Mailers Promote Children's Literacy Program

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Children's World Learning Centers is using direct mail and e-mail to promote a literacy program launching in October with Scholastic Inc.

The program, Children's World of Reading, will provide Scholastic books and literacy activities every three months to families with children up to age 12. It is offered free to children enrolled in the more than 600 Children's World centers in 26 states.

Monica Hahn, vice president of marketing at Golden, CO-based Aramark Educational Resources, parent company of Children's World Learning Centers, said enrollment costs vary on factors such as how many days per week a child is enrolled and the location of the center, though she would not give a price range.

Mailings to several groups went out in mid-July.

"We chose a July time frame because most folks are signing up their kids for pre-school in September, but start looking in July and August," she said.

One mailing went to 218,000 households with children 10 and younger in areas where centers are located. The names came from a purchased database.

That piece folded out into several panels and included a removable sheet that listed Children's World centers in the recipient's area and an offer for the Children's World of Reading gift pack, which contained an insulated lunch bag with the Children's World of Reading logo and age-appropriate Scholastic books.

The piece aimed to get people to visit their local center, though they also were invited to visit for more information.

"We chose the markets where this kind of advertising has worked for us historically," Hahn said. "Markets where other media hasn't been effective ... are where we used this direct mail piece."

Parents of the more than 100,000 children who attend Children's World centers learned of the reading program in July through letters distributed at the centers.

Another mailing went to 120,000 families who inquired about Children's World over the past year by calling one of the centers or visiting the Web site. These families received a personalized letter from the president of Children's World and the offer for the Scholastic gift pack. This same mailing went to 25,000 former customers of Children's World.

Children's World will follow up these efforts with an e-mail campaign at the end of the month to business customers that have preferred-customer agreements with Children's World.

"These are companies that wanted to provide their employees with some type of child-care benefit, so they have signed up with us with an agreement that their employees will get a significant discount," Hahn said. "We will be sending an e-mail message to these employees, reminding them that they have this benefit, and also telling them about the Children's World of Reading program."

Children's World also will begin an e-mail campaign in October to the 7,372 subscribers to its e-mail newsletter. The newsletter is sent quarterly.

Other efforts will include advertisements in print trade publications, parenting publications and newspapers. These ads appeared mainly in the August and September issues.

Children's World also uses local television and radio advertising, primarily through sponsorships. But Hahn said Children's World relies heavily on direct mail to promote its campaigns.

"We are not truly a national player because we are only in 26 states and our centers tend to be located in suburban areas around major cites, so it is difficult to buy television or radio because obviously you pay for a lot of eyes and ears that you can't use," she said.

The campaign was prepared both in-house and with creative agency Black Top Design, Denver, which contributed to the design work.

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