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FOR THE KIDS : Bookworms : With nearly 100 magazines targeted for youngsters on the market, the hard part is picking one.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Want to give the socially correct gift for the child of the ‘90s on your holiday gift list?

Get a magazine subscription. It’s quick. It’s easy. The hardest part is picking out one. Believe it or not, there are nearly 100 magazines available for kids today.

The oldest existing magazine for children, “Wee Wisdom,” dates back to 1893. But the industry has boomed recently. Half of the magazines were founded during the past 15 years. In 1989 alone, eight new ones were launched.

The choices are wide. For youngsters into astronomy and space travel, there is now “Odyssey.” In its seventh year is the magazine “Barbie,” for Barbie doll owners.

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“There are a lot more children’s magazines than there used to be,” said Sunny Church, manager of children’s services division for the Ventura County Library Services Agency. “There is more of an emphasis now on science and the outdoors.”

The magazines have branched out, she said, citing several magazines available today just for children interested in writing.

Using Church’s help and the publication, “Magazines for Children,” by Selma K. Richardson, we have compiled a list of some of the more popular, high-quality magazines.

HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN

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* Subscriptions: 1-800-255-9517; annually, $21.95.

* Around since 1948, this little magazine has a whopping readership of 2.8 million. It appeals to children 2 to 12 years of age because of its wide variety of offerings. It carries short stories, articles about science and famous people, crafts and projects, puzzles, word games, and contributions from children. The magazine promotes “fun with a purpose.” Its back cover often spoofs the front, with a zany picture challenging children to spot all the goofy things.

SESAME STREET MAGAZINE

* Published by the Children’s Television Workshop

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* Subscriptions: 1-800-678-0613; $15.97

* This full-size colorful magazine for children 2 to 6 years old surfaced in 1971 and draws 1.4 million readers. Featured throughout are Bert and Ernie and all the other Sesame Street characters. This is an upbeat, funny, clever magazine with games, puzzles, picture stories, and poems. Each issue focuses on a theme--up and down, night and day, emotions, back to school, signs and symbols. Like the television show, each issue features certain letters of the alphabet and a number.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC WORLD

* Published by National Geographic Society

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* Subscriptions: 1-800-638-4077; $12.95.

* This is the society’s publication for children 8 to 13 years of age. It started in 1975 and now has 1.3 million readers. Like its parent publication, the children’s publication has colorful articles about people, places and animals around the world. The vivid photographs are by skilled professionals. One regular feature, “Kids Did It,” spotlights a child for an accomplishment or skill. A recent issue carried an article on mountain goats, ventriloquists, a camp for would-be pilots, a secret decoder gizmo, and dinosaurs.

RANGER RICK

* Published by the National Wildlife Federation

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* Subscriptions: 1-800-432-6564; $15.

* The colorful magazine for children 6 to 12 years old teaches children about wildlife, natural history and the environment. Started in 1967, it now reaches 900,000 youngsters. The photographs often depict amazing close-ups of fish, fowl, bugs and mammals. A regular feature is a story about Ranger Rick, a raccoon and its critter friends who tackle environmental problems. The December, 1991, issue features a spread on penguins, a question and answer section, another spread on underwater creatures that resemble UFOs, and yet another on musk ox.

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED FOR KIDS

* Published by Time Inc. Magazine Co.

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* Subscriptions: 1-800-334-2229; $17.95.

* Founded in 1989, this magazine already has a circulation of 600,000. Aimed at boys and girls ages 8 to 13, this colorful, splashy magazine has articles about famous adult athletes and child athletes. It’s big, usually close to 100 pages, and it carries ads. “Quick Kicks” is a regular feature, kind of a roundup of recent sports events around the world. Another regular is “My Worst Day,” focusing on how an athlete overcame some problem. A December issue contained interviews with Boston Bruins goalie Andy Moog and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Reggie White, a collection of art by readers, and a feature on do-everything kid Chinyere Vann.

3-2-1 CONTACT

* Published by Children’s Television Workshop

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* Subscriptions: 1-800-678-0613; $15.97.

* This magazine for children 8 to 14 years old is put out by the Sesame Street folks, but you won’t find a single cute Sesame character in it. Its focus is science, nature and technology, all presented in the form of stories, puzzles, games, projects, experiments and Q and A. Its pages are packed with vivid color photographs and the magazine’s approach is upbeat and witty. A recent issue featured a spread on yo-yos, another on acid rain, and one on chocolate.

JACK AND JILL

* Published by the Children’s Better Health Institute

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* Subscriptions: 1-800-444-2704; $13.95.

* Founded in 1938, this magazine is aimed at children from 7 to 10 and focuses on health, although not exclusively. The content includes fiction, puzzles, games, crafts and activities. Children’s contributions are welcomed. Recipes, a health advice column, comic strips, jokes and poetry are regulars.

KID CITY

* Published by the Children’s Television Workshop

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* Subscriptions: 1-800-678-0613; $14.97.

* This magazine, founded in 1974, formerly went by the name, “Electric Company Magazine.” It’s intended for graduates of “Sesame Street,” those youngsters ages 6 to 10. It has a little bit of everything--including ads--all presented humorously and colorfully. In December’s issue, twins are featured in a spread on four sets of twins. A silly two-page picture challenges children to find 12 fiddlers fiddling, 11 lords a-leaping, etc. “True But Strange” is a collection of illustrated tidbits designed to amaze young readers. The fiction is a very short story about “perfect cats.” Other offerings include poetry, contributions from children, news roundup, and a cartoon for youngsters to finish and submit to the magazine.

CRICKET

* Subscriptions: 1-800-435-6850; $29.97.

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* This little magazine, started in 1973, is a top-notch literary magazine for children 6 to 12 who like to read. It has 130,000 readers. In addition to fiction, it carries nonfiction articles, puzzles, games, activities, recipes, jokes, cartoons and book reviews. The magazine is heavily illustrated, but not with splashy color. A recent issue featured an article about an archeological dig site where young students are allowed to assist. It’s accompanied by a story about one student’s experience.

COBBLESTONE

* Subscriptions: 1-603-924-7209; $22.95.

* “Cobblestone,” around since 1979, bills itself as a history magazine for children 9 to 15. It’s a small publication, abundantly and cleverly illustrated in black and white. Each issue centers on an event, period, person or place. A recent issue was devoted to Hawaii--early settlers, volcanoes, early surfers, games, kings and queens, missionaries, etc.

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NEWS FOR KIDS

* Subscriptions: 1-800-841-5437; $18.95

* This magazine is brand-new and attempts to tell youngsters ages 7 to 12 the news in brief, colorful fashion. The December issue included news roundups on such subjects as continuing changes in the Soviet Union, a feature on the Soap Box Derby competition, mini-profiles on children in the news, an article on investing money, a short story, entertainment and environmental news.


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