New Magazines Make History Sparkle for Kids IN-DEPTH READS

By Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 15, 1998 | Go to article overview

New Magazines Make History Sparkle for Kids IN-DEPTH READS


Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Malcolm Jensen sits in the publisher's seat of one of the most quietly successful educational magazines in America. And he does so with a dog at his feet and a charming New England town outside his office window.

Against this idyllic backdrop, he calls the shots for the Cobblestone Publishing Co., an outfit that's been in business since 1980 and isn't resting on its laurels.

The flagship of a growing fleet of award-winning magazines, Cobblestone aims its American history lessons at readers in Grades 4 to 9. Three related publications serve the same audience: Calliope on world history, Faces on world cultures, and Odyssey on science. But as of September, Mr. Jensen and his team are sailing boldly into largely unchartered waters with a trio of new periodicals. One is focused on California's rich heritage, California Chronicles; another, Appleseeds, is geared at developing vocabulary, geography, math, and science skills among second-, third-, and fourth-graders. The third, about African-American history, Footsteps, is scheduled for January. Cobblestone's staff has good reason to be encouraged. Last year, eight magazines made the recommended reading list for meeting the national middle-school language-arts performance standards, and half of them carry the Cobblestone name. "We're pretty psyched about this," Jensen says. "It means that not just social-studies people, but language-arts and reading people will say, 'Hey, this is good stuff.'" Cobblestone's magazines aren't on newsstands, but are well known in educational circles. Sales are largely to schools, with only about 20 percent sent to homes - often home-schooling families in need of alternative learning materials. Circulation ranges from 9,000 for Calliope to 32,000 for Cobblestone, which is sent to 30,000 schools. Historical themes The company looks at what is taught in the schools and how its magazines can impart the same basic knowledge in a different manner. Each issue of Cobblestone (nine per year) is built around a historical theme. Among the themes for the current school year: the Battle of Vicksburg, Andrew Carnegie, homesteading, and the Spanish- American War. "The subjects we pick either complement or bear some relationship to what the kids have to learn," Jensen explains. Since this is often optional reading, much effort goes into presenting the subject matter not only with well-defined articles but also with photographs, original art, maps, activities, and contests. Linda Boaen, an eighth-grade social studies teacher in California, discovered Cobblestone publications years ago while teaching in the inner city. …

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