Sunday, April 25, 2010

Magazines for Kids

Access to books is a critical aspect of cultural capital. But equally important is exposure to a range of texts and formats -- it allows children to transfer the skills they learn reading fiction to other mediums, and adapt them to works of different format and lengths.

Magazines are a great way to give kids experience with different kinds of texts -- poems, non-fiction articles, short stories, song lyrics.

Back in the stone age, when Bookivore was a kid, there was one magazine for kids: Highlights. That was it, folks. Now there is a veritable feast of magazines for children, some quite excellent, some just thinly-veiled advertisements for products, TV shows and movies. Highlights is still a favorite at our house: it's far more colorful than what it was when I was a kid, and nicely multicultural too, teaching about Diwali, Ramadan, Chinese New Year and a host of other cultural celebrations and traditions. The magazine works hard at promoting good values and good behavior, which it does this from a sense of fair play rather than from any particular belief system. It's a nice blend of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, comic strips and puzzles that appeals to kids from 3 to 10.

A nice addition to the Highlights stable is High Five, their magazine for 2-5 year olds. The text is much simpler, pictures are larger and fill the pages. It has the same focus on good morals, though the message is obviously greatly simplified. One lovely feature of both these magazines is no advertising.

I absolutely love these next three, put out by the National Wildlife Federation: Ranger Rick (at the top of this post) Your Big Backyard, and Wild Animal Baby.

Like the two Highlights magazines, the NWF's offerings are stepped for different age groups. Ranger Rick is for ages 7 and up, though for independent reading your child might need to be a little older. Your Big Backyard is for 3-7 year olds, and Wild Animal Baby is for 1-4 year olds.

One nice feature about Wild Animal Baby is that it comes in a board book format of heavier cardboard, rather than flimsy magazine pages. It's perfect for little hands to hold. The photography in all these magazines is fantastic and the range of articles is impressive -- whatever animals your little ones like, they'll show up eventually in these pages, one way or another. Another blessing: no ads to disrupt your reading.

National Geographic Kids is another one we get, but I would be lying if I said it was a favorite. It was a gift, otherwise I'd cancel my subscription. I find the layout overly busy and it's loaded with ads for candy and video games. Additionally, it contains feature articles on movies -- special effects, actor interviews, etc. Not strictly National Geographic stuff -- more along the lines of paid endorsements. In and among the plugs are some interesting articles about animal rescues, critter cams, and habitats, but it's pretty buried in junk. Ostensibly for 6-14 year olds, but I can't see kids sticking with it that long.

Another one for 2-6 year olds that gets good reviews is Ladybug. It's colorful and full of stories, poems. The publishers also have a magazine called Babybug, which is made of heavy stock like Wild Animal Baby. They also publish one called Click! which is geared more towards science and nature.

Of a similar nature is Spider, which is for 6-9 year olds. It includes stories, poems, articles and illustrations from around the world.

For older kids, there are magazines about science, like Odyssey.

And magazines about world history, like Calliope.

If you have a sports nut, Sports Illustrated for Kids might be a good choice. Parents rated this one very highly because it focuses on the positive achievements of athletes and their good sportsmanship, rather than on their questionable activities and sexual antics. One word of caution here would be that kids may assume the adult version of SI is okay because of their exposure to SIKids. Obviously the articles in SI are going to burst some bubbles, so that's something to consider.

Appleseeds is a magazine full of non-fiction and social studies articles for kids ages 7-9. Each issue covers a particular theme: Becoming President, Whiz Kids, Unusual Structures, Halloween. Rather a narrow age range, but the content makes it of use in giving kids experience with non-fiction text.

Ask is for 7-10 year olds covering science, inventions, recipes, web activities, projects, and other activities. Each issue is devoted to a particular theme -- water, camouflage, migration, the musical brain, etc.

Cricket has been around since the '70s and is another publication that celebrates fiction, though this time from established, even classical writers like Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Shel Silverstein, and Lloyd Alexander. It also includes games and puzzles. It's geared for 9-14 year olds.

This is really just a sampling. There are many more publications for kids, of varying quality: American Girl Magazine, Kids Discover, Boy's Life, Cobblestone, Girl's Life, Disney Princess, Dig, Nick Jr. Preschool Playroom. The list goes on and on.

Before subscribing, go to your library and see what these magazines offer -- look at several issues, if possible, to get a sense of the kind of content they regularly offer. Be leery of magazine that contain a lot of ads: they really will encourage your kids to pester you for Yogos, or whatever. And if the subscription prices seem too high, remember that magazine subscriptions make excellent birthday and Christmas gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. All of our subscriptions have been gifts and they are very much appreciated.

Images courtesy of and National Wildlife Federation

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