Thanks to the foresight of Wini Jackson of the Los Angeles County juvenile probation system and the generosity of Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine, about 17,000 L.A. kids received donated copies of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and also got to attend a pre-opening screening of the third film in the fantasy trilogy.
The screening invite was to reward the kids for reading Tolkien's classic and writing about its significance to their lives. Jackson told PW she could not have built the three-year-old program, Reading with a Purpose to Gain a Dream, without book donations from Tolkien's publishers, Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine. The program started with the donation of 1,000 books and the kids were promised that they would see the movie if they completed their reading. It was so successful that the program got 4,000 copies for the next film, and, this year, the two publishers will combine to donate 12,000 copies of the book to the reading program.
"We were happy to help," said Clay Harper, HM's Tolkien project director, noting that Jackson understands "that popular culture has supplanted books in the minds of youth, never mind urban youth."
Jackson said she is scouting for the next suitable book/movie release for the program. "It has to teach something," she added. "Frodo has a purpose, and in writing about the books, these kids have to find theirs. These kids have never thought of that before."