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John Seelmeyer

Jennifer Linstroth-Mingo finds herself in the unusual position of explaining that there’s less to her Reno-based company than people sometimes assume. isn’t educational software. It’s not a learn-to-read program. Nor is the company selling children’s books. In fact, the company expects that its customers will stick around only for a year or so, paying a $5 fee each month, before they move on.

But the founders of the company — Linstroth-Mingo and her mother, CC Linstroth — are driven by a big vision. They’d like to change the way that parents around the world read to their young children., which rolled out its first product last month, is based on Linstroth’s 40 years of experience as an educator and literacy coach.

Her philosophy, and the basis of the new company: Learning to read is one thing. Learning how to learn is another thing entirely.

Parents who sign up with receive each month a list of four recommended books for preschool and kindergarten children.

They also get a quick three-part guide to effective use of the books. Each book, the guide explains, is to be read three times — starting with a look only at a pictures, followed by readings designed to bring deeper comprehension of the words and their meanings.

“It’s not that we’re teaching kids how to read,” says Linstroth-Mingo. “We’re teaching them to learn.”

Among the learners has been Linstroth-Mingo herself.

In her day job, Linsroth-Mingo works as a successful executive for, a job that provides her abundant support from a large corporation.

Launching last winter, she was on her own, learning everything from finance and marketing to Web site development.

“It’s like earning my own MBA,” she says.

It’s an MBA that’s been earned while juggling the sometimes complex relationships of mothers and daughters. Linstroth, who lives in Northfield, Minn., handles the educational content. Her daughter focuses on development of the business.

“It’s given us something we can do together,” says Linstroth-Mingo.

In fact, the genesis of the company came from tips that her mother provided to Linstroth-Mingo, the mother of two with a third on the way, with her own children. Busy with her career, Linstroth-Mingo looked for ways to maximize the benefits of the time she spent with her children — and then looked for ways to share her mother’s wisdom further.

The mother-and-daughter team is comfortable with slow but steady development of the business.

“Right now, I’d be happy if we got 50 people a month,” says Linstroth-Mingo. “Then we can grow from there.”

Next up for the company is the addition of a give-back program in which it shares revenues with schools or other organizations that help market Practickle to parents.

“If you are business, I think you are obligated to give back,” says Linstroth-Mingo.

The company’s founders made a conscious decision to keep prices low so that families with modest incomes can sign on. The recommended books are available at libraries, further cutting the cost.

Although targets a narrow age band, Linstroth-Mingo says her mother has worked with youth through their teens. That means that additional products that target older children and teens could be added fairly easily.


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