High Fives for Highlights High Five

My mom bought a High­lights High Five sub­scrip­tion for Abra­ham a few years ago. He loves it, and I make sure to leave it in the mail­box for his retrieval each time a new issue arrives. Read­ing to Abra­ham is always great fun, but I am quite con­scious of how dif­fi­cult it is to find books that fea­ture father/child inter­ac­tion. The per­cent­age is ter­ri­bly small rel­a­tive to books with moms in them. Once upon a time I Asked Metafil­ter for rec­om­men­da­tions of books with heav­i­ly fea­tured fathers, and received quite a few great titles that I’ve since added to our library.

In the two years Abra­ham has had his High Five sub­scrip­tion, I noticed a sim­i­lar trend and final­ly decid­ed to write a let­ter to the edi­tor about it. It went much bet­ter than I expect­ed. Our exchange is below, shared with her per­mis­sion.

Kath­leen,

My 4 year old son and I look for­ward with great antic­i­pa­tion to receiv­ing our month­ly sub­scrip­tion to High Five. He imme­di­ate­ly tears out all of the lit­tle ads just like I did with my High­lights sub­scrip­tion when I was his age. At first his favorite sec­tion was the hid­den pic­tures (again, just like me), but now as he’s start­ing to read a bit, he enjoys Tex and Indi the most.

Your mag­a­zine helps pro­vide a lot of fun, edu­ca­tion­al, qual­i­ty time with my boy. As a sin­gle par­ent, I try to max­i­mize those attrib­ut­es when we play togeth­er. Thank you so much for the excel­lent work you and your staff do each month.

There’s only one aspect of the magazine’s con­tent that both­ers me: the dis­tinct lack of involved dads in most issues. In the most cur­rent issue (Octo­ber 2012) there are only two pages (12, 16) with a father present. In con­trast, moth­ers and female fig­ures are involved in much of the rest of this issue (pp. 2, 4, 7–8, 13, 20, 22–23, 26, 30) and most oth­ers. I make a dis­tinc­tion between “pres­ence” and “involve­ment” here, because when fathers appear in your mag­a­zine, they’re often not active­ly engaged with car­ing and learn­ing with the chil­dren. For exam­ple, in the cur­rent issue, the Papa squir­rel on page 16 is just being watched by the child squir­rel, they aren’t bury­ing nuts togeth­er.

This is not an issue that affects your mag­a­zine alone; I have a heck of a time find­ing children’s books that fea­ture father/child inter­ac­tion as well.

I think if you begin to include more involved dads in your mag­a­zine you will pro­vide an exam­ple to all chil­dren that dads can be involved in their kid’s lives. Addi­tion­al­ly, you will be teach­ing lit­tle boys that they can and should be involved with their own chil­dren one day.

It might be nice to start with Tex and Indi’s dad. I assumed their mom was a sin­gle par­ent for quite a few issues until dad made a brief appear­ance.

I’d be hap­py to cor­re­spond with you fur­ther in this regard and the boy and I are already eager­ly await­ing the Novem­ber issue.

Sin­cere­ly,

Adam Har­vey

A few days lat­er I received this response:

Dear Adam,

Thank you so much for writ­ing. I’m pleased to hear that you and your son are enjoy­ing High Five. And I’m sor­ry that since you’ve been sub­scrib­ing, you’ve noticed a lack of fathers in our sto­ries.

I can tell you that in Novem­ber, Dad helps Tex and Indi make the Thanks­giv­ing stuff­ing, and in the verse a mom and a dad and their son help make a pump­kin pie. Then, in Decem­ber, in the English/Spanish sto­ry, a lit­tle girl goes out in the snow with her Dad. There’s no indi­ca­tion that there is a Mom in that sto­ry. We also pub­lish sto­ries about Bert and Beth who live with their grand­fa­ther. We do try to make sure that all kids see them­selves reflect­ed in the pages of our mag­a­zine, and that includes dif­fer­ent types of fam­i­lies.

But I’m also very glad to have heard from you. Your let­ter prompt­ed me to swap out a Mom and replace her with a Dad in a sto­ry that will appear in ear­ly spring. It’s always good to be remind­ed — so thanks for tak­ing the time to write.

Sin­cere­ly,

Kath­leen

What a great response! I half-expect­ed some sort of form let­ter, but instead I received thought­ful­ness, under­stand­ing, and spe­cif­ic exam­ples address­ing my issue. And the icing on the cake is a lit­tle bit more “dad” in the mag­a­zine. It’s nice to know that High­lights still has the best inter­ests of chil­dren at heart. This response even mit­i­gates the near­ly unfor­giv­able fact that they nev­er did pub­lish my Ram Bo Jack­son draw­ing that I sent in when I was 8.

5 Replies

  • That is a pret­ty great reac­tion. With lunch they won’t title that episode, “Mr. Squir­rell plays Mr. Mom”

    I have to admit I’m also see­ing a pro­fes­sion­al oppor­tu­ni­ty here. I sus­pect part of the rea­son these mag­a­zines and children’s books large­ly fea­ture moms with kids is that they are large­ly writ­ten by moms. Have you con­sid­ered writ­ing and sub­mit­ting some children’s fic­tion (or poet­ry) your­self? That is, if you’ve recov­ered suf­fi­cient­ly from the Ram Bo Jack­son rejec­tion.

  • I con­sid­ered dust­ing off old Smober the Sock Gob­lin, but I didn’t want to tar­nish the sin­cer­i­ty of my feel­ings on the top­ic by turn­ing it in to a busi­ness pitch.

  • Give it a few months, Adam. Then it wouldn’t be rid­ing on the heels of your dia­logue with her.

    I loved the response as well! High­lights was always one of my favorites too, and I’m glad to see that their focus is still where it needs to be. Have fun with the next issue!

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