WUCF TV wants kids’ imaginations to take flight through reading all summer long.

Central Florida’s only PBS station has partnered with JetBlue Airways and PBS KIDS to host the second-annual Soar With Reading program, an award-winning initiative that places age-appropriate books in the hands of children in need and helps keep kids reading throughout the summer months.

Locally, WUCF TV has teamed up with Orlando Magic player Glen “Big Baby” Davis’ literacy-focused foundation, the Orange County Library System and Orange County Public Schools to hold a community-wide reading celebration and summer-long online reading race for Title I elementary schools.

Kids and their families can join WUCF TV, Davis and characters from the PBS KIDS literacy series “Super WHY!” at 11 a.m. Friday, July 20, at the Orlando Public Library, 101 E. Central Blvd, for a free reading celebration. PBS KIDS’ singer/songwriter Mr. Steve will perform. The first 800 children will receive goodie bags with books.

Throughout the summer, the Soar With Reading project also is challenging Orange County’s 64 Title I elementary schools to an online reading race – the Big Baby Challenge. The school whose students read the most this summer will win a back-to-school party and a visit from Davis.

As part of the challenge, each Title I elementary student who reads 11 Capstone Digital books – Davis’ Orlando Magic jersey number – will receive a free age-appropriate book to bring home. Davis’ foundation and JetBlue are providing the books.

About 3,000 Central Florida students are expected to take part in the reading challenge.

“Education is at the core of our mission as a PBS station, and we can’t think of a better goal than encouraging children to become life-long readers,” said Grant J. Heston, UCF’s associate vice president for Communications and Public Affairs.

On the Soar With Reading web site, parents and kids can find an interactive reading list, reading tips and expert advice for keeping young readers engaged all summer.

While on the site, adults also can share the name of their favorite children’s book title. For each submission received, JetBlue will donate an age-appropriate book to a deserving child through partner publisher Barefoot Books. Book donations will be made to local literacy-focused organizations identified in partnership with PBS member stations in the 71 cities that JetBlue currently serves.

Research cited in The Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2 (The Guilford Press) reveals a large deficit in the United States in children’s access to age-appropriate books in low-income neighborhoods, where there is one book for every 300 children, compared to 13 such books per child in middle-income neighborhoods.

Up to $200,000 inbooks will be distributed to children in need through the 2012 Soar With Reading program. As a special thank you, all adults who share their favorite book titles on the Soar With Reading web site can also be entered into a sweepstakes for a chance to win great prizes, including a JetBlue Getaways vacation package.

“Every child should know the feeling of a brand new book in their hands and being transported by their imagination to entirely new places,” said Icema Gibbs, JetBlue Airways’ director of Corporate Social Responsibility. “With dedicated, mission-driven partners like PBS KIDS and Barefoot Books onboard, Soar With Reading can provide books to deserving children and help maintain the knowledge base they built during the school year.”

As part of the program, children traveling with JetBlue this summer can receive a free activity booklet with literacy-based PBS KIDS games. With help from PBS KIDS’ popular animated host Hooper, the games and other activities encourage kids to learn about the world around them through reading.