I’ve always been intrigued by Zines. The connection to feminism and counter culture is a potent, attention-grabbing mix. The Riot Grrrl movement in the 1990s, my introduction to zines, is fascinating. Current applications for zines still combine creative self-expression and providing a platform for under-represented voices. In this case the voices of kids.
So what exactly are zines? They’re independently-produced, small run magazines. Before the proliferation of Internet-based blogs and social media, this was a powerful way to express ideas, particularly those outside of the main-stream. It still is.
Scaffolding a Zines Project
When introducing a zines project with kids start with some zines history. Follow this up by explaining that this is their opportunity to tell the world about something that matters to them. This could be a passion, something they know how to do, a story, or really anything else that’s meaningful. Zines can be words, images, or a combination of the two. Show them a few examples of kid-appropriate zines (or at least zine covers).
Since we made zines that were displayed to parents, sent to other schools, and to two independent bookstores, I asked students to make sure that their zines were appropriate for any age-group and didn’t include weapons or anything else frowned upon in the school setting (and I double-checked).
I had them create a story outline using a beginning-middle-end storyboard. We practiced folding a mini-zine, using a template, to get the hang of it and so that they could visualize the pages and layout of their zines.
They created their zines on blank paper using their mini-zines template as guidance and I made four photocopies of each of their completed zines. Some students chose to add color and additional details to their copies before putting a copy into separate tubs to be distributed to; two schools, two independent bookstores and one copy to put on display for our parent night, (and take home to keep after). Next time we do this project, I’ll make one additional copy that they can share or trade with a friend.
Collaborating with Other Schools
Collaborating with other schools was serendipitous. One of my colleagues messaged that she was thinking of making zines with her students at the exact same time I was starting my lesson planning. She, another interested librarian, and myself shared resources and sent completed zines to each of the other schools. My students loved seeing the zines made by students at other schools.
Real-World Connections, Profits and Student Choice
The zines we sent to the bookstores were put on display. One of the stores sold each copy for $1. The proceeds were then used to purchase books for the library. The other store gave copies away and donated books to our library.
The new books were chosen by the zine authors. I gave them links to a Google form to vote for the titles they wanted to see in our library, and links to resources such as the middle-grade New York Times Best-sellers list (and our online library catalogue so that they weren’t suggesting books we already owned). I made a compilation of their suggestions (with a little help from my fabulous library clerk), and had them vote for their top 3 choices.
You Should Make Zines Too!
I highly recommend making zines with kids. It’s exciting, incredibly engaging, has real-world connections, raises student voices and covers a whole host of leaning standards along the way.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Share questions, comments and other zine-related ideas in the comments below.
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