says. “It’s going to be cool to see what we can do with this technology.”