The Magic of Magazines

"Hey, Mom, has the mail come yet?"

Mom, "No, be patient!"

I waited 10 minutes. "Hey Mom, has the mail come yet?"

Mom, "No, please be patient!"

I rode my bike around the barnyard again. "Hey, Mom, is the mail here now?"

Mom, with an exasperated look on her face, "Linda, why don't you go and sit by the mailbox and wait!"

Perched by the side of the road (we lived in the country) waiting impatiently for the mail to arrive, is where I would be when the mailman finally appeared! Why, you ask? I was waiting for my copy of Highlights to arrive! Even in its lackluster black and white design, I devoured the stories, laughed at the cartoons, and diligently worked on the puzzles.

How I would have loved to have National Geographic for Kids or Cobblestone or Dig! Even today, as magazines have had to adapt to all ages and tastes in our digital reading society, Highlights is still published and read by a huge, devoted following.

Just as books have evolved, so have magazines for children. For example, take Cricket Media (http://cricketmedia.com) and Highlights (http://www.highlights.com).

The Children's Magazine Landscape

Highlights, based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the oldest publishers for children. Started in 1946 by Garry Cleveland Myers and Caroline Clark Myers in a two room office over a car dealership in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, the company's philosophy was "that children become their best selves by using their creativity and imagination, developing their reading, thinking and reasoning skills; and learning to treat others with respect, kindness, and sensitivity." Kent S. Johnson, the third CEO and also their great-grandson, has expanded the company to several magazines (Highlights, Highlights Hello Magazine for Toddlers, Highlights High Five) plus acquiring Boyds Mill Press, Zaner Blosser Inc., and Stenhouse Publications. One of their newest endeavors is Tinkercast, which develops podcasts for children. In April 2017, they launched an app called Highlights Every Day. Publishing in forty countries and sixteen languages, that they have over two million subscriptions with 95% of those mailed to homes. (Are kids still waiting by their mailboxes today for their copies of Highlights?) Their trademark, Hidden Picture Puzzles, are included in their publications along with Goofus and Gallent, which is a monthly comic strip contrasting the actions of the two characters. Gallent was a model child because he was kind, courteous, and thoughtful. Goofus, on the other hand, was rude, complaining and whining about everything and anything! He was the absolute worst, portraying the wrong reaction to every situation.

Cricket Media, based in McLean, Virginia, has 100% ad-free publications in sharp contrast to the ad filled magazines for adults. Their publications (which won eleven Gold Awards at the 2018 Parents' Choice Awards) include Cobblestone, Dig, Muse, Cricket, and Faces. They publish in English and Mandarin and also produce ePals. Their newest endeavor, called Cricket Together, is an e-mentoring program. Corporate partners encourage their employees to communicate and mentor with students two to three times a month.

Even in this digital age, magazines remain important for children. Children love to receive mail of their own just like I did so many years ago. Other considerations include:

  • Currency
  • Pictures/photos
  • Short articles that are quick, easy reads
  • Games, puzzles, and trivia
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Easy to hold and can be read anywhere
  • Appeal to reluctant readers
  • Can be paired with novels or nonfiction books

There are a number of magazines currently published for children. (See sidebar for recommended titles.) These publications make fantastic, quick reading materials in libraries and in homes. Several magazines have continuing articles about a person or activity that continue from issue to issue. It is like following a TV show week after week to see what is going to happen next. Children and adults love these features!

Teaching with Children's Magazines

There are a variety of ways to use magazines in the classroom. A school librarian can encourage teachers to use magazines to assist in teaching literacy skills. With the emphasis presently placed on nonfiction texts in schools, magazines are a perfect way to bring content into classrooms and teach the use of sidebars, headings, captions, bolded words, content vocabulary, charts, and graphs. Short articles help engage students in these lessons.

Teachers/librarians can use digital cameras or interactive white boards to work with students on the puzzles and games found in magazines. Articles can be displayed to allow students to highlight rhyming words, new vocabulary, or other topics being studied in language arts. Constantly being exposed to the rich vocabulary in children's magazines will expand students' writing skills.

Some magazines are great sources of information for students doing research projects. Just as students use books and online resources, print magazines can be another source of information to help complete their projects. Magazines provide a great springboard to other topics that children could pursue. In addition, magazine articles can be good models for students to replicate for sharing information. The librarian could collaborate with a teacher to publish a student magazine.

Writing activities using magazines abound. Rhyming text, alliteration, onomatopoeia, similes, and metaphors can all be located in magazine articles and poetry. Besides using these features to teach skills, teachers can encourage students to create their own stories, poems, riddles, and jokes to respond to existing articles or submit to publications. How exciting it is for students to practice writing letters and articles of their own and find them published!

Online editions of magazines will suggest ways to use articles or offer additional resources for children to follow. Supplemental links to agencies, science experiments to try, or information about places to visit may be featured. What exciting adventures, students can develop by taking extra steps with online content.

Connecting Your Students with Magazines

Make sure you are always up to the task of recommending both books and magazines for your patrons to read! Display books and magazines together in the library or classroom. Read magazines yourself during silent reading. Show students that magazines are an integral part of reading instruction and pleasure reading. Consider examining children/young adult magazines and then finding several read alike books to recommend as well. It is so important to be ready to place materials in patrons' hands when they ask! Seize the moment! Make sure you are adding magazines as part of your school library collection to circulate to students, too.

Encourage teachers to start magazine collections in their classrooms that students can use during their silent reading time. Provide information about the magazines to parents during open house at the school, through newsletters, or by having copies visible during parent/teacher conferences. Provide information on subscribing to magazines at home. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends are constantly searching for gifts to give their favorite child at Christmas or birthdays. Magazines are a fantastic way to get kids excited about reading and make a nice, easy gift.

As you can see, magazines are not going the way of the dinosaur! Magazines are a viable and ever-evolving way to assist in a child's reading life. Remember, all types of materials are important for children to develop a lifelong reading habit. Magazines are just one part of that habit. So look for the child sitting by the mailbox—they just might be waiting for this month's copy of Highlights!

About the Author

Linda L. Mills is a retired school librarian from Batesville, IN. She has also taught graduate courses at Indiana University and IUPUI Indianapolis as an adjunct lecturer since 1994. She serves on the education board for the Indiana State Museum and is active with the Indiana Historical Society and the Eiteljorg Museum.

MLA Citation Mills, Linda L. "The Magic of Magazines." School Library Connection, January 2019, schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2226856.

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Entry ID: 2174185

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