Monday, December 19, 2005

Newspaper In Education : Kids & News

Tucked inside the Gazette on the second Wednesday of each month is the Kid County Courier, a special section designed specifically for our younger readers. The publication is part of Newspapers in Education, a nationwide program that provides newspapers to classrooms to be used as a teaching tool and to expose elementary school children in particular to reading a newspaper.

According to Kristen Jackson, the Gazette's education services director, each week more than 550 students in the Sequim area receive a copy of the Sequim Gazette. That means 550 students are learning the ins and outs of how to read and use a newspaper.

Who reads the newspaper? It's a question circulation managers, publishers and editors struggle to answer when crunching end-of-month numbers that justify revenue to newspaper owners.

It's also a question whose answer is often crucial to newspaper content.

One statistic is constant: Young people aren't reading the newspaper. That includes not only elementary aged children, but also teenagers and young adults up to their mid-20s. And if you aren't reading a newspaper as a young adult, chances are you are not going to develop the habit once you turn 30.

The reasons for the decrease in readership among young people include the wide variety of media choices, the declining role of the newspaper in the home and the lack of newspaper marketing aimed at young people. The growth of the Internet in the past decade has only exacerbated the trend.

Surveys show those in the 18-24 age bracket spend an average of 48 minutes per day gathering news: nine of those minutes are spent reading a paper, 31 watching television news and 13 listening to radio news. By contrast, those between 50 and 64 spent an average 71 minutes on news per day, 21 from the paper, 34 television and 16, radio. Publishers and editors say young people don't have a huge hunger for reading hard news in a newspaper. They get that from the television or the Internet.

Back to the Kid County Courier. This week's publication includes a variety of stories and puzzles, all created with the holiday season in mind. While it is wonderful that teachers in the Sequim schools use this section as part of their curriculum, what is even better is for parents to open the pages of the Kid County Courier and share some quality time with their children reading the stories together and solving the puzzles. And it is also a good time to thumb through the pages of this week's Gazette, perhaps reading aloud a story or two that affects our lives here in Sequim.

The news habit is something that needs to be cultivated early, or it never comes. Remember, the first and best teacher a child has is his or her parent.


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