Moving mountains of magazines into the hands and homes of eager at-risk readers

The National Wildlife Federation, the very first publisher to back our global literacy moonshot 25 years ago, has just gifted enough Zoobie magazines to reach 18,000+ parents to read with their infants and children.

Studies say that children in poor families hear 30 million fewer words when their brains are developing for life. Reading Is Fundamental says two-thirds of kids in poverty have zero books at home. With generous support like this, we can fix that today, and with more than 7,000 titles in the U.S. alone for every age, interest, professional aspiration, and language, magazines and comics are the most powerful literacy engines on the planet.

We are forever grateful to the generous kindred spirits who have stepped up and joined together to meet the logistical challenges of moving large available supplies of precious magazines into the eager hands and homes of at-risk readers. This time, it begins with the magazine staff at the National Wildlife Foundation who gifted the Zoobie publications, then the Quad logistics team who never flinch at picking up and delivering truckloads of thousand-pound pallets into our literacy distribution pipeline, and the unstoppable volunteers who lead and support our Madison Wisconsin team. We are blessed with this and so much selfless support from so many publishing industry, consumer, and individual literacy champions, coast to coast and around the world.

This gift of tens of thousands, and the sometimes hundreds of thousands of magazines we receive for parents reading to their infants and children, like a recent gift from Cricket Media, and many truckloads of magazines from Highlights for Children, and others, means we will touch that many families, and many more than twice or triple the number of children – many who have zero books at home.

The positive impact on readers is greatest with children whose brains are developing rapidly and because their good reading habits are getting set for life. At the same time, the need for reading materials far outstrips our current supply and handling capacity, and our available supplies for young readers are always especially thin. So, the generous supplies we receive from publishers, and the logistics support, and literally all the heavy lifting is having a vital magnified impact that is changing lives and changing the world for good. Thank you.

Many hands make light work filling this literacy pipeline to eager readers

As we might have learned from Gus in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and found in Wikipedia,”haptic” is from the Greek word haptόs for “palpable”. The sense of touch enhances our ability to learn. Studies show that human information retention and learning improve when print reading materials are held and pages are turned. So, the physical experience of reading combines with the visual and other senses to produce advantages in “getting a handle on a subject” to “grasp” concepts and lessons for, as Oprah would say, living our best life.

Getting reading materials to eager at-risk readers is also physical work made worthwhile by recognizing that the heavy lifting fills an emptiness to change so many lives for good.

Reading is Fundamental says that two-thirds of U.S. children in poverty – over 10 million children – live in homes with zero books – none. Studies show that poor infants hear 30 million fewer words when their brains are developing for life.

We have the power and the resources available to fix this now. With titles for every reading age, interest, and language, magazines and comics are the most powerful literacy engines on the planet. It’s hard work moving them down the literacy supply pipeline to eager readers, but the outcomes measured in smiles and bonding and learning are priceless.

We are blessed with the enormous generosity of publishers and consumers who gift heavy boxes and thousand-pound pallets of reading materials to our literacy programs, like Highlights for Children, and Cricket Media, and Condé Nast, Hearst, and Meredith, and others, and the large-scale logistics prowess of transport companies like Quad, whose drivers and warehouse workers wrangle pallets of reading materials – literacy gold – on and off trucks.

We are also uplifted by the ready hearts and hands of hundreds of volunteers who sort and deliver magazines out of the backs of cars to match local literacy needs.

Here, volunteers from L Brands at a local branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library make literacy happen – magazines sorted on this day are already in the trunk of a volunteer’s car on their way to hungry readers via a nearby food pantry.

Many hands make light work as we fill our literacy pipeline to reach every at-risk reader to change lives for good. This is our moonshot.

Join us.

Thank you – words worth a thousand pictures

This thank you note made our day today and more. Thank you to everyone who carries and passes on our #literacy flame to change lives for good.

We are posting this thank you note from a homeless program we serve as a way to share it to thank the thousands of volunteers, businesses, publishing, printing, donors, recyclers, and other literacy champions who make our at mission thrive. Thank you!

The families being serviced here are presently enduring the battle of homelessness. Often the children we service are arriving and enduring this very difficult situation with just what they are currently wearing and nothing else. Being able to receive your donation empowers that child in a very special way.

The excitement and joy that was expressed by the children receiving these magazines was a very special moment for all, especially for those receiving and those whom were fortunate to witness the huge smiles as they searched through the selections. I extend to you a special appreciation for the various genres of magazines provided to select from. I must inform you that the young teenageers in attendance were elated with the sports magazines and often during the fair they had conversations of various players and were eager to explore the pages and share facts.

Cricket Media and Quad deliver 200,000+ literacy smiles

Fueled by a generous donation of over 200,000 high quality children’s magazines from Cricket Media, and expert logistics transport, warehousing, and delivery to literacy programs by the Quad company, our planets have aligned to launch our literacy mission to new heights.

Our moonshot at is to find a feed millions of at-risk children, teens, adults, and families hungry to learn and love to read. We do that by sharing favorite magazines and comics donated by consumers, businesses, and publishers with new readers via community literacy programs at food pantries, homeless and domestic abuse shelters, and mentoring sites.

We know that everything begins with reading and that two-thirds of America’s 18 million children in poverty have zero books at home – zero. Poor infants hear 30 million fewer words read to them when their brains are developing for life. We are changing that today. With titles for every reading age, interest, and language, magazines and comics in hands and homes are the most powerful literacy engines on the planet.

This angel investment of beautiful children’s magazines and logistics support from Cricket Media and Quad is putting beaming happy smiles and lifting the spirits of hundreds of thousands of eager readers – changing these so many young lives for good.

Adopting literacy needs, one newsstand at a time.

There is no i in WE. Underscoring the power of one person to mobilize colleagues and more to help others for good,

Claudia in operations at the WE PR firm in #Austin braved SXSW to deliver magazines to this MagLiteracy newsstand for homeless street youth and young adults.

Our first batch of 100 newsstands are underwritten by long-time champions WIDEN.

We need more literacy ambassadors like Claudia and WE, and more newsstands!

Stay tuned for the rest of the Austin Street Youth story, including more dear literacy friends who joined together there as a model for how we will adopt programs one by one, coast to coast.

Finding our literacy message in a bottle

By John Mennell

This was like the message in a bottle that you tossed into the ocean, coming back to you.

During a visit to setup a MagLiteracy newsstand at the Street Youth homeless center in Austin TX, that we will share more about soon, something happened that underscores the enormous power of our idea to connect consumer enthusiasts and the magazines and comics they love with kindred at-risk readers.

I was sitting on the couch talking to Billy, the volunteer coordinator, about what types of magazines would be interesting for the youth and young adults at the center. He said, you know – we were receiving Boys’ Life magazine and that made a connection with our readers.

I told Billy, we had actually sent that one year subscription from a gift made by one of our donors who specified that magazine.

So, with that, we engaged and connected a donor who loves a particular magazine with readers who greatly enjoyed and appreciated the gift. Let’s do more of that.

If you love culinary magazines, consider the enormous power in gifting them to a culinary job trainee. If you are a student, imagine reaching a homeless student to share a magazine you love to read. We know that, each night 30,000 moms and their children sleep in a domestic abuse shelter. We have a long-time dream to comfort every mom and every child in every shelter with a magazine gift.

Imagine what’s possible and join us to make it so.

Being literacy – what keeps me up at night?

By John Mennell

What keeps me up at night? Prepping magazines for new readers. Anyone can do it. With titles for every reading age, interest, and language, magazines are the most powerful literacy engines on the planet.

There is something profoundly and personally uplifting about gathering the magazines that you love or that others love to read and have passed on to you into a pile.

Then preparing them for delivery to new readers for their joy and literacy. The whole time – through each step of stacking, sorting, labeling, imaging, packaging, and delivering – thinking about those readers and how you are sharing your enthusiasms with kindred spirits, knowing the power to change their lives in the moment, whether by learning, or comfort, or the sense that someone cares about them, or to spark a smile.

Also knowing how your favorite magazines lift you up, and so knowing their power to change lives for good.

Reading is where it all begins. Share the magazine love.

Grassroots literacy teams sow the seeds of freedom, prosperity, and civility to end poverty for good, one reader, one village at a time

By Amelia Robinson

“Personally, as a first generation student, education is something I’m very passionate about, and what got me interested in volunteering at The work being done to promote literacy in the greater Madison area is critical in the hopes of ending poverty, and I’m very fortunate to be part of it.”  — Abish Kharel – UW UNICEF Club is a national organization that rescues and recycles new and gently read magazines and comics to at-risk readers, that originate from both publishers and consumers country-wide, and are redistributed to homeless and domestic abuse shelters, schools, prisons, and other community-based locations,” explains Madison Program Director Stephanie Robinson. Madison’s office is the first large-scale community program that is active throughout each month, attracting hundreds of volunteers each year. The Madison team is among other local teams operating in cities such as Columbus, Ohio, Trenton, New Jersey, Southern Connecticut, and Toronto, Canada, and throughout the New York metro area and Long Island. The teams have delivered magazines and comics coast to coast and worldwide, to eager readers in Nicaragua, Uganda, Croatia, Jamaica, the Arctic, and beyond.
On the first Sunday of each month, Madison’s office holds a sorting event, run by Robinson, to organize donations from the previous thirty days. These magazines are separated either for immediate delivery to agencies within the community, or into the office’s extensive magazine library for later distribution. Robinson shares that “we really appreciate the chance to introduce students and other community members to the value of supporting literacy, both in Madison and beyond. As our roster of participating agencies continues to grow, we increasingly need volunteer assistance with sorting magazines and assembling donations. With the recent addition of Mendota Elementary School as a partner, it’s more important than ever to put forward the best materials we can to those in need.”

Sorting events draw many students from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, who are interested in volunteering either individually or as a part of university groups such as the Chancellor’s Scholars, the Morgridge Center for Public Service, the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics club, sororities and fraternities, and the UNICEF club.
Abish Kharel is the volunteer coordinator at UW’s UNICEF club and has been integrally involved with since 2016, as a college freshman. Kharel connects many eager student volunteers with, as well as volunteering regularly himself. When asked about his work for the literacy organization, Kharel says that “Personally, as a first generation student, education is something I’m very passionate about, and what got me interested in volunteering at The work being done to promote literacy in the greater Madison area is critical in the hopes of ending poverty, and I’m very fortunate to be part of it.”  

His sentiment is echoed by other volunteers, including Madison West High School junior Abby Hoke. She remarked that her participation was meaningful because “it was unlike any volunteer experience I’d had before. Seeing how the charity worked was interesting, and meeting a local teacher visiting the office to pick up magazines for her students helped me to understand how they were going to be used in the community.”

Anna Frehner, current sophomore at the University of California, Los Angeles, loved to get involved in opening packaged donations from consumers and sorting magazines into categories by topic and date, creating well-rounded selections of reading material for the centers who will receive them. was founded by social entrepreneur John Mennell, who observed the direct connection between poverty and illiteracy through his work in hunger relief. He recognized magazines as an affordable, but enormously valuable and largely untapped resource for improving literacy, and created the nonprofit to gift the reading materials we love to those who would otherwise have little access to them. He notes that magazines work particularly well, because “there are titles for every age, interest, and language. Additionally, they feature both pictures and words, and are entertaining, non-intimidating, and relevant.” notes that there are more than a million homeless students across the United States, and that children in poverty hear 30 million fewer words than more affluent peers, as young children when their minds are developing for life. Frenher says that she enjoyed her volunteer experience with so much because she “really liked the mission: it’s such a good idea to help people learn with cherished recycled magazines and comics that are as good as brand-new reading materials.”
The Madison office lists partnerships with many agencies in the region, including The River Food Pantry and Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM); Community centers like the Goodman Center and the Boys and Girls Club; homeless and domestic abuse shelters such as the YWCA, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS), and Porchlight, and schools and literacy programs like Madison School & Community Recreation (MSCR) and Read Up.

University of Wisconsin student leader Cassidy Slinger lights the way for Madison literacy

By Amelia Robinson

For Cassidy, the most important part of working with has been finding new purpose for all different kinds of magazines and comics, some of which are aimed at highly specific audiences.

Cassidy Slinger, a member of UW-Madison’s graduating class of 2018, has been one of the most dedicated and involved volunteers at’s Madison, Wisconsin operation. Cassidy first connected with as Volunteer Chair for the university’s Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics group. After bringing members into the office for a sorting session, she realized that Madison’s literacy team could use her help. Cassidy returned throughout the summer, and her responsibilities grew as she donated her time with us more frequently.

For Cassidy, the most important part of working with has been finding new purpose for all different kinds of magazines and comics, some of which are aimed at highly specific audiences. For example, an influx of magazines aimed towards the armed forces can be placed with groups that can distribute them to veterans and current military personnel, whereas they might otherwise be destroyed or unread. Another exciting part about work, she says, “is discovering the interesting organizations right in our own backyard that are also doing good for the community, and connecting with those groups to support literacy in Madison”. Among the tens of thousands of magazines the office receives every year, there tends to be some quirky finds for niche interests, which has taught Cassidy that there is truly a magazine for everyone! Cassidy’s favorite unexpected find was old issues of Ms. magazine from decades past.

When asked why she would encourage others to get involved with, Cassidy says, “the work is fun and satisfying, and makes tangible differences in the community, even if it gives just one more person the chance to read content to which they would otherwise have no access”. Cassidy also notes, “magazines are incredibly accessible, and serve as a simple tool for improving literacy, with topics geared towards all interests, languages and age levels.”
Cassidy’s favorite moment from her time with was at a recent Read Up night, where she was able to hand out magazines directly to young readers and their families. The supply of Spanish language magazines especially excited community members who had not been able to find reading materials in their first language for a long time.

Cassidy has been a wonderful leader within the volunteer community, training and bringing in other student volunteers, reorganizing our storage space, and connecting us with many new agency partners, especially those serving the homeless. We value her strong work ethic, care for the community, and commitment to the goals of our organization. We know that Cassidy will go on to do great things, and we thank her for her time with!
Cassidy will be missed, but, by her warm heart and dedication, gives us great hope, as we iMAGine what’s possible, and work together to make literacy happen.