SEPTA has never looked this vibrant — and never this much fun.

Welcome to Come Aboard the Reading Promise, a brilliantly hued, early literacy campaign that was officially rolled out on Wednesday, April 6, featuring the words and faces of real Philly children and the inimitable spirit of their city.

Stretching across two subways stations on SEPTA’s Broad Street line — Tasker-Morris in South Philly and Erie in North Philly — and spanning three dozen buses, two subway cars, scores of bus shelters, and hundreds of subway and rail signs, the campaign is all about getting children and adults in cahoots over the joys of reading.

SEPTA, the William Penn Foundation, Read by 4th, a collaborative of more than 130 agencies and groups citywide, and Mighty Engine, the creative agency behind all those colorful images, partnered to transform routine public transit commutes into learning adventures with interactive cues, reading games, alphabet hunts, poetry, maps, music, and more.

“We’re particularly focused on children from birth through age 8,” said Elliot Weinbaum, chief philanthropy officer for the William Penn Foundation, the project’s funder, which contributed $900,000. “Everywhere they go through the city, there are these fun and interesting and engaging prompts and activities for them. That’s our goal.”

Many of the displays include QR codes that allow the content to be brought home.

“SEPTA is proud to be a partner on the Come Aboard the Reading Promise initiative,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards. “Tens of thousands of students use SEPTA everyday, and we look forward to seeing this powerful educational endeavor help spark their creativity and further their achievements.”

As joyous as the installations are, the campaign is about serious stuff.

“Here in Philly, about two-thirds of children do not read at grade level by the time they reach fourth grade,” said Simone Partridge, Read by 4th communications director. “That’s really a critical point in their education because there is less emphasis on teaching children how to read after that point.”

Over the next few weeks, many of the city’s over 500 Reading Captains — neighborhood literacy champions and one of Read by 4th’s partner groups — will be on buses and at bus shelters giving out hundreds of Busy Bus Bags with word journals, exhibit guides, stickers, and reading resources.

“This is a way to help parents connect with their children and at the same time help them become stronger readers,” said Carolotta Q. Stafford, a Reading Captain for South and West Philly.

Many of the images of children in the campaign’s artwork are avatars of real Philly kids.

Their own words have starring roles, too. At both the Erie and Tasker-Morris subway stations, there are kiosks dispensing original writing by Philadelphia children. Throughout the campaign, city youngsters are invited to submit their writing to become part of those takeaway exhibits.

“We wanted to make sure we had children as our spokespersons,” said Heseung Song, CEO of Mighty Engine, the agency that produced the campaign. “We knew that was super important because children listen to other children.”

Asil Greer, 8, an avid reader from West Oak Lane, is one of those avatars, and his story, “It’s Raining Books,” has been included in the campaign.

“I feel super-duper excited!” Asil said.

His mother, a Reading Captain who works as a victims services advocate, is excited, too.

“These kids need to become more acclimated to seeing things that are positive rather than always hearing in the news about somebody getting shot,” Mecca Greer said.

Coltrane Javad Love, age 7, is thrilled that his story, “The Ice Pigs,” a fanciful sci-fi creation, is going to be included.

His father, Anyabwile Love, owner of Bailey Street Books in Brewerytown, thinks it’s great the children’s voices are in the campaign.

“You have children expressing themselves, which I think is going to draw in, of course, the children, but parents and educators as well,” he said.

And there’s no mistaking this is a Philly kids’ campaign. There’s a panel with Philly-isms for sight words — jawn and boul, for example. There is a quote from Questlove, music of the Philly children’s social justice band City Love, scenes from lots of beloved Philly places, and that’s for starters.

The campaign runs until July 24. That’s a lot of opportunities for games of I Spy, tongue twisters, and other reading escapades on city roads and rail.

“As we like to say,” said William Penn’s Weinbaum, “wherever you are, there’s teachable moments for kids and families, and it can be fun.”

Children who would like to submit their writing to be part of the ongoing campaign can visit: