Great-Auntie to the rescue, I am going to remedy this situation, of course. But with what? Apparently she "is still learning to read and write the simple words and very short sentences," says my sister. Hmmm. Time for a trip to the bookstore to peruse a section I don't usually spend a lot of time in: children's magazines.
I immediately grabbed Highlights, a magazine I have very fond memories of. Nowadays, there are two versions: The traditional Highlights with that promising subtitle "Fun with a purpose," now joined by High Five which claims to be "Celebrating early childhood" and is geared toward ages 2-6.
I don't think Highlights has changed at all. There's no advertising and it's chock-full of stories and jokes and puzzles, including the venerable "Hidden Pictures." And let's not forget the reader contributions. I got my first rejection letter at age 7 from this very tome. Ah, memories. But I didn't stop trying. I never did get published in the mag, although The Detroit News did publish my first short story at age 12.
High Five is a lot less wordy and more visually oriented. Although my great-niece is at the upper end of the age range it's geared toward, it's probably more appropriate given her limited reading skills. But is this magazine going to satisfy a kid who is already nuts for Hannah Montana and those appalling Bratz characters? Even though her reading skills aren't where I think they should be for her age (I won't be sharing this review with my sister and niece, of course) she watches plenty of TV and has pretty tween-driven tastes for a kid who only next year will be spending an entire day in school.
It's a lovely magazine, much like its sister publication, and again, devoid of advertising. Even the how-to for making "celery boats" has no placements. Of course, I can tell that the low-fat cream cheese they are using is Horizon because I know the packaging so well, but they have it turned it in the photo so you can't see the label. I'm sure this is a parent pleaser for those who don't want to expose their kids to any more advertising than necessary. But I'm worried that this mag won't hold my great-niece's attention. My gut says she's going to think it's childish and not cool, even though she would benefit greatly from spending some time with it.
Another mag that caught my eye was National Geographic Kids. It didn't hurt that it's the "Special Awesome Animals Issue!" with the cover story on "Amazing Dolphins." I'm a huge animal fan and will actually be swimming with dolphins on my 40th birthday in two weeks, so this seemed like a good one to investigate.
This is a very visually oriented magazine, but there is plenty of copy, too. From the cover story, I learned about several of the more than 30 species in the dolphin family. Another story with beautiful art direction taught me "20 Cool Things About Butterflies." Like Highlights, there are games, jokes and reader contributions. I'm sure my great-niece would enjoy "Funny Fill-In," which is like the classic "Mad Libs."
There is advertising in this publication, and the reader comments on Amazon.com really took issue with it. However, I didn't find it obtrusive or bothersome. It's pretty clear where the ads end and the editorial begins. Personally, I'm willing to expose my great-niece to a little commercialism if it gets her reading. And I think she will find this bright and engaging magazine more compelling than High Five, given that she's already pretty accustomed to -- and expectant of -- commercialization.
Published by: Highlights for Children, Inc.
National Geographic Kids
Published by: The National Geographic Society
Frequency: 10 times a year