Utah 7-Eleven makes reading fun, rewarding

Tiffany Lyon picks out a book for her mother to read to her at the EveryDay Learners corner in a Provo, Utah, 7-Eleven. Todd Hansen, the store’s franchisee, says an encounter with the local United Way president led him to become involved in the community’s EveryDay Learners reading program. Now, he has two bookcases filled with books and a clientele filling up with gasoline, snacks and a selection of their choice from two bookcases of children’s books as well. Enlarge photo

Mark Johnston/The Daily Herald

Tiffany Lyon picks out a book for her mother to read to her at the EveryDay Learners corner in a Provo, Utah, 7-Eleven. Todd Hansen, the store’s franchisee, says an encounter with the local United Way president led him to become involved in the community’s EveryDay Learners reading program. Now, he has two bookcases filled with books and a clientele filling up with gasoline, snacks and a selection of their choice from two bookcases of children’s books as well.

PROVO, Utah (AP) – Todd Hansen loves the community he serves from his counter at a 7-Eleven in Provo. So when United Way of Utah County president Bill Hulterstrom came in for a drink and started talking about businesses helping with the EveryDay Learners reading program, Hansen got on board quickly.

Now he has two bookcases filled with books and a clientele not only filling up with gasoline and snacks, but getting their fill of reading too.

“It’s a blast,” Hansen said. “I don’t know how many people visit the library each week, but I know how many visit here. Thousands come here in a course of a week.”

What Hansen and the EveryDay Learner books are offering is simple: take a book, read it, bring it back, report about the book to an employee and collect a treat from a variety of healthful snacks like a banana or apple, or have a Slurpee on the house.

The first few weeks have been so successful that Hansen sees great promise for enlarging the program.

“I’m going to take this as far as I can take it,” Hansen said. “I believe if this program works, we have the capability to make this big.”

Amy Hall, one of Hansen’s employees, thinks that is absolutely possible with the number of book reports she’s listened to.

“I’ve listened to quite a few reports. The older kids can’t wait to tell me exactly what they’ve read,” Hall said. “It’s been a lot of fun, but mostly we’ve watched how excited they get.”

Yvette Snow of Provo hadn’t been in the store for a while, but when her daughter Tiffany Lyon caught a glimpse of the helium balloons floating above the bookcases full of books in the front window, she made her way to them and grabbed a book, not a balloon. When Hansen told Snow what the books were for she was impressed.

“I think this is really cool. I have three kids and I’ll bring them back,” Snow said. “It’s really good for them to read and see the variety in life. Reading teaches them about many things.”

Hansen is all about making his workplace a happy place, not just for the employees, but for the customers. One doesn’t think of 7-Eleven as the community business of choice, but Hansen is doing his best to make it the neighborhood store.

During Christmas and Halloween he decorates – from ghosts and goblins out by the gas pumps to his candy canes and Christmas lights around the landscaping and store.

“It is great to see a small business owner discover ways in which they can help children learn. Each business can offer something unique,” Hulterstrom said. “Todd and 7-Eleven are a great example of what a small business can do to make a huge impact in a community.”

Hansen said if he can’t create an environment where people are happy, then he’s not doing his job. If the EveryDay Learners program is a success, it’s because Hansen believes in the program and in the kids and families reading together.

Hansen said he wants the children who come to his store to get “dang excited” about bringing books to the parents, and he hopes the parents will spend time reading to their kids.

There always is a need to rotate books, and Hansen encourages residents to make donations to the United Way of Utah County and become EveryDay Learners as well.