Ways to pique kids’ curiosity about current events.
When my son was in grade 3 his teacher, Jonathan Tilly, let me come into the classroom and talk about the news. I’m a freelance journalist and a bit of a news junkie – I wanted to share current events with the kids.
Jon asked the kids what stories they wanted to follow. Would it be Justin Bieber? Fashion? Funny cat stories?
They chose the G20 Summit.
It might be surprising that eight-year-olds wanted to learn about the G20. But “G20” isn’t how we introduced it. We told them that some of the world’s most powerful leaders were coming to Toronto, and that security alone was going to cost $850-million. That, the kids were curious about.
Parents add context
Given enough background and context, kids are hugely interested in the news. The problem is, the news is mostly geared to adults. Stories often don’t include a lot of background, so they tend to be inaccessible to kids.
And that’s a shame, because knowing what’s going on in the world helps kids see how they fit into it.
Fortunately, parents can play a major role in “opening up” the news for kids. It’s as simple as explaining who the newsmakers are, what the public understands about them, and some of the back-story. For instance, recently Lance Armstrong confessed to Oprah that he cheated at cycling. Kids might find that story interesting – if they only knew who Lance Armstrong was and what he’d been through.
Parents can also help kids think critically about the news. They can explain how the news can be biased depending on the news organization, the reporter or even the medium. For instance, TV news tends to be best at covering stories that have good visuals.
By talking about bias – even our own family biases – we help ensure that kids won’t just consume the news, but will question it in a healthy way.
Another thing parents can do is unlock the “secrets” of the media. Parents can point out that newspapers aren’t meant to be read cover-to-cover, like a book. They have sections and headlines that help the reader skip to what they find most interesting.
Tailor news to child
Parents should tailor the news to their child, considering their age and personality. They should also be open to discussion. The questions that come from kids about the news can be the best part of a parent’s day.
What news should parents choose? Try:
» Big, breaking stories that kids may overhear and perhaps be wondering or even worried about.
» News about subjects your child is particularly interested in. For instance, science or hockey or archeology (Richard III’s bones were recently discovered under a parking lot in Leicester, England).
» Rare, exciting or significant events. The Canadian astronaut who’s living in the International Space Station is tweeting from space. (Commander Hadfield has a Facebook page and recently debuted a song from space with Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies.)
» An important local or world event like an election.
It’s very important to help kids feel safe when listening to the news; explain why an event is rare, or couldn’t happen to them. There may be no safe angle for a news story that involves violent crime so parents may want to stay away from those stories entirely, or be extra-vigilant in terms of listening to their child’s questions afterward.
TeachingKidsNews.com is a kid-friendly news website with free, daily articles that are appropriate for kids.
Each story includes questions and grammar points. Kids can read it every day to find out what’s happening, or parents can use the site to talk about current events with their child.
Follow @teachkidsnews on Twitter.