Post Tagged with: "media literacy;"

Media Literacy and “Teaching Kids News”

TKN_logoI’m a freelance journalist who is also involved in children’s literacy.

A few years ago, I brought those two aspects of my life together to co-create: (TKN).

(Here’s the story of how TKN got started: an interested parent + an enthusiastic teacher.)

TKN provides daily, kid-friendly news. For each article we add teaching questions taken from the school curriculum.

So, kids can find out what’s happening in the “real” news–and teachers/homeschool parents can cover off the curriculum.

Recently, TVOParents talked to the founders of TKN about media literacy and why it’s so important for kids to develop critical media literacy skills.

Here is TVO’s wonderful piece on TKN and media literacy.

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Get your kid excited about the news

newspapersEvery week, I do a half-hour presentation at my son’s school on “the news.”

It’s often the best half-hour of my week. And a lot of the kids – and the parents – tell me they look forward to the class.

What I do is pretty simple; you can do it, too. Either at your kids’ school (especially if they’ve got an open-minded teacher like ours) or just at home.

What it will do for your kid is to get him interested in reading the newspaper, following news stories and learning about what’s going on in the world. You’ll be helping him develop a life-long habit of curiosity and general knowledge.

Here’s what I do
I read the newspapers for a week. Simple – most of us do it anyway. So at the end of the week I know stuff, like that Kim Jong-Il died, and that there’s a problem in Syria, and that Sidney Crosby’s out of the game again, and that Justin Bieber’s in Toronto doing a charity concert. In other words – the news.

Then, once a week, I tell the kids about it.

And although it’s a class of grade fours and fives, when I’m talking about the news you can hear a pin drop. That’s because kids are very interested in knowing what’s happening.

In half an hour I might do six or seven stories. The most important thing I do is to use my “adult” knowledge of the world and put events in context. For instance, when an adult reads “Kim Jong-Il has died,” we think “uh-oh – what will that mean for South Korea?” Whereas kids think, “What is a Kim Jong-Il?”

So I open by explaining that there’s a country in Asia called North Korea, and for 17 years it’s been run by guy named Kim Jong-Il… and I explain. I don’t get too graphic and I certainly avoid scary stuff – and I try to point out the positives. For instance, in this case to illustrate his eccentric nature I tell them about how Kim Jong-Il used to dress up as Elvis and sing Blue Suede Shoes. The kids laugh but then they quickly jump to the understanding that if the leader of your country is doing that stuff, it may be amusing but it’s probably not good.

One of the kids in the class is now working on a news website himself. He wants to become a journalist. My son is thinking about a career as a sports journalist. Other kids in the class go home and talk about the news with their parents. One time, I had a parent come up to me and say, “my son explained to me what the G8 is!” So that’s pretty fun.

More than that, the kids are reading. Reading. Seeing newspapers as relevant to them, and not just boring adult stuff.

Since newspapers are not specifically kid-friendly, I point kids to our website,, which offers daily kid-friendly news articles. You certainly don’t have to use this website, but if you need kid-friendly news articles, it’s always appropriate. Plus, it’s free.

However you do it, introduce your kids to the news. You’ll quickly find out that they want to know what’s happening in the world, and not just what the toy companies tell them is important. And it’ll get them reading.


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The news, in kid-friendly language

TitanicKids love reading about what’s happening in their world.

But so often, the newspaper is full of inappropriate and difficult articles.

Teaching Kids News (TKN) is a sister website to Getting Kids Reading. We offer kid-friendly news articles, taken from the headlines of real newspapers.

One of the great things about TKN is that kids can read the articles themselves and parents don’t have to worry that they’ll be exposed to scary stories or inappropriate language. However, TKN doesn’t shy away from the hard news. We covered the Japan earthquake, the ousters in the Middle East and hockey violence. Of course, we’ve also presented stories on undiscovered tribes, Justin Bieber and Harry Potter.

TKN uses kid-friendly language and a ton of context to explain ideas that adults tend to know automatically, but which would be new to most kids.

Thousands of teachers and home-schoolers use TKN every day because each article includes “curriculum connections” to create an instant lesson plan.

During the school year TKN offers daily news articles; in the summer we present weekly articles and there are more than 150 great articles in our archives.

This week’s article is about some new 3-D photos of the Titanic. Very cool.

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Teaching Kids the News

Teaching Kids the News (logo)We’ve just launched an exciting new website that offers kid-friendly news articles.
Teaching Kids the News provides daily news articles, appropriate for kids (approximately grades 1-6).
Some articles also have ESL (English as a Second Language) versions.
The site can be used by parents; by teachers in the classroom; by homeschoolers and by kids themselves.
Every article also has “Curriculum Connections,” which tie it to school curriculum – including grammar points and discussion points.
I’m working with two amazing educators on this site, Jonathan Ophek and Kathleen Tilly, who are passionate about education and want kids to have access to “real” news – not what marketers want them to read.
Please drop us a line and let us know what you think!

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Parents can teach media literacy

The North American House
Hippo exists… right?

Move media literacy up on your curriculum.

The world for kids today is increasingly packed with messages from the media that are contradictory, confusing and overwhelming.

(By media, I mean primarily advertisers, news organizations and the Internet.)

Media literacy—being able to make sense of what advertisers and news organizations are telling us—has been moved up on the curriculum in many school boards, including the massive Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

Parents should also move it up on their “curriculum.” There’s a lot you can do to give your kid a basic foundation in media literacy that will help prepare him to navigate a world full of ad messages, hidden agendas and conflicting ideas.

When you’re walking down the street, point out some ads and talk about them:
For younger kids—Talk about the actual words and pictures on the ad. Ask basic questions like, “why is there a picture of a hamburger on that poster?” “What is being sold?” “How much are they selling it for?”

For older kids—“Who do you think they’re targetting with that ad?” “How much do you think the company spent on that ad? Why?”

Open up a newspaper with your child:
For younger kids—Show them that there are different sections to a newspaper. Explain what a headline is for. Talk about some of the pictures. (Note: It’s tempting to turn to the comics page, but ironically most comics will be too obscure for young kids, so you’re probably better off with Sports or Lifestyle.)

For older kids—Focus on a specific story. Pick one from a section that interests them; perhaps Sports or Fashion. But don’t shy away from current events or politics, either. If there’s an election in your area, explaining what an election is, and who’s up for election can be one of the most engaging conversations you have with your child.

When you’re watching TV, talk to your kids about the program they’re watching. Talk to them about actors and make-believe. Take them mentally out of the program and “behind the camera,” where the show is actually created.

Here’s a great place to start: the North American House Hippo
It’s a one-minute TV “commercial” created by a non-profit group, Concerned Children’s Advertisers. It advertises “the North American House Hippo,” a supposed nocturnal, rodent-like creature.

The message at the end of the ad is that of course there’s no such animal, but didn’t the ad make you feel as if the hippo really existed?

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