GUEST COMMENTARY: Reading newspapers early can educate, build lifelong readers

Sunday, March 3, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

I remember my childhood Saturday mornings, rolling out of bed around 8 a.m. and smelling my dad’s French toast sizzling on the griddle. There he was, tucked away at the brown table in the breakfast nook that looks out into the yard, sipping coffee from his Philadelphia Flyers mug.

He was busy. He was reading.

He had the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sprawled across the table, each section expertly unfolded, then folded when he was finished. No crinkles or crumples.

I’d cozy up to him and look over his shoulder, hoping to catch him reading the sports section. The Blues’ score always gave us something to talk about.

After sports, we’d leaf through metro news, and he’d explain why the parents in the pictures were so mad at my school district’s superintendent.

I’d go to school and tell Mrs. Abernathy that the PTA didn’t have enough say in matters.

“Who told you that?” she’d ask.

“My dad,” I’d say. “He reads the paper.”

I still read the newspaper every morning. Piecing through the daily paper has kept me in touch with the community. It, more than any textbook, has furthered my education. It has also landed me on a career path, and hopefully a job.

Research shows that children that read newspapers in school and at home grow up to be lifelong readers at a 78 percent greater rate than their peers who did not.

To help spread the wealth, Missouri’s newspapers, through the Newspapers In Education program, have supplied elementary and secondary students with print newspapers in the classroom for years.

This March, the American Press Institute is promoting Newspapers in Education Week to encourage reading the newspaper in the classroom.

Reading the newspaper provides more than casual conversation for children at the drinking fountain or on the blacktop. It establishes a societal framework for children, an objective understanding of how our community functions and the best ways to navigate it as they grow older.

Each day’s news builds on the next, readying young, malleable minds for the complexities of adulthood.

I know I’m grateful that newspapers made my transition to adulthood slightly easier.

So help Missouri’s newspapers celebrate Newspapers In Education Week. And don’t forget to thank the Newspapers In Education program for its work in shaping the next generation of thinkers.

With the help of the program, one day your child can surprise a teacher with a worldly comment gleaned from reading the morning print edition.

Dan Burley is a senior at MU majoring in journalism and history. In the past year, he’s worked as a reporter and assistant city editor at the Columbia Missourian.

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Mark Foecking March 3, 2013 | 6:54 a.m.

Actually, reading anything early can help build good reading skills early. My mother and father always read me stories where I could always see the words they were reading, and as a result I could read my own stories by the time I was three and a half. Kids have an amazing talent for picking things up if it's just allowed to happen.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 3, 2013 | 7:46 a.m.

Mark Foecking:

Absolutely! Reading to children, before they are able to read by themselves, and also sometimes thereafter - is a very good thing.

It's been noted that small children are like sponges: they easily absorb what they see and hear. If an activity appears important, they realize that. If sitting on one's arse in front of a TV set constitutes the only home entertainment, that too will register with the child. You know you're making progress when the child or grandchild asks to be read to rather than to watch TV.

Of couse there is at least one problem with reading to children: the adult must be able to read.

For those who prefer daytime TV to reading, I recommend watching Hispanic soap operas versus domestic ones. Is there a difference? Yes, all the women cry buckets of tears and all the men are utter b*****ds, even cruel to their own mothers! You don't understand Spanish? That makes it all the better. :)

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