On Feb. 4, 2013, WWE will expand an initiative in its growing array of corporate responsibility efforts: The WrestleMania Reading Challenge, a program that has existed since 2010, is moving online.
Traditionally, on the day before WrestleMania, US students up to ninth grade (generally up to age 15) travel to the WrestleMania host city, where they are all quizzed by WWE Superstars about a book they've all read. Why you ask? Why for a chance to win ringside seats to The Show of Shows, of course.
Now, through a partnership with The Pearson Foundation, an educational nonprofit organization, and Pearson's digital initiative WE Give Books, children from ages four to eleven will have the opportunity to sign up for the WrestleMania Reading Challenge online, access digital books, and enter to win WWE-sponsored prizes.
According to the WWE press release, beginning on the launch date, children will be able to register online and choose one of six wrestlers (The Miz, Sheamus, AJ Lee, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, and Brodus Clay) as their "Reading Buddy" to guide them through the program.
From there, participants access digital books, and as they read them, become eligible to win tickets to WrestleMania, a library of books for their school, or a visit to their school by a WWE Superstar.
"WWE is proud to expand its commitment to literacy initiatives through this new partnership with the Pearson Foundation and We Give Books," said Michelle D. Wilson, the Chief Marketing Officer of WWE. She went on to say, "Given that today’s youth are digitally connected at such an early age, the WrestleMania Reading Challenge will now reach more children than ever before."
As a threshold matter, John Cena is as conspicuous in his absence from the the marquee of this new program as Dolph Ziggler is in his inclusion. Perhaps, the children's hero didn't have the time to devote to it what with all of his many other obligations as the face of the company. Or perhaps, WWE is trying to promote other Superstars to younger fans, knowing that Cena only has so many more years left in his career.
More perplexing is the question of why WWE believes that smark darling and noted butt wiggler Dolph Ziggler appeals to children. Maybe they reason that even some children prefer the heels.
WWE has worked tirelessly as of late to cast itself as a child- and family-friendly organization, hyping its partnership with The Susan G. Komen Foundation throughout Oct. 2012 (through its use of pink ring ropes and wrestling attire) and airing a continuous barrage of publicity for its Be A Star Alliance anti-bullying campaign. Can WWE make adults feel that letting their kids watch grown men beat each other senseless is good parenting?
That remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: WWE will continue to aggressively court children (and their parents' dollars) for the foreseeable future.
Would this program have had you hitting the books as kids, Cagesiders? Would you like your own kids to participate? 'Mama Madchen, who is a school district administrator, is already working on talking her principals into it.