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Sunday, May 5, 2002

Something for the little people

Staff writer

When it comes to the media, children haven't really been given much scope for expression. There are television programs and magazines designed for kids, but very few in which the target audience is also a part of the creation process. Some people want to change that.

News photo
Mammoth magazine "for kids by kids" features such topics as the latest fashion that would spark conversation between children and parents.

Mammoth, a magazine with the tag line "for kids by kids," made its debut in December 2000, the result of efforts to overhaul children's magazines by getting kids involved in the planning, writing and editing process.

"It's a new type of kid's magazine that other publishers haven't considered in the past," says chief editor Koji Yoshida, 37. "I feel that if children themselves can take part, it will revitalize children's magazines."

Earlier in his career, Yoshida worked on underground, subculture magazines, and these shaped his approach at Mammoth. As an editor, he came in contact with many trend-setting artists and found most of them adopted some kind of "childlike and playful aspects to their work." This made their art more global, he believed, allowing it to communicate to people of all cultures. The world of art, he found, was rather like the world of children.

"Children around the age of 8 to 12 aren't bound by preconceived ideas and can think more freely," he says.

As the magazine is still in its early stages, Yoshida has yet to fulfill his goal of full participation by his target readers in the planning and creating process. At present, the magazine is put together mainly by himself, an assistant editor and a designer. However, he has already started recruiting children who want to contribute as writers, illustrators, reporters, models and photographers. Readers are also encouraged to send in their ideas for the magazine.

"Ideally, children will hold editorial meetings every month and each one of them will take responsibility for some pages," Yoshida says of his ultimate goal, adding that he welcomes the participation of even very young children and their parents.

But Mammoth, published by Knee High Media Japan and with a circulation that currently stands around 15,000, is special not only in terms of its creative approach but also in its ambitions. Its aims are to provide children with "mental vitamins" and improve their communication with their parents, to be educational, but also fun.

Each magazine (there have been four so far, with a targeted three to four issues a year) is based on a theme. Topics covered in the past include "jobs," "radio," "playing outside" and "fashion." For the jobs edition, readers were asked to write in about their dream jobs and kid reporters were sent out to interview adults currently working in those fields. In the fashion edition, other young reporters interviewed the designer agnes b.

The magazine also covers a variety of fun stuff, from comics to cooking lessons, and each issue includes a "toy box" stuffed with free gifts (the fourth issue included a badge from the children's brand Hysteric Mini, stickers, a wristband and a CD of a DJ's remix of the voices of more than 100 children from all over Japan).

But Mammoth places the most emphasis on children's development.

"For the kids especially, I hope the magazine will be inspiring, so that after reading it, they would want to take some kind of action. For example, if the theme is jobs, I hope they might go and ask their parents about their jobs. Hopefully it will spark fruitful and lively conversation at home," says Yoshida. "It's a magazine for both children and adults to enjoy."

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