Pizza Hut CMO Talks About Bringing The Book It Program To Modern Classrooms - Exclusive

For so many of us, Pizza Hut was a big part of growing up. Maybe it was your family's go-to for weekly pizza night, or your favorite treat for weekend sleepovers. There's also a good chance The Hut helped fuel an extracurricular school function or two. And for millions of children of the '80s, '90s, and still to this day, the chain has been a pivotal force behind the consumption of not only pizza, but books too, through the long-standing and dearly beloved BOOK IT! program. 

Pizza Hut's Chief Marketing Officer Lindsay Morgan can attest to the ongoing popularity of the reading incentive program. "One of the biggest comments I get from customers, or people when I meet them ... is, 'Do you still have the BOOK IT! program?,'" Morgan told Mashed during an exclusive interview.

The restaurant group instituted the program back in 1984, mainly as a resource "to support teachers to encourage reading for students," per the official website. The premise is simple — "Whenever you have read a certain number of books, you then get a free personal pan pizza," as Morgan explained. She also shared how the program continues to make an impact on students around the country today. Just like the Pizza Hut menu, which has grown and changed (arguably for the better) since the days of your childhood, the BOOK IT! program has expanded and evolved to help young kids keep on learning, all in the name of pizza.

How Pizza Hut is helping millions of students, one pizza at a time

Pizza Hut may be known and loved for that iconic red roof logo and the famous pan pies they've been serving up for decades, but the chain also boasts a massive influence that goes way beyond piping hot deliveries, all thanks to BOOK IT! Pizza Hut CMO Lindsay Morgan told Mashed, "The BOOK IT! program is the nation's longest-running, corporate-supported literacy program," adding that this tremendous initiative "impacts more than 14 million students each year."

While BOOK IT! is widely recognized for its incentive program, encouraging kids to rack up book titles in exchange for free pizza, the nearly 40-year-old enterprise has grown to help encourage learning in a variety of ways. "The BOOK IT! Program offers homeschool, summer, and classroom programs, as well as grants to eligible educators for books and educational resources through our nonprofit partner, First Book," Morgan further explained to Mashed.

The BOOK IT! program evolved to aid pandemic learning

It doesn't matter whether school is in session or not, the promise of free pizza is sure to make even the most resistant of students want to pick up a book. Pizza Hut's Lindsay Morgan would agree. "It's such a fun thing to combine pizza and kids and reading," she told Mashed, adding that the brand has worked to make sure that remains true even as learning, and perhaps reading, became a more difficult task during the pandemic. 

Morgan told Mashed that, even as schools were closed, classrooms went online, and parents became part-time educators, Pizza Hut has "done a really special job in the last few years of pivoting. "During COVID, [when] a lot of people were virtually learning ... we started this thing called Camp BOOK IT!," she explained. "We made some resources available directly to parents to enroll in, rather than having to go through classrooms, because that wasn't necessarily an option." And it's worth noting that, while school is pretty much fully back in person for most students around the country, Camp BOOK IT! still exists as a parent-led summer program for any and all students.

Click here to learn more about the BOOK IT! Program, and follow along with Pizza Hut's newest promotion, the Struggle Bus, as seen on Pizza Hut's Facebook and Instagram accounts. Plus, tune into the special Betches "U Up?" podcast episode featuring the Pizza Hut Struggle Bus on Wednesday, May 4.