Thursday, December 3, 2009

Getting Kids to Care About Current Events

(StatePoint) Getting kids interested in the world around them sometimes can be tough.

While many parents have long been unsure how to properly address certain current events with their children, there's no denying recent efforts to reach young people and expand the scope of their world.

A number of outlets have worked to establish news sources for children, while President Obama made some waves this past September when he delivered an address aimed specifically at the nation's children. Even TV pundit Bill O'Reilly wrote a book for children.

With proper oversight and some good ideas, families can make current events fun for kids, ultimately expanding their understanding of the world.

"Children haven't yet gotten jaded or apathetic. They want the world to be a better place and they believe they can help make it so," says author and human rights activist Elizabeth Hankins, whose new book entitled "I Learned a New Word Today... Genocide" teaches children about a heavy global topic. "Once you learn of the misfortune of others, you won't look the other way. This can help avoid future mistakes that have continued to allow crimes against humanity."

Here are some ways to make learning about current events appealing to children:

* Make it a Family Function: Combine quality family time with an opportunity to educate your children by coming together to watch the nightly news or read the local newspaper. While it's important that parents filter the news slightly to make sure children aren't exposed to content for which they might not be ready, it's a great way for families to draw closer. Be sure to participate in a dialogue afterwards and encourage children to ask questions.

* Find Good Resources Online: A number of media outlets have established online portals where children can learn about current events. Companies like Nickelodeon, Time Magazine, the Washington Post, and Scholastic have created places where children can learn about the world. The U.S. House of Representatives even established "Kids in the House," a Web Site where children can learn about America's legislative branch.

* Check Your Library or Bookstore: There are a variety of books available today that take potentially-difficult topics and explain them to children in age-appropriate ways. Hankins' novel, "I Learned a New Word Today... Genocide" is one such example for readers as young as 10, while Art Spiegelman's "Maus" and Victoria London's "Lucy and the Liberty Quilt" are other nice choices for kids.

* Start a Group and Become Active: There are many current events discussion groups in communities across the country where young people join to discuss issues. If you can't find one in your community, consider starting one. By partnering with similar groups and even writing to your congressman or town officials, you can tap more directly into the places where policies take shape.

* Turn it into Games or Projects: Educators encourage families to make current events fun. While combing through the newspaper, children can compile a scrapbook or piece together a collage composed of articles that matter to them. Family and friends can come together to act out sketches based on current events.

"Not all details of current events are suitable for young people, but by encouraging children to see what happens in the rest of the world and encouraging their curiosity, you might help shape a generation of well-read, influential individuals," says Hankins.

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