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How a two year-old nailed the power of magazines for literacy in four words

by John Mennell

Steve Blank – author of Four Steps to the Epiphany – is credited with launching the lean start-up movement, further evangelized by Eric Ries, Beth Kanter, and others.  A commandment of Blank’s “Customer Development” model is to “get out of the building” to discover, understand, and iterate toward the true nature of the relationship between your customers and your product or service.

At we have foundational ideas about the special and enormous power of magazines for literacy, validated by the many testimonials we receive from literacy programs.  The holidays are the perfect opportunity to spend time with friends and family and to “get out of the building” to experience reading with others first-hand.

While reading bedtime stories to a two year-old from Highlights’ Hello magazine and recalling similar stories in Cobblestone’s Baby Bug, it occurred to me that, on the media content spectrum, these periodicals are indistinguishable from books at this preschool reading age – but their power is multiplied by monthly arrival in hands and homes  with fresh stories and illustrations throughout the entire year.  I also realized that, from the vantage point of a two year-old, they are long-form storytelling.

The next day, I was catching up on some magazine reading myself with Brad Stone’s The Secrets of Bezos: How Amazon Became the Everything Store in Bloomberg Businessweek, and was awestruck when the two year-old turned to me and uttered “what are you reading?”

In that instant, in the wide eyes and formative mind of a fellow reader and world citizen, I saw a bright fiber optic thread coursing through Hello, Baby Bug, and Bloomberg Businessweek magazines. It underscored for me the importance of “getting out of the building” and into the field with magazine readers of all ages – to discover and understand how to best build upon our magnificent literacy work.  It also illustrated the power of magazines in the “home literacy environment (HLE)” to create positive impressions for young people that will contribute to formation of reading as a habit.

Our mantra is “make literacy happen.”  Our mission is to share favorite magazines with at-risk readers who want to learn and love to read.

Join us.

  • Senior Star Adult Medical Daycare

    Mentoring, Job Training, and Education
    100 people age 50 and older and 50 people age 21-40
    Ewing, NJ, USA
    Needs: 180 Magazines
    Magazines Requested: culinary skills magazines (30), home magazines (30), computer magazines (30), learning magazines (30), and entertainment magazines (50)

  • Casa Ramona Academy for Technology, Community, and Education

    School or Library
    San Bernardino, CA
    Need magazines for 22 males and 18 females between the ages of 11-16 years old
    Magazines Requested: Boys Life, Girls Life, National Geographic, Odyssey, Dig, Owl, Cobblestone, Ask en Español, Faces, Jack and Jill

  • A New Leaf

    501(c)(3) Charity
    Mesa, Arizona, USA
    Serving girls and boys ages 12 to 17 with reading levels 6th grade and up
    Needs enough magazines for 10 girls and 16 boys
    Magazines Requested: Any sports magazines, any car magazines, any fashion magazines, and any entertainment magazines

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