There are fewer things more exciting as a kid than getting a piece of mail. For many adults of a certain age, checking the mailbox each month for Highlights magazine was a beloved ritual, a milestone of sorts. In the library, magazines have an important, if somewhat unusual role. Being somewhat flimsy in comparison to hardcover books, they don’t hold up to repeated circulations, and attrition rates are often high. And yet, studies and anecdotes show that magazines are an ideal choice for atypical, struggling, and reluctant readers. Well-placed periodicals often see high in-library usage among a wide variety of readers and can be used as a starting point for research or simply enjoyed as a quick pleasure read.
Recent studies reveal that kids and teens—despite their general fondness for screens—strongly prefer to read print materials. Though the last few years have been tough on traditional magazine publishers, there are still a number of thoughtfully curated, smartly designed, and engagingly written print publications for children and young adults. SLJ’s review editors have selected a number of standout periodicals covering a diverse range of subjects and topics. We looked for publications that are a bit “under the radar” and distinguished through reader-friendly formats, design, and articles. In addition to traditional print magazines, you’ll also find a number of online-only publications that feature quality content and stunning graphic design.
Babies/Toddlers– With softly rounded edges and sturdy pages, this publication offers stories, poems, and facts. An array of fun and colorful illustration styles and mediums keep the presentation lively and varied. A full-page “Guide for Caregivers” offers read-aloud suggestions, extensions, and play ideas to reinforce early literacy development. A free Story Bug interactive app is also available for download.
Cricket Media. 9 issues/yr. print $33.95; digital $9.99; print & digital bundle $39.95.
PreS-K– This clever and creative Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winner offers an array of features and activities to earn its subtitle as “The See and Do, Laugh and Learn Magazine.” There are comics, informational pieces, puzzles and mazes, movement activities, drawing and craft projects, poems, rebuses, and more. A “Play House” spread includes readers’ artwork and photo submissions.
Owlkids. 10 issues/yr. $34.95.
Babies/Toddlers– Rounded edges and thick pages are two toddler-friendly elements of this bright and bubbly publication. Regular features include “Tell Me a Story,” “Read Me a Poem,” and “Let’s Do a Puzzle,” illustrated with full-color photos or engaging artwork, footnoted with presentation tips and talking points for caregivers. The slim issues easily slip into a backpack or diaper bag and are perfect for waiting room, restaurant, or naptime perusal.
Highlights. 12 issues/yr. $39.96.
National Geographic Little Kids
PreS-Gr 1– Winner of a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Award, this bold and glossy publication is full of factoids, interactive elements, and glorious close-up photos from the National Geographic archive. For nature lovers, budding conservationists, and young explorers, these tantalizing tidbits are sure to whet kids’ appetites and send them to the library to learn more about these amazing animals and places.
National Geographic. 6 issues/yr. $15.
Spanish and Bilingual
Choice picks for Bilingual or
15 a 20. Grupo Editorial Notmusa. 12 issues/yr. digital subscription only; available via Nook, Zinio. $15/yr. or $1.25/issue. Gr 8 Up.
ChopChop. ChopChop Kids, Inc. 4 issues/yr. $14.95. Also available in English. Gr 2-5.
High-Five Bilingüe. Highlights. 12 issues/yr. $39.96 Toddlers-K.
Motivos. Motivos. 4 issues/yr. $12/issue. Gr 5-10.
Ranger Rick Jr.
PreS-Gr 2– Introducing preschoolers to the natural world is the mission of this periodical. Dynamic and well-designed, with Ricky Raccoon as the mascot, it ties together stories, age-appropriate facts, and fun activities such as nature crafts, simple recipes, and games. Each 36-page issue includes a poster and loads of engaging animal photographs. Ranger Rick Jr. Appventures for iPad is also available for kids to play games and create wild music, animals, and pictures.
National Wildlife Federation. 10 issues/yr. $15.
Thomas & Friends
PreS-K– A great choice for pint-size train aficionados, this all-things-Sodor-all-the-time publication includes stories, fun facts, and basic reading and math activities, posters, and coloring and craft activities. It is the perfect vehicle for the Thomas-obsessed to reinforce early learning skills while spending time with the affable tank engine and his beloved friends. All aboard!
Redan Publishing. 6 issues/yr. $28.97.
Babies/Toddlers– It’s never too early to foster a love of animals. Sized and constructed for little hands, each issue boasts stories, poems, and fingerplays; puzzles and concepts like counting, colors, and shapes; and lift-the-flap and peek-a-boo features. “Zoobies + You” offer suggestions for extension activities. The main selling point is, of course, the gorgeous full-color wildlife photographs.
Zoobooks. 6 issues/yr. print $29.95; digital $19.95.
Gr 1-5– Psychedelic full-page artwork, surreal story lines, and a delightfully irreverent sense of humor set this literary publication apart. Short stories, games, mini comics, and information are all united by sophisticated design elements and artwork from leading and up-and-coming illustrators. Unlike most read-and-toss mags, kids and adults will want to keep and collect these gorgeous issues.
Anorak Press. 8 issues/yr. $48.
Gr 4-6– This Canadian magazine encourages students to explore current topics in STEM with a dash of pop culture. Articles range on subjects from Mars and acid rain to poetry and SpongeBob SquarePants. The Adventures of Tallulah comic is a regular feature that explores an aspect of water (e.g., how water evaporates) through the wild antics of the titular character, who is a water droplet. Large photos, illustrations, and graphics help break up the text and bring energy to the page.
Brainspace Magazine. 4 issues/yr. $33.
Gr 3-5– Reviewed and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, each issue features kid-friendly and health-conscious recipes. A diverse array of children prepare and make recipes in clear, bright photos. Young foodies can expect to find such delicious menu items as “Herby Roast Chicken” and “Green Gazpacho.” Although most of the content is aimed at upper elementary students, each issue opens with a “ChopChop Jr.” spread with a simple recipe for the very youngest aspiring chefs.
ChopChop Kids, Inc. 4 issues/yr. $14.95. Also available in Spanish.
Gr 1-4– This periodical began as a Kickstarter project in 2014. Each issue focuses on a particular country or region, exploring the flora and fauna through eye-popping and crisp photography, clean design, and child-friendly illustrations. Crosswords, coloring pages, educational games, and posters are found throughout. Ideal for homeschooled students or for any child interested in science, geography, and animals.
EcoKids Planet. 12 issues/yr. $47.87.
Gr 2-6– This visually exciting magazine with a DIY attitude launched in July with an impressive array of illustrated essays and stories, comics, and activities, along with interviews of noted children’s book authors and illustrators, such as Cece Bell and Aaron Becker. Mazes, drawings to complete, and writing prompts offer plentiful opportunities for engagement, while the quality artwork and inventive layouts are sure to inspire imaginative responses.
Illustoria LLC. 4 issues/yr. $56 or $16/issue.
K-Gr 3– Launched in 2016 and filled with stories, puzzles, crafts, graphic and nonfiction pieces, and more, this illustrated cornucopia of ideas and activities meets its mission to encourage “girls to be strong, smart, fierce, and above all, true to themselves….” Accordingly, the first issue was inspired and developed by such female “superstars” as Jacqueline Woodson, Alison Bechdel, Mickalene Thomas, and Diana Nyad and features articles on topics from sports and astronomy to ocean life and street art.
Kazoo Magazine. 4 issues/yr. $50.
Kids, Code, and Computer Science
Gr 4-8– This recipient of a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor offers how-to sections for novice programmers covering a variety of programming languages, challenging code-based puzzles and games for more advanced students, interviews with tech innovators and computer scientists, and articles about new and emerging tech and platforms. A must-have resource for any library serving young coders.
Owl Hill Media. 6 issues/yr. online magazine $15; print + online magazine subscription $29.99/year.
Gr 3-6– With an emphasis on environmental science, this Canadian-based periodical is chock-full of brief articles on topics such as migration and weather patterns; sidebars filled with facts, comics, quizzes, and puzzles; and a plethora of photos. The projects are practical and easy to follow for budding scientists. Kids provide the answers in an advice column and participate in a photo caption competition and a reader’s spotlight. Informative and playful.
Owl Kids. 10 issues/yr. $26.69.
Story Monsters Ink
Gr 3 Up– Young readers get to know more about the renowned authors and illustrators profiled; Dav Pilkey, Jeff Kinney, and Kate DiCamillo were recently on covers. The focus also takes in pop culture, with a behind-the-scenes profile of the voice behind SpongeBob SquarePants, as well as science and nature articles, with further reading suggestions. For parents, there are reading guides of books, some published by advertisers, and adult-oriented features (“What’s Behind the Bullying?”). Also included are readers’ submissions and a “Teacher of the Month” spotlight, along with straightforward recipes and more.
Five Star Publications. 12 issues/yr. $39. Free digital subscription available.
Gr 7 Up– Aspiring artists, fans of animated films, and tweens and teens interested in a future career in animation will appreciate the seriousness with which the subject is treated here. Monthly calendars highlight upcoming television and big-screen premieres as well as DVD releases and conference events. Interviews and feature stories take readers behind the scenes of blockbuster films like Disney’s Zootopia and DreamWorks’s Kung Fu Panda 3, offering insight from working artists and designers.
Animation Magazine. 10 issues/yr. print $60; digital $36; print/digital bundle $78.
Gr 6 Up– A Nashville-based bimonthly magazine that presents daily devotionals (prayers or inspirational words) submitted by diverse teens all over the world to motivate other teens. The Christian faith-focused publication has a teen advisory board, and its members often contribute poems and articles about missions work, college prep, and other teen concerns.
The Upper Room. 6 issues/yr. $21.95.
Gr 5 Up– Long before makerspaces became the hot new thing in the library land, this magazine was encouraging kids and adults alike to build, rebuild, hack, tweak, upcycle, and create. Each issue features ample DIY projects with clearly illustrated instructions, typically supplemented by online video. Readers will also stay up to date on the latest emerging technology and tech tools.
Maker Media, Inc. 6 issues/yr. print $34.99; digital $19.99; print/digital bundle $39.99.
Military Kids’ Life
Gr 4-8– A unique magazine based in Tennessee, with contributions written mostly by military kids themselves. It features the typical puzzles, recipes, and games often found in Highlights, but with a military life focus. Articles include personal stories about living overseas, how to celebrate the holidays without mom or dad, and an interview with a “famous” military kid. Considering the lack of resources for this particular group, this publication is especially relevant to libraries serving communities with armed forces.
Chameleon Kids. 4 issues/yr. $14.95.
Gr 5 Up– The premier quarterly for the most devoted Harry Potter fans. Keep posted on the latest Alliance campaigns and special events—from the “Granger Leadership Academy” conference coming up in spring 2017 to innovative HP programming ideas to various grassroots literacy efforts, such as building libraries in the U.S. and abroad. Muggles need not apply.
The Harry Potter Alliance. 4 issues/yr. $40.
Youth Runner Magazine
Gr 6 Up– A slickly designed digital glossy for young runners and athletes who compete in track and field, cross country, and triathlons. Interviews with a diverse array of rising stars and advice from top coaches make this a must-have for tweens and teens serious about the sport.
Gosportz Media. 6 digital issues/yr. $9.95.
AP: Alternative Press
Gr 9 Up– This look at the alternative and punk music scene features reviews, information on new albums and bands, and other music news, as well as Buzzfeed-worthy roundups and listicles. The design—black font on a white background, with tons of photos—and the spare, accessible text are teen-friendly. Steer your alt and punk fans this way.
Alternative Press Magazine, Inc. 12 issues/yr. print and digital $14.95.
Gr 9 Up– A highly visual lifestyle magazine devoted to presenting “the sights, sounds and spirit of the marching arts.” Interviews and in-depth feature stories cover high school and college marching band, drum corps, winter guard, indoor drumline, and all-ages ensembles. Upbeat and inspirational.
Muse Media. 6 issues/yr. print $14.95; digital $4.99.
Gr 7 Up– Targeting intelligent, ambitious teenagers, this magazine presents readers with career options, covers relevant issues, and gives middle and high school students a platform to discuss their achievements, from running marathons to raising funds for the wrongfully convicted to establishing a program to allow teens to learn more about the medical profession by shadowing physicians. Earnest in tone and fresh and clean in design, this inspiring selection also includes reviews of colleges and lists of relevant organizations, making it an ideal option for the college-bound.
The John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. 5 issues/yr. $30.
Gr 7 Up– A free, online-only magazine for teens interested in user-submitted fantasy and science fiction short stories with a focus on diversity. (“We want the wild, imaginary worlds of our stories to still reflect the world we live in.”) A new story is published each month and a forum is available to students looking to engage in or continue the conversation. Most submissions are from adult authors, though a recent issue featured YA author Phoebe North.
Inscription Magazine. Online. Free.
Gr 8 Up– A digital magazine based in El Paso and Austin, TX, that was established in 2002 to provide an avenue for Latina teens to express their creativity. This publication hopes to empower its audience through media and technology and accepts submissions of poetry, essays, tips, stories, reviews, and ideas. It is guided by its teen advisory board, and some of its recent features include “Rape Culture in Hispanic Communities” and “The Positives of Community College.” It is funded via donations from public and private sectors and offers volunteer and internship opportunities.
Latinitas. Online. Free.
These classic periodicals
need no introduction
Dig (archeology, history)
Faces (culture, geography)
Muse (science, arts)
National Geographic Kids
New Moon Girls
Skipping Stones (literary)
Spider, Cricket, Cicada (literary)
Sports Illustrated for Kids
Stone Soup (literary)
Gr 8 Up– Aimed at young Asian American women, this online magazine examines stereotypes such as the dutiful Asian daughter and controversies around white actors playing Chinese characters, but it also features lighter fare, such as tips on finding vintage clothing. A “College & Career” section adds to the educational aspect. Visual appeal is high: the clean design resembles that of Refinery29, there are tons of photographs, and readers have the ability to filter by categories such as entertainment, beauty, fashion, and relationships.
Mochi Magazine. Online. Free.
Gr 9 Up– Started in 2011 by blogger and fashionista Tavi Gevinson at the age of 15, this online magazine is a refreshingly authentic departure from the often bland fare aimed at teen girls. Through fiction, personal essays, photography, and art from YA contributors, Rookie takes on everything from makeup and fashion to sex and body image to race and culture. Readers will find tips on finding moto jackets in plus sizes alongside coverage of the antirape march, SlutWalk. Adolescents will appreciate the forthright, funny attitude and the atmosphere of inclusivity and encouragement.
Rookie. Online. Free.
Gr 9 Up– Young women tired of mainstream media will flock to this entirely volunteer-funded independent magazine with the tagline “Talking back since 2004.” The personal truly becomes political here, from a profile of a burlesque dancer who uses a wheelchair to an essay in which an author uses her own experiences with body hair as a jumping-off point to explore cultural norms and attitudes. Arresting black-and-white images emphasize the subversive tone. Diverse in terms of subject and contributors and unapologetically body positive and inclusive, this empowering option is just the thing for teens eager to speak truth to power.
Shameless Media. 3 issues/yr. $18.
Gr 7 Up– Provides quality coverage of the issues facing and pertaining to black girls, topics so often missing in mainstream publications. Articles cover a wide range of topics on education, social justice, health, celebrities, movies, beauty, and more. Teens are also urged to submit short stories and poetry. The layout is bright and inviting and with cover girls like musicians Chloe and Halle (spring 2016), who were recently signed by Beyoncé, sure to attract readers.
Sesi Magazine. 4 issues/yr. $10.
Gr 9 Up– Recognizing that sexuality can be a murky and overwhelming topic for adolescents, the staff of this resource for teens, by teens demystify the subject, addressing the physical (penis size, vaginal health) and the emotional (fatphobia, coming out) in a candid yet reassuring tone. Young adults drawn in by the bright, eye-catching design will absorb plenty of solid information. More than a sex ed guide, this magazine urges readers to consider for themselves issues such as the importance of virginity. An excellent, sensitively crafted addition.
Answer/Rutgers University. 3 issues/yr. $45. Bulk order rates also available.
Gr 9 Up– Most teens are likely already familiar with this edgy and perennially hip monthly magazine—the logo and its many reiterations (T-shirts, hats) are a popular aesthetic on Tumblr. Content focuses largely on skateboarding news, trends, and events; interviews; and profiles of skateboarders from the United States and around the globe. The photography is top-notch. Students can enjoy bright photos of Ishod Wair’s “hectic double-set tailside” and Wes Kremer’s “frontside flip into the crust,” to name a couple.
High Speed Productions. 12 issues/yr. $17.95.