NYR iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Flavia Colgan

GET UPDATES FROM Flavia Colgan
 

Innovative Childrens Site Sprouts Up and Blossoms in Philadelphia

Posted: 05/04/11 05:26 PM ET

MonkeyReader.com is the latest invention of founders, Skip Scholl, David Rivoire, and David Lennett. The new website, launched just this past Thanksgiving, is a new venture for the team designed to fill an underserved niche market for children's literature; and, most importantly, to provide information and advise parents on how to get their kids reading and what they should be reading. The team even goes one step further by pledging to share 5% of their annual profits with related non-profit children's literacy groups.

With MonkeyReader, the experienced group plans to expand its core area of children's literature with a huge selection of books, movies, and music for the entire family. The company hopes to gain a foothold in their hometown Philadelphia area first and then build a network of supporters nationally.

MonkeyReader hopes to differentiate itself from other online sellers like Amazon and Borders by creating the sense of community that one might experience in their neighborhood book shop, online.

"The large box stores and online sellers have become so impersonal, we hope to create a following of customers who see us as an alternative to the huge conglomerates, who like what we are trying to do, and appreciate what we stand for," said Scholl "MonkeyReader has a strong interest in children's literature and children's literacy, and should be a focal point for anyone interested in these areas."

"We are especially trying to appeal to kids, parents, and teachers by offering fun, content, and a great shopping experience," offered Scholl.

"When you first enter MonkeyReader.com you are greeted by Captain Monkey Reader, our loveable mascot," said Rivoire. "The Captain, as we like to refer to him, is our creation: an attempt to create a fun warm character that kids will like, who will act as a guide, showing you through the different sections of the site. The Captain is a character we hope to build on in the future, as we think he has a lot of potential. He is our emissary, traveling around the world promoting the joy of children's literature. He is the face of MonkeyReader."

The site also provides a wealth of valuable content. "Many people do not know what their children should be reading, so we offer our assistance in a number of different ways, similar to getting advice from an associate in your local book shop," said Lennett.

"First we offer our recommendations, broken down by different age groups spanning from toddler to adult. We also offer books that were winners of prestigious children's literature awards such as the Caldecott Award, the Newberry Award, and the Coretta Scott King Award, spanning back to the beginning of these awards some 50 years ago." To ensure quality selections, MonkeyReader experts scour the Internet to discover the best and most objective information regarding children's literature available.

The company even developed a program for special needs children. One of the partner's is a certified reading specialist and he will personally respond to customers' questions and respond within 24 hours.

MonkeyReader.com is committed to public service in addition to customer service, and is welcome to participating in any related reading programs that may help to improve the tremendous problem of illiteracy. In Philadelphia alone, it is estimated that 30% of the population is illiterate to the extent that they could not complete a written job application. For this City and Country, the team believes that this is totally unacceptable. The team hopes that they can part of a solution to this crippling problem. MonkeyReader is a new member of the online community and the team is open to suggestions on how to improve it services.

Ultimately, price, selection, and availability are areas where MonkeyReader excels. The firm has affiliated itself with one of the largest wholesale book distributors in the world and a true veteran in the industry, Baker and Taylor, to handle customer service. The website is scaled so massive orders can be met instantaneously.

"We can handle any volume whether it is one book a day or 1,000 or more," said Scholl. "In terms of price, we are now offering 35% off retail on virtually all of our products. While the big box stores may beat our price on a few of their loss leaders, when you look across the board at our prices and low shipping costs, we are the best in quality, and the least in cost. In terms of selection, we have over a million products. If we do not have what you're looking for, you will probably not be able to find it anywhere."

A variety of choices are apparent when a new user views www.monkeyreader.com. New York Times best sellers, favorite movies, and TV programs are all available. Company founders hope this variety makes MonkeyReader popular for the entire family.

Another area of importance to MonkeyReader is the desire to be socially responsible. Not only to provide good content, and value, but to actually give something back to the greater Philadelphia community. For MonkeyReader this desire has translated into a corporate commitment to share five percent of the firm's annual profit with non-profit children's literacy organizations.

"We are hoping that our 5% commitment turns out to be a substantial contribution, because that will mean not only that we are doing good business, but also that we are making a considerable difference in the fight against illiteracy," said Lennett.

"We know that there are many worthy non-profit children's literacy organizations right here in the Philly area that are having a hard time making it, and in this financial environment, corporate contributions are way down," added Rivoire. "We hope to become a new sustainable model for corporate philanthropy."