By John Mennell
As a teen, I devoured every copy of Popular Science and Popular Mechanics that I could get my hands on. It’s one of the reasons that we are so delighted when thousands of copies of these and other magazines show up at MagazineLiteracy.org for teen mentoring programs.
Now, I often daydream about what’s possible as covers on one of these magazines. My best time for that is in those very early, quiet moments between sleep and awake as the sun rises. It is meditation. While beginning your day with a list of things to accomplish, you can see things as they are or iMAGine what can be. I like to start every day imagining, often guided by collisions between things not naturally within their periphery. I might have been especially primed this morning by yesterday’s TEDxMadison, organized by 100state, an incubator for start-ups by kindred community instigators.
Dreams inspired by what we read pull us into futures of fantastic possibilities. We manifest what we dream. At MagazineLiteracy.org, we are often asked about the relevance of fabulous magazines like Conde Nast Traveler or National Geographic Traveler or House Beautiful or Bon Appetit to a homeless or hungry person. As readers and lovers of magazines of all kinds, we know that beautiful, iconic magazine covers, and the content within has the power to transport us anywhere and everywhere we want to go.
Scientists tell us that a human’s most effective learning – beginning in infancy – happens when touching, holding, or pointing to a medium. Our mission is to put the favorite magazines we love into the hands and homes of at-risk readers. With titles for every age and interest, we know that magazines are especially powerful reading materials for literacy. We have been told by literacy agents, teachers, and parents that magazines are engaging in a special way, especially for reluctant readers.
Magazines are the new face of literacy. Learning to read can end poverty. Reading is Fundamental says that two-thirds of children living in poverty have no books at home. Adults unable to read were once children who didn’t learn how. We’ve been gestating a long-time vision to marry the magazine supply chain – end to end – from publishers, to printers, to consumers – with the nation’s vast food bank supply chain. This idea allows us to send vital reading materials into hands and homes through existing pipelines via tens of thousands of community agencies that feed millions of children and families. With the recent gift of 150,000 children’s magazines from the Edwards family in Ohio, and other publishers exploring large deliveries of magazines to food banks, the dream is coming to life.
We are also building a vast coast-to-coast recycled magazine distribution network via thousands of volunteers who create bundles of magazines that can be delivered from anywhere to anywhere to match literacy wish lists. Rather than operating out of centralized warehouses, we are crowdsourcing the collection, bundling, and delivery of the magazines via the U.S. Postal Service flat rate shipping. So each box on a closet or garage shelf, or school or work location is part of a vast nationwide fulfillment capability – a virtual warehouse the size of all the United States from Florida to Alaska and Maine to Hawaii.
This morning, I started to think about the possibility of Google’s self-driving cars to deliver new and recycled magazines crowdfunded by consumers and businesses to readers via literacy programs. Like millions of bits and bytes traveling the internet superhighway, I imagined google cars zipping along roadways to pick-up and deliver magazine bundles to readers nearby and to airport hubs where FedEx would bridge the connections between distant communities.
Join us. Dream with us to find new ways to promote literacy to end poverty.
By John Mennell