Mennell is building “an enormous literacy pipeline” to children and at-risk families and challenging the industry to fill it with magazines.

John Mennell heads up the Magazine Publishers Family Literacy Project, a non-profit that puts new and recycled magazines into the hands and homes of children and families in an effort to combat illiteracy.

“We do two things,” says Mennell. “We send new or recycled magazines to children and families and shelters and we find individuals, consumers and businesses who will either supply us with gently read magazines or help us with the expense of sending new magazines. And it’s all community-based.”

The organization interfaces with a variety of local organizations, from shelters to local literacy organizations to the Boy Scouts, to get magazines into the hands of people who need or want them. “We like to partner with food banks and food pantries because that’s an excellent and direct way to reach families. We try to be working at the grass roots and community base. We have hundreds of volunteers around the country doing projects large and small.”

To date, Mennell’s organization has delivered tens of thousands of magazines. “After Katrina we sent 40,000 children’s magazines to all the Head Start programs in the state of Mississippi,” he says.

Kiplinger Finance provided startup capital and other industry companies, such as Texterity, Hearst, Comag, the MPA and FOLIO:’s parent company, Red 7 Media, have provided support. Foster Printing employees, says Mennell, contribute a sizable donation every year that helps support a partnership with College Mentors for Kids.

“While other reading materials are good for literacy, and we applaud them, magazines are special because of our special love for them in our lives and also because they have exceptional value for the children and the families we support,” says Mennell.

VITAL STATS: With support from some of the industry’s biggest players—from Hearst to the MPA and others, the Magazine Publishers Family Literacy Project has delivered tens of thousands magazines to at-risk children and families.