Could magazines really make an impact in the world of literacy for future generations? Can illiteracy be an issue in the United States and around the world?
Approximately 30 millions of Americans are incapacitated to read or write English. But more devastating statistics is the fact that more than 1 million students drop out of high school all together, not completing their literacy courses.
However, one organization believes that children who fall behind or need more help in school can help. This non-profit organization has been helping children by collecting and distributing educational magazines of all types to schools, centers and other agencies. Their goal is to promote reading.
Meet John Mennell, chairman and founding Director of Magazine Literacy. An organization dedicated to help children and adults that struggle with literacy. And to make reading materials available to all that want to learn more about the world.
Can you explain how the process of delivering magazines works? What places do you deliver to? Is it mostly locally?
MagazineLiteracy.org unleashes the awesome potential of magazines as a powerful literacy resource by providing new and recycled magazines to at-risk children and families served by community literacy programs. We work with literacy programs to help them define their needs in terms of the types of magazines, titles, and quantities that they would like to receive. Then, we seek consumer and business support to cover the expense of getting the magazines delivered to the programs and readers – so there is no cost for the literacy agents. For recycled magazines, it’s best when magazines are collected locally and delivered nearby. However, we don’t always have a good local match between the magazines available in a community, the volunteers needed to collect and deliver them, and nearby agencies with literacy needs. So, we are setting up a nationwide magazine literacy marketplace online – a web tool that any literacy program, anywhere, can use to describe their literacy needs, and that any magazine donor or sponsor, anywhere, can use to provide magazines.
How did the concept of promoting literacy to at-risk children become one of the basis for Magazine Literacy? In the last few years, do you believe that Hispanic children tend to be more at-risk due to a language barrier?
Prior to launching MagazineLiteracy.org, I spent many years organizing local and national hunger relief projects. I realized that the families we were helping to feed did not have access to the magazines that we love and that we especially love to share with our own children. Like food, knowing how to read is a basic necessity for leading a productive life. Hungry minds need to be fed. Too many adults are not able to read. They were once children who didn’t learn how. To do well in any school subject, you need to know how to read. One of the most significant impediments to literacy is a lack of reading materials at home. The challenges multiply for children and adults faced with language barriers between them and others in the community and even within families. Magazines are an incredibly powerful resource for reading because they are colorful, topical, current, frequent, and engaging, and can be less intimidating than other types of reading materials. There are magazines for every age, every reading level, and every interest. Both English language and Spanish language magazines can be helpful to literacy programs serving Hispanic children and families. However, we are faced with great challenges and need help to better understand and to meet the special needs of Hispanic readers. We need magazines, volunteers, and financial support to meet our full promise and to make this dream a reality.
What programs do you sponsor or promote? Are there any literacy programs to encourage reading and improve reading skills?
We defer to literacy programs to define their needs and to incorporate the magazines into their work with children and families. We want to help as many readers as possible, and will do so as our resources grow, but we must focus our support on the most at-risk categories of children and families. At the top of our priority list for support are children and families in homeless and domestic violence shelters, children in mentoring programs, teens and adults in job training programs, and foster children. These are the areas that we feel we can have the greatest impact meeting the most basic literacy needs of children and families hungry to read.
How many schools have you helped through your outreach literacy program? Have you noticed a difference in at-risk children?
We have many success stories supporting children in classrooms and also engaging students and teachers to organize literacy projects that support children in other schools and families in nearby literacy programs. For example, early in our project, coworkers at a technology firm raised funds to provide Highlights magazine to 90 school children for three years. A business owner in Ohio sponsored Spider magazine for two elementary school classrooms, a Subway Sandwich Shop owner in Harlem provided Time for Kids to students in a nearby after-school program, and a company in Indiana supplied magazines to 800 children in mentoring programs across the state. Our first magazine recycling project was organized by a class of kindergarten students who collected magazines for families in a nearby homeless shelter. Over the years, we have provided magazines to tens of thousands of children, but there is so much more to do, and we need help to get it done.
As a non-profit organization, how do you see the future of Magazine Literacy in 5 years? Do you think the organization will incorporate other types of literary works like books, newspapers, ebooks or mostly focus on magazines?
MagazineLiteracy.org is the first and only global, magazine industry-wide literacy project that focuses on getting the wonderful magazines we love into the hands, homes, and hearts of at-risk children and families. We are currently focusing on understanding and meeting literacy needs in the United States, but plan to grow to meet literacy needs around the world. There are already many wonderful literacy programs that focus on supplying books and newspapers to meet literacy needs, so we don’t want to duplicate those efforts, but when we receive books, we always pass them along to literacy programs. There are many wonderful weekly magazines published by newspaper companies, which we incorporate into our own collection and delivery efforts. Print magazines will continue to be an important focus for us, but we are also exploring magazines in digital formats. We will spend the next five years growing, learning lessons, and improving our operations along a journey to reach our full promise. Our mission is to create an enormous pipeline and to challenge the citizens of the world to fill it with the magazines we love to read, so we can share them with new readers near and far. Our work is made possible by the generous support of individuals and businesses who donate precious magazines, time, and financial support. Together, we celebrate changing the world – one magazine at a time!
My professional career spans Capitol Hill, Wall Street, Main Street, and the Information Superhighway. I am a social entrepreneur recognized for innovation, leadership, and public service, and have extensive experience as an IT consultant in the financial services, telecommunications, and human service industries. I founded MagazineLiteracy.org as the first and only global, magazine industry-wide campaign to help children and families learn to read and to build their self-esteem, and operate it with the support of hundreds of volunteers across the U.S. MagazineLiteracy.org devises innovative programs that foster community and business partnerships to get new and recycled magazines to at-risk children and families who want to learn and love to read them.