This past Christmas the only thing I asked for was a subscription to the Sunday New York Times. I’d fallen behind on keeping up with current events because my only news source was the Internet—and I avoid my computer when I’m not at my internship or doing schoolwork. After staring at a screen for most of the day, nothing feels nicer than setting my eyes on the printed word. Now I spend my Sunday evenings curled up with a newspaper, a pastime that is rapidly disappearing in the modern world.
It’s no longer surprising to hear that the number of people reading newspapers is declining at an alarming rate, and fortunately that doesn’t mean people have stopped keeping up with the news. Thousands of articles are easily accessible online. This trend has made it easy for readers to stay informed (and it’s saved plenty of trees). Still, many parents and educators wonder how this shift will affect younger generations who will not be exposed to many print-based reading materials.
Addressing this issue are the creators of the extremely popular, curriculum-based educational game known in America as Brain Quest. In France in the late 1990s, Editor-in-Chief and co-founder Francois Dufour launched a series of daily newspapers for children ages 7 to 17 in an effort to lure kids away from the computer screen. His newspapers are the only existing dailies for kids in the Western world. Dufour says his goal is to encourage kids to read for at least 10 minutes a day by offering them information that is relevant and interesting. The journalism is serious and straightforward, but focuses on topics that kids will find appealing. With 150,000 subscribers, this approach seems to be working.
The Internet is sometimes portrayed as the harbinger of doom for the future of reading. There is so much reading material on the Web I can’t believe this is true. But these concerns are not unwarranted—if kids are exposed to only short, web-based materials, they’ll hardly have the patience to get through long, literary works. I’d hate to think the next generation could grow up without the insight and compassion gained from reading those books we all struggled through in high school, like Huckleberry Finn or Of Mice and Men. Dufour is addressing this issue by offering children something on paper to read that isn’t required.
Dufour thinks there will eventually be no use for print-based news sources, though the quality of the writing and the content will remain high as long as good editors stay in the business. Until that day comes, his company is using the news to get kids comfortable with paper—and introduce them to the satisfying feeling of curling up with a good newspaper.