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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.

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  • A New Leaf

    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

  • Marymount of Santa Barbara


    School or Library
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Serving male and female students from junior kindergarten through eighth grade (ages 4-13)
    Needs: Magazines for 150 students from September 15 to May 15.
    Magazines Requested: Science, current events, animals, bikes, sports, books, writing, national geographic, track, space and astronomy, aviation week, smithsonian, sports illustrated

  • Mile High Youth Corps


    501(c)(3) charity
    Needs: 30 to 100 magazines
    Magazines Requested:
    For Corps members to read to their children: -Kids -Kids Discover -Sports Illustrated Kids -Humpty Dumpty -Hop scotch for Girls -Chick-a-dee -Highlights -Hello -Turtle -Yum for Kids.
    For Corps members to read on their own: -Readers Digest -National Geographic -Sports Illustrated -Make -Men’s Health -Ebony -Kiplinger -Self -O -The New Yorker -Wired

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