Why kids and newspapers?

June 5, 2013

By Vicki Whiting

Publisher and Editor | Kid Scoop, Sonoma, CA

In 1986, I started teaching third grade in Sonoma Valley. The social studies focus was (and still is) community. I was thrilled with this topic, especially after living in the Los Angeles area for years. When I moved to Sonoma, I became immersed in our wonderful community and wanted to be sure my students learned the value of learning about, and becoming involved in, their own community.

However, the textbook at the time, made the topic boring—how anyone can make the topic of community boring is a mystery to me, but this book did. It had copy such as, “A community is a place to live, a community is a place to work, a community is a place to play.” You get the idea.

One day, I slammed the book shut, woke up my students and switched from teaching with a textbook to asking my students what they knew about—and what they wanted to know about—our community. We brainstormed all kinds of interesting topics. Then I asked what turned out for me to be a life-changing question, “Where do we learn about our community?”

Ian raised his hand with enthusiasm and said, “The newspaper!”

The lightbulb went on for me. I went to the Index-Tribune with an idea—a page in the community newspaper just for children. The idea was to provide children with a doorway into the newspaper. Years of teaching with the newspaper proved my theory correct—children started reading the children’s page and then they flip through the paper and read other current, relevant information about their hometown.

Where textbooks often seem disconnected and irrelevant, I found even the most reluctant readers would dive into their newspaper with enthusiasm. I’ll never forget the day one of my students, upon seeing the newspapers for our classroom, commented, “Oh good, we don’t have to read today.”

Certainly they read when teaching with the newspaper. In fact, I found students would tackle higher-level vocabulary and more complicated sentence structures when motivated to understand the content. Relevant, local content motivates students to read.

And, the research underscores what I observed in my classroom. Studies have consistently found that children’s reading test scores increase an average of 10 percent when they read newspapers once a week or more. And, for at-risk students, the gains can be as much as 30 percent.

Also, children exposed to newspapers in their early years are more civically engaged as adults. And that has always been one of my main goals—to encourage children to become active members of their communities.

With the children’s page in the Index-Tribune and now Kid Scoop News, my local community newspaper for children, we generate and provide local information that encourages children to learn how their communities work. A big achievement has been the ability to foster young journalists, such as a team of young reporters who recently interviewed education innovator, Salman Khan.

We provide subscriptions of the Index-Tribune and Kid Scoop News free to classrooms, libraries and youth organizations. We do this with sponsorships from local businesses and organizations who partner with the publication or subsidize subscriptions for individuals, classrooms or schools. Although there is no advertising in the newspaper, sponsors’ support is recognized in a variety of ways.

For sponsors, this is an opportunity to be acknowledged as a supporter of education and to reach an audience that includes nearly every parent, teacher and elementary-aged child in Sonoma County. For more information, call 707-996-6077 or visit kidscoopnews.com.

 

Vicki Whiting is president, editor and founder of Kid Scoop, a weekly newspaper feature geared to children ages 7 to 12 that appears in more than 300 newspapers with a combined circulation of more than 7.5 million.

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