My children love retrieving our family's mail from the letter box. Their happiness at fetching the mail is connected to the joy they experience when sending or receiving letters from friends, but it's also largely due to their monthly French children's magazine issues. Years ago I balked at the price of a magazine subscription from France, but within a few months I concluded that the literacy benefit is worth the cost. There's nothing quite like a quality children's magazine, packed with age-appropriate activities, stories, and fresh vocabulary, for encouraging a young reader. A subscription to such a magazine is especially rewarding for parents when it fosters bi-literacy. French publisher Milan Jeunesse released three new magazine lines for children within the past year or so, so I'm happy to feature these new magazines here on Intentional Mama today. Below these features, I share our tried-and-true favorites from previous years and how we subscribe to them here in the U.S.
Kolala: Mes héros les animaux! (1-4 years; 19 pages)
Kolala is a child's first magazine; it is particularly oriented towards toddlers and preschoolers who adore animals. (The title plays on a child's pronunciation of koala.) The magazine is in a small, square format (about 7”x7”) with thick laminated pages featuring a baby animal in full color photos. The text describes the animal from the animal's point of view (first person), with the words printed in French cursive so as to be read aloud by a parent or caregiver. The photos are large close-ups that are quite charming.
After the animal presentation in Kolala, there's a two-page spread featuring a drawing of the animal with labeled body parts and a description of its qualities. This is followed by a two-page spread of various animals with a question-based activity (i.e., find the animal that only has two legs). The following two pages explain the difference between this new animal and the previously featured animal. Kolala also features a fictional animal story with cute illustrations. The final pages feature another basic animal activity (i.e., choose the correct tail for this animal from one of the three photos).
Verdict: My four-year-old son and I enjoyed our read of Kolala together. We easily read it in a single 15 minute sitting, but caregivers and children alike will appreciate the colorful, sweet images of the baby animals. The varied vocabulary is excellent for this age group, even fairly advanced for non-native French learners. Be aware, though, that there are only four issues per year, so the cost is a bit high (likely due to the thick, laminated, full-color pages—they're fairly indestructible for toddlers).
Mordelire: Pour lire, rire, et frémir (7 to 11 years; 87 pages)
MordeLIRE ("Dying of reading,” a play on the phrase mort de rire, dying of laughter) is a magazine focused on attracting mid-elementary readers to stories by eliciting emotional responses that will make them want to share the stories with their friends. Each issue features a humorous mini novel, followed by a scary story (i.e., Invasion Zombie). These stories are featured in large type with prominent illustrations and highlighted vocabulary words with synonyms provided in the margin.
MordeLIRE also features fiction and non-fiction comic strips, tongue twisters, an environmental infographic, drawing contests, art and submissions from readers, book recommendations, jokes, and a comic strip mystery to solve. My favorite feature is an editing and proofreading challenge: a wolf has written his dictation, but it's riddled with mistakes. On the reverse page is the corrected dictée, complete with the teacher's punitive comments and a lousy score. I think it's very French and it makes me laugh—but I like the proofreading challenge!
Verdict: My seven-year-old son is a touch too young for MordeLIRE; the stories are still fairly lengthy for him to read on his own. (He's in first grade; MordeLIRE is suggested for 2nd grade and up.) My ten-year-old daughter is an avid reader, and while she read MoredeLIRE cover to cover, she wasn't overly crazy about it. The magazine is very well designed to attract and retain reluctant readers, and I expect it does this fairly well. However, for a novel-driven, high-level reader, the sensationalism of this magazine makes it less enjoyable than something with more pensive and meaningful stories. Nonetheless, she and I liked the jokes and proofreading content.
Curionautes des Sciences: Embarque pour l’aventure scientifique! (8-12 years; 31 pages)
My ten-year-old daughter had trouble selecting a magazine subscription this past fall until she discovered Curionautes, and now we're both thrilled that she found a science-focused magazine that she loves. Curionautes covers astronomy, biology, math, and history as it follows a band of illustrated characters through the scientific method, answering readers’ questions and presenting a historic invention. Each issue includes a science-themed poster and a quiz showing how one scientific passion can play into a variety of careers. Milan has also created a Curionautes YouTube channel with two-minute science-themed videos in French featuring the Curionaute crew.
Verdict: While the illustrations are cartoonish and sometimes a bit lurid for my taste, the content of Curionautes is consistently awesome, featuring fascinating science basics as well as its many offshoots of interest. I like the clear, well-conceived diagrams and the historic content. Curionautes is a fantastic new magazine offering that will ride the STEM/STEAM wave of popularity, and for good reason!
Our favorite French children's magazines from previous years:
Our favorite magazines through the years have been Popi (particularly for ages 3-4), Toupie et Chansons (for its music, ages 5-6) or Toboggan (for its mysteries and puzzles, ages 6-7), and Wakou or Wapiti for their nature content (ages 4-9 or so). My children also enjoy our online subscription to Bayam—the only computer games we play in our house at this age and stage. Bayam is an offline (downloaded) program, is mostly educational, and automatically shuts off at the end of a pre-determined time. Online games are fun for my children once a week or so, but reading is something we enjoy on a daily basis, and Milan's magazines add to the fun!
How does one subscribe to French children's magazines in the U.S.?
You can order magazines directly through Milan or Bayard's websites (same parent company), but it's less expensive to order directly through a U.S. representative. On the East Coast and in the central U.S., contact Catherine Lamy (firstname.lastname@example.org), on the West Coast, contact Milena Leonard (email@example.com). You'll get an additional discount if you order two or more subscriptions.
Milan provided us with a few issues for this review. The above links are not affiliate links.
Which magazines do your children enjoy (in English, French, or another language)? Which were your favorite magazines to read as a kid?