The Salvation Army's children's magazine Kids Alive!, which was launched in 1881 as the Little Soldier, is marking its 140th anniversary.
Aimed at children aged from 7 to 11, the magazine started running comic strips in 1928, at least a decade earlier than the appearance of Dennis the Menace in the Beano in 1938.
The content of the magazine is broad featuring competitions, jokes, crosswords and cartoons but it has always had a serious purpose, introducing children to hard hitting issues through a Christian lens. Its first ever front cover highlighted child hunger and featured a Salvation Army tea party in Hull which fed 2,500 children.
Editor Justin Reeves told Premier the magazine has been known under a few different names over the years:
"It was published on the 27th of August in 1881. Since then, we've had a few name changes. It was the Little Soldier for about seven years; It changed its name to the Young Soldier and it remained as the Young Soldier for the best part of a century. In the 80s, as was the way, I think people thought it was cool to shorten things, give them an acronym, so it became Y S for a little while. And then in 1996, it became Kids Alive! which is what we know and love today."
Kid's Alive! has had a variety of cartoon characters over the years. It kicked off with The Bunny Boys, followed by The Joy Boys and Peter of the Primary, which had a full page throughout the 1930s, Billy the Bear, Bram and the Jelly Babies and continues today with Patch's Pals and Kiddo.
Reeves added that they aim for a good balance of content but the magazine's prime focus is to communicate the Gospel of Jesus.
"It's evangelistic, it's educational and it's entertaining. What we try to do with all of the content in Kids Alive! is that we try to make sure its wholesome. And we like to encourage our readers to be active and healthy, physically, mentally, spiritually. So, if you open up a copy no one week is the same. There's always something different inside. But the regular features include a cartoon, Bible story, and a comment that goes alongside it, which is aimed at helping the kids understand the Bible story and how they can use that particular story in their everyday lives. We also have a competition every week, there's usually something to make or do either in colouring corner or creative corner. We also have a double page spread where we try to go a little bit deeper on the issues of the day. Over the years, we've done articles about bullying, about cyber bullying. Last year, we ran a series on those pages regarding Black History Month. No topic is really too tough for us to tackle," he said.
Readers of the anniversary edition have been encouraged to take part in a fundraising challenge to mark the anniversary, while raising vital funds for their local Salvation Army church or centre. The 140 challenge will see young people get sponsored to take part in 140 different activities.
Reeves told Premier how Christians can best pray for the future of the magazine: "Prayers for the team to help us to be innovative, and to keep up with where kids are at today and to find ways of communicating with them, not just about the Gospel, but about important issues that affect them in their everyday lives. Also for our readers. You know, it's great being a kid, I just about remember being a kid and I remember it being fun. But I also remember, you know, it could be a bit of a challenge as well, and there are some tough, tough things that our kids face every day. So pray for our readers as well, that they will continue to love what we do, they will continue to engage with what we do, and they will continue to benefit from the articles that we write and the various content that we include in the comic.