Encouraging kids to read can be trickier than ever these days. Ask a 7-year-old to turn off the television long enough to pick up a new book from the library and she might consider reading to be punishment, not pleasure.
Tell a 12-year-old that the book his class is reading, "The Secret Garden," was one of your favorites and he will eye it with suspicion. Could be like asparagus, he figures: Something you enjoy that he can't choke down, partly because it's supposed to be good for him.
So how do you nudge without nagging? Try magazines. Kids love getting mail, and many of the magazines available today can entertain even the most reluctant reader. Now is the time of year to order holiday gift subscriptions--a great way to take care of the grandchildren and nieces and nephews on your list. Many local libraries have reference copies of kids' magazines, if you want to browse before ordering. Here are some suggestions.
Stone Soup, the magazine by children (ages 9-13). Founded in 1973, this is a literary magazine that publishes stories, book reviews, poems and art by children through age 13. Adults will be astonished by the quality and creativity. Kids are inspired to work on stories and art of their own after seeing what other kids their age can do.
A recent issue features superb linocut prints by East German children, ages 9 and 10. My favorite story was "The Kid Who Loved Baseball," which begins: "Once there was a boy named Michael J. Cangelosi. He loved, and I mean he just loved, baseball. You could tell by the number of baseball cards he had. He had about 3,456. In fact, he had more baseball cards than any boy in the city of Cleveland, Ohio."
Each issue, printed on high-quality paper, includes two pages of suggestions that parents and teachers might want to use to help readers write their own stories and create their own artwork. Contributions to Stone Soup are encouraged, and the editors say they respond within four weeks to all submissions.
Stone Soup is published five times a year by the Children's Art Foundation.
Cricket, the magazine for children (ages 6-14). Cricket has something for just about everyone: short stories, cartoons, adventure stories based on real experiences, puzzles, science and nature projects and contributions by well-known authors and illustrators of children's books.
A recent issue included entry information for a story contest, and it printed the winners of the summer poetry contest. Plus, they published 18 letters from readers.
Ladybug, the magazine for young children (ages 2-7). Published by the same folks who put out Cricket, this made its debut in September. A monthly feature will be the series "Tom and Pippo," written and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.
The full-page artwork, simple games, cartoons and poems will keep younger kids intrigued for 15 to 20 minutes at a stretch, as long as parents share it with them.
Sesame Street Magazine (ages 2-6). No preschooler seems to get enough of Bert and Ernie, so here's a way to pull her away from the TV long enough to read stories starring her favorite characters. A recent issue includes a story mom or dad can read about finding clouds shaped like turtles and trains and alligators.
There are several puzzles based on identifying shapes, plus a game about shadows that kids can cut out.
Every issue of Sesame Street comes with a Parent's Guide that includes an advice column, kids' book reviews and articles on health and safety. A recent 54-page issue also had advice on building kids' self-esteem and encouraging fantasy.