Category Archives: Boston

Kudos to Katie Simmons – a Literacy Beacon in Boston

Donate to support our Boston Distribution Center

Donate to support our Boston Distribution Center

Katie Simmons has been a long-time champion in the Boston area, collecting and delivering thousands of magazines to hundreds of children and families in shelters and literacy programs.  She gives every bit of heart and soul delivering magazines out of the back of her well-traveled jeep.  At the same time, she takes a personal interest in each individual matching wonderful magazines to wonderful children and moms, and working closely with agencies to understand their needs.  She is a bright light – a beacon among beacons – for our magazine literacy work that burns around the clock.  Thank you Katie for feeding so many the knowledge and the joy that magazines deliver.

Magazines are comfort food for these shelter moms and kids

O, the Oprah Magazine

I  look forward to every magazine delivery, and last Friday evening was no exception.  I walked into the lobby of a  Boston women’s shelter carrying  recent issues of O, The Oprah magazine, SELF, and Vogue under one arm, and Martha Stewart Living, People, Whole Living, and Every Day with Rachael Ray in the other.  I  was met by many women coming from dinner – several with young children in tow.   When they saw the variety of magazines they were thrilled and so genuinely appreciative.    I sense the magazines bring  a sense of normalcy to their routine.   I feel so lucky to be able to bring comfort to so many women and families during a difficult period in their lives.

Who, What, Where, When, Why magazines for literacy?

At, we love to celebrate the amazing work being done at the literacy agencies that help us to get the magazines you love into the hands, hearts, and homes of children and families who want to learn and love to read them. Books are vital for reading and literacy, but here are some stories that explain why new and recycled magazines are so special. Here is some compelling feedback from the Sojourner House transitional housing program in Roxbury, Massachusetts:


Thank you so much for the service you provide to the children and their parents here at Sojourner House. The families love receiving magazines from you each month. Many of the school-aged children are overwhelmed by books because of their length, as well as the lack of pictures. The magazines that you bring each month provide a way for the children, who otherwise would not read, to be engaged in reading, which is so crucial in their ability to do well in school. They love having colored pictures to go along with what they’re reading. One of the boys at the shelter loves to draw characters from some of the comic books you bring, and he writes stories to go along with his drawings. I am thrilled that his love of reading comics has given him the desire to use his imagination and write his own stories.

The younger children love the magazines as well. The magazines you bring to the shelter, such as High Five, contain short stories that the child and an adult can read together, which encourages parent-child bonding and is so important for a young child’s growth. One of the girls at the shelter loves to do the activities, such as “Hidden Pictures.” She brings a magazine with her when she goes out, which gives her something engaging to do in the car. I’m confident that it’s helping her build skills that will help her once she begins school.

Not only are the magazines you bring us each month beneficial to the children, but the consumer magazines give the parents something to do, which they really appreciate. One of the parents showed me an article she read about healthy eating that she wanted to share with her teenage daughter. The consumer and teen magazines have many great articles that are very relevant to the lives of the guests who live at the shelter.

Once again, thank you for your encouragement of literacy at the shelter. I hope you will continue to bring magazines to various places that are in need of magazines, including our shelter.

Brenda German
Child Advocate
Sojourner House

And from the Boston Family Shelter

Since Katie started dropping off magazines to our shelter the children really enjoy reading the magazines. When Katie stops by the shelter and drops off the magazines I put labels on them with the child’s name on them to make the magazine personalized. Katie – thank you for the labels. All the children love the magazines. Even though some of the children have moved into housing they still come back to the shelter to look for the magazines.

Anthony is a 9 year old third grade boy that resides at the Boston Family Shelter. He was in the shelter for about 2 years. Anthony has been reading below grade level for the past 2 years. He is an excellent reader – he just can not comprehend what he reads.

The first day Anthony received his magazine he said, “Wow!” “Cool!” He began to start reading as soon as he picked the magazine. I was so surprised to see him reading, because he always told me how much he hates to read. About two days later, Anthony told me how he would read his magazine at school during quiet time, and he would let his friends read the magazines also.  Anthony reads to his 3 year old sister Jade more often, and now he is comfortable reading out loud.

The magazines have given Anthony more confidence. Before the magazines Anthony would skip over words instead of sounding them out. Now, when he reads, he sounds out the words. Even though Anthony is going to summer school, his reading grade level for the last term went from a D to a B+. That is a great improvement.

Anthony’s mother is extremely happy to see he is finally starting to read. Sometimes it is still hard to get him to read a book. When Anthony goes to the library, he takes out magazines.

This new beginning is a absolutely amazing for Anthony. We hope Anthony will continue to improve the next school year.  We at the Boston Family Shelter would like to thank Katie and all organizations that donate magazines to our shelter.

And another from the West End House Boys & Girls Club

Hi Katie,

I just wanted to drop you a line & thank you so very much for the continuing donations of great magazines to our Club!

There is tremendous variety, great content & lots of fun for the kids who enjoy them here & I have used them both as the focus of different programs & as supplemental backdrop for general literacy.

Since you began bringing us magazines for different age groups, they can be found on every floor in the building & in every program-area of the Club.

The medium of “magazine is an interesting way of engaging kids in reading and learning. Somehow it’s non-threatening to pick up, with no obligation to finish, & you look cool while browsing & smart if you’re deeply involved in an article. Also easy to share – I’ve repeatedly seen kids call out to their friends to “come check this out!” and soon there is a circle of young people all wanting to see!

Thanks for your dedication to the kids here at the West End House Boys & Girls Club & we all look forward to the next “drop”!

Interview with Katie Simmons – Boston Distribution Center

Donate to support our Boston Distribution Center

Donate to support our Boston Distribution Center

Sharing our success stories is an important way to help spread awareness about the cause. Many individuals throughout the United States have rallied their communities to donate magazines and spread  literacy to those in need. The interview below with Katie Simmons shines a light on one of our most ardent literacy champions. For three years, Katie has introduced to her community and received over 12,000 magazines for distribution. An audio clip from Katie talking about the empty bookshelves of a Boston homeless shelter can also be heard here.

Katie kicks off KinderHarvest at Whole Foods

Q: How did you hear about

A: I connected with through I have been a literacy tutor/mentor for inner city kids for 13 years. I saw the positive effect of my time, but wanted to promote literacy on a broader scale. The Magazine Harvest program has provided the perfect vehicle to branch into the community.

Q: What was it like when you first became a part of the organization?

A: The moment I received John’s first email I started brainstorming. By the end of the weekend, I had talked, typed and walked my way into a sea of generous donors with magazines. Kindness is contagious and I witnessed that as the magazine bug spread in Boston.

Q: Throughout your tenure with the organization, explain some of your community accomplishments.

A: I personally collected, sorted and delivered over 12,000 magazines from  the back of my Jeep. I deliver to 18 programs including homeless and domestic violence shelters, inner-city literacy and bakery training programs, and an elderly day-program. I have permanent magazine donation bins at the nearby Whole Foods Market, three extended day programs in Brookline, Innerspace Yoga, HC Studios hair salon, a Boy and Girl scout troop in Needham and several dental offices. I helped coordinate a corporate sponsorship for tennis magazine subscriptions for Tenacity, Inc., a three-year literacy and tennis program for inner-city youth.

Q: What is the overall mission you hope to accomplish through

A: My goal is to help any shelter or literacy program with limited or absent literacy resources by providing an ongoing variety of magazines.

Q: Describe some of the feedback you receive about the magazines you collect and donate.

A: I am met with  beaming smiles from the children and words of gratitude from the mothers on every delivery. I also routinely ask for feedback from shelter staff. The director of an afterschool program in a domestic violence shelter sent these wonderful quotes from kids in the shelter.

I like it when my mom reads to me and my little brother
from the magazines.     — 3rd grader

I learn about things my teacher is talking
about in school.    — 5th grader

I had to do a report on bears and one of
the magazines was about bears.     — 4th grader

Trish Hembrough, Director of the Adult Learner program at Project Hope commented that “magazines are engaging, not intimidating, and the women love having the resource.” The shelters have used the magazines to teach families about health and nutrition, finances, parenting, and positive images in the media. I also recall meeting a young woman and her baby boy in a shelter. She told me she and her son were moving into a new apartment on Monday so she was thrilled with the home/style magazines and was grateful for the parenting magazines too. She commented on a caption about how to raise a polite child. All of the shelters have said the magazines provide an immense source of stress relief for their residents.

Q: What event do you feel was the most successful in spreading awareness about in your community?

A: In the fall of 2007, I stood outside my local Whole Foods Market and distributed fliers about the organization to their customers. I later worked out a partnership with the Brighton Whole Foods to develop a program, including a permanent collection bin for gently used magazines.

Q: How has the community responded to

A: A sentiment echoed by everyone that hears about my work is, “What a great thing you do Katie…I have magazines to donate and I know others you can contact for magazines.” Consumers are happy to see their magazines going to help someone else. It has been a continual chain of generosity.

Q: What keeps you involved with

A:  Knowing Massachusetts has thousands of homeless families fuels my mission to ensure that the corners of the community in vital need receive the joy of magazines. The stream of positive feedback from staff, families and children in the shelters confirms this is what I am meant to do.

Q: What’s your next goal for

A: With much-needed financial support, my goal is to establish and head a sustainable, ongoing distribution center for Boston and the surrounding region. It will serve as a model for the country where I can rally volunteers to collect, sort, label and distribute magazines. We must also enlist more sources of magazines, define agency needs, and form partnerships/mentoring programs. The precarious state of the economy, environment and education system is at the forefront of the world’s stage so I am pleased to have found a mission where the product is attainable and the payoff is priceless. By sharing our collective good karma, we can help the world one magazine at a time. Besides, I like my nickname: Katie the magazine lady.

The magazine lady is here

I deliver magazines to an inner city bakery training program. When I walk into the cafe with a large bundle of Gourmet, Cooking Light, Saveur, Food & Wine or Eating Well they all exclaim from behind the counter: “Look, the magazine lady is here!” Pure music to my magazine ears. Who knows, one day through the combination of their training and practical work experience, coupled with the engaging articles, they could land their own cooking show! In the meantime, I will continue to deliver magazines filled with mouth watering photos of everything from Lobster Stew to Wild Maine Blueberry Crisp. They are hooked on reading the recipes and articles in the magazines. So, fellow foodies please continue with your generous contributions of food magazines.

Captions that have captured

Earlier this year, on one of my biweekly deliveries to a family shelter in Boston, I was able to speak with a young mother who had returned from taking her 4-month-old son for a walk on a beautiful day. When she saw the large bundle of magazines I had, she smiled and said, “you are the magazine lady!” I said yes and asked if she would like some. She was thrilled and she said she was moving out of the shelter very soon to her own apartment with her new son, so she would love the Parenting magazines, and decorating and home magazines. One might never think when donating a magazine to a homeless shelter that they would be welcomed there, but, by taking time to speak, with this young mom, I was able to connect her with magazines that were of interest.

I always want the magazine to be a source of comfort and knowledge to the new readers, so continually ask for feedback from the families and staff at the shelters. When I handed a woman a recent issue of Parenting magazine, she noted the caption of an article on the cover: How to raise a polite child, and that caught her eye. She said that is so important and thanked me again for the magazines.

I could tell from speaking to her that she and her son where headed for new beginnings, and knowing how happy she was to receive the magazines once again solidified the importance of my efforts.

Giving never gets old

I deliver women’s and children’s magazines to a shelter a few miles from my home that is home to over 60 families. Today I had the privilege of meeting a young mother and her 4-year-old daughter, who was playing hopscotch. I introduced myself and asked if her daughter would like a magazine. She was very appreciative and said her daughter would love it. The little girl was so pleased to show me how she could write her name on the label on the cover. I drove away with a smile seeing the smile on her face. My mission is to make sure every child in every shelter has that chance.