Samir Husni, a leading expert and lecturer on the North American magazine scene, is not especially concerned with what publications his 10- and 14-year-old children read so long as they read something.
The good news, says the University of Mississippi journalism professor, is that publishers are beginning to fill the void that once existed between the kiddie magazines and older teen and adult fare.
Without attractive magazines aimed at fifth- to eighth- graders, magazines stand to lose future generations of adult readers. "That's why Sports Illustrated came up with Sports Illustrated for Kids," Dr. Husni says, "because junior high is where kids are starting to be interested in reading and following in the footsteps of their parents."
To be sure, SI for Kids, a major success, has been around since 1989. But now it increasingly has company, such as Time for Kids, Disney Adventures, and Nickelodeon magazine. Husni says a junior Forbes magazine and other offshoots may lie ahead. Already something called Kids Wall Street News is published in California (www.KwsNews.com).
Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, also has had a junior version for many years, once called Penny Power, but now known as Zillions. It's targeted at 8- to 12- year-olds and reviews everything from fast food to yo-yos to school supplies.
"Kids really like to get the inside story, the inside scoop on things," says managing editor Karen McNulty.
Zillions enjoys similarities to a core of lesser-known youth publications that emphasize interaction with readers and freedom from advertising.
Among the models in this ad-free genre are Cobblestone - the American history headliner in a family of educational history, culture, and science magazines sold mostly to schools - and Cricket, by Carus Publishing, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. That's an impressive run in a business notorious for failed start-ups.
Cricket magazine's strength is fiction, which seems to appeal more to girls than boys, despite no declared gender allegiance.
Like other niche magazines it approaches publishing with missionary zeal, and its young readers respond by being fiercely loyal and engaged. Many participate in the Cricket League series of writing contests, a feature that runs right alongside the predominantly adult-generated magazine content.
Other magazines, such as New Moon (www.newmoon.duluth.mn.us) Blue Jean (www.bluejeanmag.com) and Merlyn's Pen (www.merlynspen.com), leave most of their copy needs in the hands of the young people who read them.
New Moon, in fact, is guided by an editorial board of 8- to14- year old girls whose service is rewarded with savings bonds (the state of Minnesota doesn't allow paychecks).
Cricket is so well received, it has spawned Spider, Ladybug, and Babybug for younger readers. Recently the Peru, Ill.-based publisher responded to pleas from Cricket "graduates" with Cicada, for teenagers and young adults, a single 128-page issue sells for $7.95, double Cricket's cover price and a reflection of the financial realities of advertising-free publishing.
These high quality, subscriber-supported magazines are often not easy to find, and it's safe to say that many parents probably don't realize they exist, unless they talk to school librarians or happen upon them at major bookstore chains or specialty stores.
One classic with a built-in circulation is Boys' Life, the venerable monthly published by the Boy Scouts of America. It has managed to stay abreast of the times with shorter stories and splashier graphics. Anyone can subscribe, not just Scouts.
Unless you receive direct-mail solicitations, you may have to search out some of these young-adult magazines. Check the library, the Web, call us (617-450-2395) or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.