Literacy and travel are two of the things that define us here at AFAR. That’s why we love Read on the Fly, a new program that launched in Alaska last week. 

The program aims to stock boarding areas at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (TSAIA) with a library of children’s books. The objective, aside from promoting literacy, is to keep kids happy and entertained while they’re waiting to travel with their families.

The effort is the brainchild of Erin Kirkland, a journalist, fellow Family Travel Association member, and mom who travels frequently with her son. In a post on her blog, AKontheGo, Kirkland says she was inspired to start the program after cleaning out books from her son’s closet and realizing the books could be put to good use in a second life.

Here’s how the program works: When kids—from toddlers to teens up to age 16—are flying with their parents, they can borrow books to read or take books from the shelves and bring the books with them on their respective journeys. The hope is that the books will be returned. If the kids want to keep the books, that’s fine, too—Kirkland plans to collect donations to keep libraries robust.

(Airport officials actually gave Kirkland security clearance so she can tend to the libraries whenever she likes.)  

When it went live in Anchorage last week, Read on the Fly launched with four different mini libraries—three before the TSA checkpoint and one beyond it. Two other play structures that will feature bookshelves with Read on the Fly books are expected to open later this summer.

Overall, the effort is a collaboration among AKontheGo, Alaska Airlines, and TSAIA, not to mention a long list of individuals and businesses that have offered books, time, and space to push the project to fruition. Alaska Aviation Museum volunteers designed and built the bookshelves.

Eventually, the plan is to expand Read on the Fly to other airports. For now, however, the focus is on Anchorage. To get involved or donate, email the Read On the Fly team at

Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at