Reading outside the book – a week-long celebration of magazines for kids (1)

posted in: 2. Illustrators and Authors | 18

Over the summer holidays I’ve been keen to keep M reading, enjoying reading and developing her reading skills. Of course we’ve read plenty of books together and to each other, but I’ve also been trying to sneak in some “hidden” reading where ever possible. One of the easiest ways I’ve found of getting M really excited about reading to me is by giving her a magazine.

I didn’t want to be buying TV or film tie-in magazines, so over the summer I’ve tried out a few others to see which ones we liked best as a family and which ones M has enjoyed. Over the course of the coming week I’ll be reviewing a whole range of different children’s magazines. We’ve found one we’ll definitely be subscribing to – I hope you will find something right for your family too!

I have fond memories of oohing and aahing over photos in my parents’ National Geographic magazines when I was a kid, so I was definitely up for giving M a go with National Geographic Kids.

M loved the posters that form the central pages of every edition, the free gifts were exciting, but her favourite aspect of the magazine was the number of images and notes about animals.

Inside spread from a recent National Geographic Kids magazine

The magazine has a very “busy” feel to it. There are lots of different font sizes, colours, photos, boxes and columns all overlaying each other in fact it looks like a pinboard with lots of bursts of ideas, postcards and post-it notes stuck all over it.

As a parent there were some aspects of the magazine that didn’t appeal to me. The adverts were almost indistinguishable from “real” content, and I felt too much of the magazine was given over to competitions (a sneakier form of advertising in many cases).

Inside spread from a recent National Geographic Kids Magazine

National Geographic Kids is the cheapest children’s magazine we tried (with a cover price of £3.20), is very widely available in the UK and with numerous international editions too, and is published monthly.

If you’d like to subscribe to the UK edition of National Geographic Kids at a specially discounted rate of £20 for 12 issues (almost 50% off) click here and enter the discount code NGKPBTB.

Being a house of book lovers I was very keen introduce M to “the best children’s book magazine in the world“, Puffin Post. First established in 1967 by Kaye Webb, editor of Puffin Books, Puffin Post includes all sorts of book-related articles aimed at kids, from author interviews, to short stories and excerpts from new books. There are also lots of opportunities for children to see their own artistic and literary endeavours in print. Puffin Post has two editions, the regular Puffin Post, for children aged 9+, and Puffin Post for Pufflings, for children aged 6+.

An excerpt from next month's Puffin Post

Puffin Post works on a subscription model. In addition to six magazines a year, each subscription brings six free books (a mixture of popular titles, classics, books by new authors and established series), a membership pack (including stationary, enamel badge and soft puffin toy) and access to the website’s VIP area. An annual UK subscription costs £45 (European subscription is £80, whilst a worldwide subscription is £120).

Puffin Post (for both younger and older readers) is about A5 size (more akin to a book than a magazine) and like National Geographic Kids adopts the “pinboard” look and feel. It doesn’t contain adverts.

An excerpt from next month's Puffin Post for Pufflings

Although M enjoyed reading Puffin Post for Pufflings (especially the fun facts, jokes and word games) I think she’ll get much more out of it when she is really reading chapter books on her own, so although the age guideline is 6+ I would say be guided by your child’s reading level; if they are already reading and enjoying (short) chapter books then they’ll appreciate the author interviews, sneak previews and free books much more as they will recognise the books and authors being discussed.

That said, if your child is on the cusp of reading chapter books Puffin Post might prove inspirational for them (M has certainly asked about a couple of authors mentioned in the magazine she read) and there’s plenty of other content for them to enjoy – colouring in, activity pages, craft and drawing tutorials.

Perfect for any bookworm, and great for encouraging bookworms-to-be I think we’ll be subscribing to Puffin Post for M’s 7th birthday at the end of the year. I also think Puffin Post could make a great gift as a classroom subscription – perhaps a teacher’s end of year gift with a difference.

If you’re hesitating about taking out a subscription, perhaps this will sway you :-): enter the voucher code PSEPT11 when you click on “Buy a subscription” here and save £3 off a new Puffin Post or Puffin Post Pufflings subscription. (Valid from 22/08/2011 to 19/09/2011. Available for new subscriptions only. Only valid for online subscriptions.)

Alphabet Glue is an e-magazine for children (and their grown-ups) who love books, produced by the brilliantly creative blogger Annie, who you can find at Bird and Little Bird.

Alphabet Glue is a downloadable, print-at-home magazine full of book-ish activities for families to do together such as printable reading records, how to go on a library scavanger hunt, tutorials for making different types of books and themed reading lists (with an American flavour). With a focus on doing and creating, rather than reviews and interviews I think Alphabet Glue is a perfect companion to Puffin Post.

M and J making "Story character houses" using the tutorial in Alphabet Glue

Strictly speaking Alphabet Glue isn’t written as a text specifically for children – rather it’s primarily a set of craft / activity tutorials written for adults, to inspire them and their children – but given its focus on projects inspired by children’s books I felt any round up of magazines for kids would be infinitely poorer were Alphabet Glue not included.

Alphabet Glue looks very stylish (although with only a black and white printer at home, I found the magazine looked more appealing on my computer screen than when I printed it off), is advert free and certainly contains enough new and interesting crafty projects and book love to make it more than worth the $4 is costs to download (you can pay with PayPal). Two volumes are currently available and I’m looking forward to the third due out next month.

Disclosure: I received free copies of National Geographic Kids, Puffin Post and Alphabet Glue to review. My comments however reflect mine and M’s honest opinion.

18 Responses

  1. jojoebi

    we get the Nat Geo Kids mag and I have to agree with the advertising and other ‘crap’ in there, for a quality publication it really annoys me

    • Zoe

      Hi Jojoebi, Both my girls were drawn to it because of free toy and shiny look and so M has definitely read a lot because she likes how it looks, but yes, I feel uncomfortable with amount and style of advertising.

    • Zoe

      Even in Australia, it definitely is great for book loving families. Is there something similar ie magazine with a focus on books for children in the States?

  2. Library Mice

    Wow, didn’t know about Alphabet Glue, will go and investigate right now!!!
    My son has been receiving Puffin Post since it was resurrected and I have to say I enjoy it more than he does. He just loves his free book, which I guess is no bad thing!
    Regarding magazines, I despair of the poor quality of children’s magazines available in shops in this country! But there are some fab magazines available through the post: Anorak and Ploc, Okido and the Bayard magazines which originate from France. They are not cheap, but well worth investigating (

    • Zoe

      ha ha! Library Mice – I’mr eviewing Anorak, Ploc and Okido later this week… but the Bayard magazine is new to me. Off to investigate! Thankyou.

  3. choxbox

    Totally agree re Nat Geo – too busy and the ads. We’d stopped subscribing after a year. Haven’t even saved them – while we have all the Nat Geos of the last 8-9 years or so, my 6 and 11 year olds often sit with stacks of old issues.

    In fact I often find that giving a child a proper grown-up mag is a better idea, with just an article that is age-appropriate marked out for them to read. My older one used to love leafing through the Economist when she was 6, and much to my surprise actually used to read bits of it. Still does, pretty much cover to cover.

  4. Zoe

    Love that Choxbox! Just brilliant 🙂 We were encouraging M to read our paper at the weekend but she wasn’t too interested. We’ll keep trying!

  5. Jen

    We love National Geographic Kids!! I recently got a subscription- actually included in my blog post today. 🙂


  6. se7en

    Cool post…We actually visited the NGKids Office in Cape Town – totally fun day!!! My kids enjoy Whip Up’s Action Pack… and we scored a huge box of Cricket, Ladybug and Spider mags at the library sale… Otherwise my older kids have loved horrible histories and horrible science… loved them!!! My daughters enjoy Felicity Wishes, each magazine has a craft, an outfit for the sweetest dolls and a career theme like journalist, baker, explorer… really great for girly girls without the whole princess slant.

  7. Zoe

    Hi Se7en, I just knew you’d have good advice on magazines! Apart from WhipUp’s one they’re all new to me, so off to explore. Thanks for all the tips.

  8. se7en

    Just came back to look at the puffin mag… It looks so cool, wish you got it over here!!! Wish, wish, wish….

  9. Caren Nichter

    I’m a children’s librarian and a “granny” (my grandchildren are ages 3 and 5) and live in the USA. My favorite “bookish” magazines for kids on this side of the pond are “Cricket” and the other offerings from Carus Publishing. My college-age daughter still loves their “Muse” magazine. I have no connection with this publisher, by the way, but simply love their magazines. (They contain no ads.)

  10. The Mad House

    I actually like the fact that we have different ideas on the NG Kids mag. I do wonder if it is due to the fact we are parents of children of the opp sex? I am keen on anything that gets my boys to read and find that they are pretty much bombarded with adverts no matter what I do. I do explain the difference to them. Maxi is a very competent, but reluctant reader. Mini on the other hand reads anything and everything. We had a trial of Bayard and Mini loved them, but again Maxi wasn’t interested.

    • Zoe

      Hi Mum in the Madhouse, yes perhaps that has something to do with it. My problem is that M is supremely sensitive when it comes to adverts. Despite talking to her about them, she’ll happily believe what they say hook line and sinker so I try to avoid them wherever possible!

  11. Trinity W

    I didn’t see anyone mention the Zoobooks magazine group. They have 3 different subscriptions (based on age) and very reasonably priced. You can check them out at

    Kids just naturally love animals so a well-made magazine with great information and photos will automatically be a winner with them. I thoroughly enjoyed the Zoobooks and would welcome your comments.

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