Engaging people in reading is only part of the path toward true literacy. It’s equally important to engage them in writing. The skill involved in shaping a text, be it story or rant, engages literacy skills on a deeper level through active use. Reading and writing zines makes it clear that the power of literacy skills is tangible and doable.

Visual literacy is also practiced in zine-making, as the message of imagery is wrestled with through collage, drawing, and juxtaposing image with text. Zine makers learn how powerful images can be to create an emotional response or to further the power of the written text.

Zines are also a path toward cultural literacy. The depth and breadth of our culture is not adequately presented by mainstream media. Zines offer off-the-beaten path images and stories, and commentaries about society, making it clear that people should be creating their culture.


Creating and not just consuming culture, writing, images, and ideas is central to the power of zines. More and more of our activities are mediated and shaped for us, rather than created by us. Making choices is central to developing creative skills. In today’s culture it can feel like we have to consciously separate ourselves from the mainstream in order to have real choices, and zine culture provides a community of other do-it-yourself experimenters to make contact with.

Zines also provide a place to practice both individual and collaborative creativity. The skills of each are unique, and our culture does not provide adequate forums to really explore either. Collaboration is a skill that is given short shrift in our hierarchical and competitive society. Zines are one way to practice the give and take that collaboration entails, as you work with others to create a collective expression.


It’s frequently said that history is created by the winner. These days the winner is corporate media, the government, and those with the money to control others. It’s essential that the experiences of each person is valued, that the culture they are part of is valued, that the importance of the small stories of life are valued as all being essential to the recording of history. Being a part of shaping history means including zines the archives of libraries, and treating them as valuable resources for future generations who want to learn from the past.