We are all aware of how interconnected and interdependent our world has become, with information flowing at “twitter” speeds, and the global impact of events happening in any one corner of the world. As Malcolm X once said “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” It follows then that education in classrooms should be geared to equip our children for the 21st century.
Classrooms today are doing a great job of building a strong foundation in the core curriculum that has been developed and perfected over decades. However, more needs to be done to bridge the gap between textbook knowledge and real world application. Introducing current events is that bridge that relates the past to the present and gives children the lens and context with which to see the future. It helps children understand what is happening around their world and use that knowledge to relate to concepts taught in the classroom.
Children absorb more when they learn in the context of news — little nuggets of information get stored away in their minds as they read about the science behind a new innovation or discovery, or the historical context behind a country’s political situation. Current events help to string together varied concepts, and bring a fresh dimension to the process of learning. It helps them understand different perspectives and evolve as critical thinkers — important tools as they grow into decision-making adults.
Expanding our children’s horizons could also trigger in them a passion for a subject, and build an appreciation for the interconnectedness of life. As Apple founder Steve Jobs recalled in his commencement speech to Stanford graduates “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards..”, educators need to continuously provide new tools to children. This is where school and public librarians have a huge role to play to help children and educators discover safe, child friendly news sources that engage and educate children at the same time.
What should librarians look for in a good, child-friendly news resource?
- Age appropriateness of the content
- Attractiveness of the website, intuitive to navigate without annoying or inappropriate ads
- Engaging articles that explain the context behind news events, to help children relate to concepts learned in classrooms
- Articles written in an unbiased, non-sensational manner, encouraging children to form independent subjective opinions
- Have a forum for children to discuss articles in a safe, moderated environment
- Contain a fun element that supports learning with trivia, quiz, contests and more
- Have easy-to-use tools for teachers to integrate the site into their curriculum if so desired
As President Obama said rightly so, this is our “sputnik moment” and we need to rise with the tide and prepare our children for the new, dynamic world they will be inheriting.
Anita Ramachandran is the co-editor of Youngzine, a free, weekly e-magazine, that provides a safe forum for children to learn about the world, appreciate the diversity of thought and form subjective opinions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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