By Diane Gilleland
Zines (short for “fanzines” or “magazines”) are self-published booklets about any subject that grabs you. (Seriously, you can find a zine about just about anything.) There’s a rich zine culture around the world, where music fans, writers, comic book artists, citizen journalists, poets, and others of every stripe are making, trading, and selling their creations.
Zine-making is also a fantastic activity for kids. Not only are zines a fun means of creative expression, making them gives kids a little insight into how published books and magazines are made, and may help them think more critically about what goes into those mainstream publications.
Here are some fun ways to create zine-making experiences for kids of all ages.
8 1/2″ x 11″ copier paper
Assorted drawing materials pencils, crayons, markers, etc.
Computer with word-processing software optional
Printer or copier
In general, you’ll need some of the supplies above on hand for zine-making.
For Young Children: Making Personal Books
Here’s a great learning activity for pre-school age children: make up a few blank zines, using 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheets of paper and this ingenious method. The resulting zines are small in size and only eight pages – perfect for a small child’s attention span.
You can have your child draw pictures on the pages, or try some of these variations:
- Glue or draw a letter on the front cover of the zine. Then, sit with your child and look through old magazines and catalogs for pictures of things that start with that letter. You can cut these out, and your child can paste them into the zine.
- You can also make a color-based zine, and look for pictures of a particular color to cut from old magazines and paste in.
- If your child is particularly fond of, say, fire engines or bears or cookies, you can use this method to make a zine about it.
For Grade-School Children: Telling Stories to Others
Once children are comfortable handling scissors and writing, you can take zine-making to a slightly more complex level. With a little guidance, they can make simple stapled zines by folding 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper in half. For stapling, you can place the zine on a couple scraps of cardboard, as shown here, and then open your stapler to staple twice on the fold. Use a spoon to bend the ends of the staples inward on the other side. (Or, to simplify things, you can buy a long arm stapler.)
These blank zines have all kinds of creative possibilities. Kids can write and illustrate their own stories in them if they’re so inclined, or you can prompt them with some of these variation ideas:
- Print a series of photos of your child onto copier paper. He or she can then cut these out, paste them into the zine, and use them to create a story with drawings and writing. You might even provide some old magazines to lend more image material.
- Ask your child to create a story book for a younger sibling, either re-creating a favorite story or offering an original story. Some other good prompts might be, “Can you make your little brother a storybook about our trip to the beach?” or “What kind of storybook would you make your little sister about what it’s like to be your age?”
- You can also play a story game with these blank zines: help your child cut out a good-size pile of pictures of various people, places, and things from old magazines. Then, place these cut-outs into a bag or box. You and your child can take turns, then, pulling one image out at a time and pasting it into the zine, making up a story that relates to the images as you go. When the zine is filled, the story is complete.
For Middle-School Children: Playing with Publishing
Older kids might enjoy the process of planning, laying out and printing a more traditional zine.
It all begins with a dummy. Fold and cut an 8 1/2″ x 11″ into eight equal pieces. (If your zine needs more pages, feel free to use more paper.) Stack and fold these pieces into a small approximation of your planned zine. Then, your child can make notes and sketches on each page to plan what material will be in the finished version.
Number all the pages, and then take the dummy apart. Now you have a layout guide for your zine.
Next, use full-size 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper to create these layouts. Draw a light pencil line down the center of each page to mark where the zine will be folded. Then, you and your child can use any number of methods to build a layout:
- Traditionally, many “zinesters” have used a typewriter to create text for their publications. If you happen to have one in your garage, pull it out and have your child “set” some type. Then, cut it out and paste it into the layout.
- If your child is computer-savvy, he or she can use a word processing program to generate the text for the zine. This can be cut and pasted, or perhaps you and your child want to use a page layout program together.
You can use photocopies of copyright-free clip art for imagery in your zine – make copies in several sizes and then cut them out and paste them into the layouts. (Incidentally, a zine project is a great way to start teaching older kids the basics of copyright.) You can often find clip art books at libraries, and there are tons of free clip art websites.
You can, of course, also handwrite words and hand-draw images right on the layouts.
Once the layouts are complete, take them to a copy shop and make copies. Then, collate them, fold, and staple. Your kids might like trading the finished zines with each other, giving them as gifts, or even selling them.
More Zine Resources
If you’d like to explore zine-making in more detail, here are some good links:
- This video shows how to turn the one-page zine I showed you for young children into a photocopied version older kids would enjoy.
- Alma Stoller offers an alternative method to making zine layouts.
- Jason Filipow demonstrates a fun approach to a cut-and-paste zine.
- Crafty Chica Kathy Cano Murillo offers her take on making a mini-zine.
- Hanna Andersson talks about her zine-making process, and offers some good resources.
- Swap-bot offers lots of zine swaps that older kids might want to participate in. (Or, you could host a kid-zine swap on the site yourself.)
- The zines pictured in this post come from my collection and date back as much as ten years. Some of them no longer have any web presence, but you can visit Missy Kulik, Niku Arbabi, Craft Leftovers and Microcosm Publishing online.