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Ensuring a rounded education

This is an exciting time for schools teaching media and information literacy.

The current interest in the news, particularly ‘fake news’, means that ‘the news’ and critical literacy skills are enjoying an increasingly high profile and we seem to be getting serious about helping children become ‘news-savvy’. Children’s news has gone into hyper drive and that’s a good thing!

Studying the news in primary and secondary schools has ebbed and flowed in popularity over the decades. One scheme that was particularly successful in schools at one time was the Newspapers in Education strategy and the development of the Reading Passport by Dr Gerard van der Weijden.

This brilliant idea was basically a little booklet that contained about 20 assignments that encouraged children to analyse newspapers. After each project was completed and adult would sign them off and after they had all been done a ‘reading certificate’ was awarded.

The activities are all still relevant today and work incredibly well for getting children absorbed in the news of the day. For example,

Assignment One


Find four people in the news today who have made something change. Write their names and circle if what they did was GOOD or BAD.

Are all your choices easy to make or are some difficult? Talk to your teacher about this.

Providing children with a list of activities like this encourages active participation and interpretation and kick-starts healthy discussions and debate.

The importance of reading real physical newspapers in class cannot be underestimated. They offer glorious opportunities to support literacy so that children are canny consumers of words and pictures.

Combining newspaper reading and Reading Passports can support the 4Cs of critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration and as well as act as a bridge between home and school by promoting a ‘family’ culture of reading.

Creating a literate, civic-minded new generation of responsible readers is no easy task but it is something the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) helps parents and teachers work together to do.

WAN-IFRA is committed to promoting news literacy and supporting children and young people to appreciate content through a critical and journalistic prism.

Last year, Dr. Aralynn McMane, completed the report  News Literacy and News Publishers: 7 ways forward to help young audiences fight fake news and do much, much more.

This report was commissioned by the American Press Institute and gathered together intelligence about a wide variety of smart practice in 40 countries that have been created by or could involve news publishers.

The resulting joint report offers seven parts, each covering a different kind of activity, and a database of 130 examples.

The report includes the following chapters:

  1. Guide in digital space
  2. Teach about freedom of expression
  3. Create ways to try journalism
  4. Promote encounters with journalists
  5. Help the influencers
  6. Explore the new news for kids
  7. What next? Consider this example to create the future
  8. More than 100 ideas for what to try first.

You can download the full report here.

It is well worth taking the time to explore the report in detail as it links to various videos of initiatives of brilliant practice across the world and how organisations are helping children interact with the news.

It also goes further than the current focus on fake news. Although important, fake news is just one slice of news literacy and information literacy and children need to see that the news is more than this one aspect.

One of the most powerful chapters is that devoted to organising face-to-face meetings in class with journalists and how, if done right, these can have a strong impact. It provides an example of how the   Belgian journalists association (AJP) has organised journalists to visit schools for the last 20 years to talk about how the news works.

The BBC are now being more pro-active in this area and are offering mentoring sessions to support  1,000 secondary schools spot fake news via some ‘top name’ journalists (see also  Speakers for Schools, the charity devoted to helping state secondary schools inspire their students and broaden horizons through access to the insights, experiences and expertise of leading figures through free talks).

If you work in primary, approach your local BBC journalists and invite them to come and speak at your school as well as newspaper editors and reporters. You never know, you could become part of the news yourselves as they could do a feature on your interest in the news!

What the WAN-IFRA report demonstrates is that at an international level, there is a passion and appetite for teaching children more news literacy and so the potential for change is huge.

You can find out more about the sterling work WAN-IFRA are involved in via their  16 Centers of Youth Engagement Excellence and how they have been helping teachers support young people use and navigate the news.

WAN-IFRA is also a great destination to access a variety of resources  such as its  “The Questions to Keep Asking,” which is an enriched and internationalised version of the Newseum’s “Believe it or Not” resource. This enables children to see to approach all kinds of information through journalistic eyes.

Helping children and teenagers understand, value and participate in 21st century journalism is crucial because it allows them to examine their own biases and critically evaluate information and media messages from a variety of sources. It’s also part and parcel of a rounded education and a broad and balanced curriculum.

It is a time honoured teaching tradition to beg, borrow, and steal ideas from one another. WAN-IFRA takes sharing to a whole new level so we not explore what they have to offer, be resourceful and adapt to your own needs.

By John Dabell


Van der Weijden, G. (1996) Newspapers in Education: Reading Passport. Huntingdon: Creative Media Concepts

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