Monday, July 23, 2007

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
How magazines can be a great reading and learning resource for children
Praba Ram & Meera Sriram

We have always been riveted to books as a nourishing source of learning and fun for children. An equally amazing alternative to books are magazines - a periodic dose of information and amusement. Pleasantly entertaining, they are typically filled with pictures, articles, stories, games and activities. The most exciting aspect of a magazine for a child can be its arrival, when the long wait climaxes at an unexpected moment. Children often look forward to a character that appears regularly, the next chapter in a suspended story, a familiar comic strip or for simple brainteasers. All wrapped up in one neat package. Whether at home, on the move or simply for the painful wait at the doctor's office, a copy can come in handy.

We will now discuss the options to get our hands on this wonderful resource.

Here in the U.S, a mainstream option, and by that we mean non-multicultural in nature, comes from Carus Publishing.

• The wonderful thing about them is that they cater even to the 6 months-3yrs age group. BABYBUG is what the magazine is called. This can be helpful when the issue in the mail comes to the timely rescue of a bored toddler and the familiar topography of the books can trigger an instant million dollar smile (and not to worry, it comes in cardboard pages)!

LADYBUG is the equivalent for the 3-6 age group. "Written by some of the world's best children's authors and illustrated by award-winning artists, LADYBUG is sure to spark young imaginations and develop a love of reading that will last a lifetime." says the description.

CLICK is the science and exploration specific for the similar age group. It seems to be an award-magnet! Great to answer the WHYs, WHATs and HOWs that are thrown at you by the curious little one.

The options seem to increase with increasing age groups when children start looking for specific interests.

Below is the link to their home page - http://www.cricketmag.com/home.asp


The magazines are presented here -
http://www.cricketmag.com/shop_magzines.asp

Sample pages are also shown and this can aid you in decision making. You can pick the 1 year or 2 year subscription option. However, just like most subscriptions, it might take 4-6 weeks for the first issue to appear. The website also offers a wide product range of books, gifts and other media items for different age groups.

Now moving on to magazines in the multi-cultural space. We found that in this category, there are two overarching types - 1) cross-cultural children’s magazines that reflect one’s own culture – say Indian American, Chinese American etc. and 2) multi-cultural magazines that provide an overall exposure to stories from different cultures around the world. Offering both can help give our children a well-rounded exposure to multiculturalism, and help appreciate stories and experiences of children from all around the world.

In particular, we would like to focus on the following three cross and multi-cultural magazines that captured our interest.

KAHANI is indeed a welcoming addition to the world of cross-cultural children’s literature. The magazine features stories, ideas, and the unique experiences of children of South-Asian descent. The magazine has won the Parent Choice Approved Award for 2007, given by the Parents Choice Foundation, a respected organization on children’s media. The magazine is published four times in a year – one every season and with a new theme every time - varying from holidays to sports, which are just a few examples of the diverse set of themes covered in every issue. Their mission is to “empower, educate, and entertain children of South-Asian descent.” The magazine offers an eclectic blend of short stories, math and science columns, book reviews, interactive activities such as puzzles, comic series, biography series, and other non-fiction articles. It is a one-shop-stop for Indian American parents to help their kids to express and explore their cultural identities. (http://kahani.com – Age group: elementary to middle school)

SKIPPING STONES, yet another award winning nonprofit magazine for youth is a noteworthy resource in multi-cultural education. The magazine, provides opportunities to children around the world from “different countries and cultures” to express and share their ideas and experiences. Their mission is to “encourage communication, cooperation, creativity and celebration of cultural and environmental richness.” Skipping Stones is published bimonthly during the school year. Each issue features stories, articles and photos from all over the world – as described on their website, an issue of Skipping Stone features “Native American folktales, photos from kids in India and the Ukraine, letters and drawings from South Africa and Lithuania, cartoons from China, and more might await you.” Skipping Stone invites children and adults of all ages to contribute in any language. In the case of non-English articles, English translations are provided along with the article, and the magazine thereby, provides opportunities to appreciate other languages. (Click here - http://www.skippingstones.org/ - for more information on Skipping Stones)

FACES, (9-14 age group), again, from Carus Publishing. Taking off of what they claim - "FACES readers learn how other kids live around the world and about the important inventions and ideas that a particular culture has given to the world. Recipes, hands-on projects, and book and video recommendations help kids further explore each issue's topic. Also, the Winner of the 2007 Parents' Choice Silver Honor, it gives children the opportunity and awareness to experience multi-culturalism and diversity.

Children's magazines - sit back and watch them explore, learn and smile!

10 comments:

Sheela said...

Thank you! I have been meaning to look into this, your article is quite informative. I remember the fun and anticipation you describe, when i was little, awaiting my next chanda mama or amar chitra katha... Just curious, do you know if these magazines have a lot of ads targeted at kids? like toys, clothing, food and such? i remember the ones i read wayabck had "poppins" ads on the alst apge - some sort of hard candy - and it did make me pester my dad to buy some for me :-)

meera sriram said...

Hi Sheela,

Thanks! I am curious to know - you want the ads so that your child can have an experience like you did with Poppins or you don't want the ads because your child might end up pestering you like you did when you were little:) Just kidding!

Anyways, I will let you know once we get out first LADYBUG magazine in the mail.

And poppins( you opened the doors to a big sea of nostalgia)- the tubural one wrapped in colorfully striped paper!

Praba, you have anything to say on the ads question?

Sheela said...

ah, you caught my point, meera! No, no, i don't want targeted ads that tell the kids what is cool and what is not :-)
my anecdote was to show taht i would have been blissfully unaware of poppins and not missed much but the ad sowed the seed ;-)

meera sriram said...

Ya, figured:)

I like that the magazines from Carus do not have any outside marketing as they on their website "The fact that LADYBUG has no outside advertising is a distinct advantage.". Since they seem to be sensitive to the issue, I am thinking they might not have ads. However I wouldn't be surprised if they advertised their own range of products. If any other subscriber has more information, please let us know.
Thanks!

Praba said...

You guys hit it right on target with respect to the ads or no ads question. I meant to include it in the article - will provide an update..

The cross/multicultural ones Kahani and Skipping Stones are ad-free. That's what their websites claim.

I am not sure about Carus Publishing.I would think, since they target the mainstream, ads would be a prime component! anyways - will check their website for that.

I realized I didn't include the age group for both. Will work on those two updates on the post.

thanks, sheela for the poppin pointer! :-) oh - those good old poppins. In fact, recently mentioned to K that I would get her poppins and jujubes (sp?) this time in India - to taste the kind of candys that Mamma got to enjoy when she was little (way better than gummy bears and fruit snacks) :-)

Sunitha said...

Hi ladies,

I'm one of the partners that publishes Kahani - and we ARE totally 100% ad-free (on beautiful glossy paper i might add)...which sometimes means we barely cover our costs...but our kids certainly don't need any more marketing targeted at them, right???

Thanks for including us in your post! Just fyi, the depth and range of talent of South Asian writers and illustrators for children in the US today is just mindblowing - it's a total privilege for us to be able to showcase them to a small extent...

Praba said...

Sunitha -

Thank you for the information. I can't wait to order my copy of Kahani!

I just have one thing that I am evaluating still - whether the magazine will be an age-appropriate one for a five yr old.

I would love to gift the magazine for her 6th birthday, if I can wait that long! Part of me tells I should start the subscription now for myself! :-)

Praba said...

Kudos to you and your team for coming up with a culturally appropriate magazine reflecting South Asian culture!

Keeping it ad-free is the way to go! And, I looked at the list of contributors on your website, and a few names do ring a bell - particularly from the blogosphere!

Anyways, thanks for leaving your comment here. Very helpful to the readers at ST!

meera sriram said...

Hi Sunita,

Thanks for stopping by. Very glad to know that the magazine is ad-free.

And just wanted to say that it is a wonderful thing that Kahani is doing, especially for immigrant children.

will kenderdine said...

Hey! Great kids' magazines! If you like these, you will LOVE this incredibly fun, interesting way to get kids to learn about animals! Check it out here: http://www.early-learning-fun.com/

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