With the advent of electronic content, Newsela presents a free and unique way to engage children that replaces those dreadful Weekly Readers from the 1980’s. Since most children will grow up to read news online instead of physical print, incorporating strategies that prepare them for the world of electronic content is more important than ever.
Newsela offers traditional news geared towards younger audiences. For children who might be a bit too sensitive to see the headlines and violence in traditional mainstream media outlets, Newsela provides real-life news with a focus on being informative but not frightening.
The categories and headlines are like those on CNN or MSNBC, but the language is adjusted to match children’s reading skill levels. This means that the article in the Indian Country Media Network states, “the announcement cited need for further examination of key issues, including treaty rights. It was suggestive of a reroute, and indicated that there will be an Environmental Impact Statement initiated to review the crossing. We look forward to this process getting underway.” Most children would struggle with that sentence thus excluding them from learning about the world around them.
For kids in the upper grades, an article on Newsela about the Dakota Access pipeline states, “A federal court could still rule in favor of Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, and order the Army Corps to grant a permit.” Although both say the same thing, the Newsela article gives children the right amount of information in a way that they can understand.
For the elementary school kids, Newsela also provides “Newsela Elementary.” For children in lower grades, these articles provide additional explanation. The Newsela article on the Dakota Access pipeline in the elementary edition explains “A federal court, or a court interpreting U.S. laws, could still rule in favor of Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline. It could still order the Army Corps to grant a permit and let the company keep building.” By including an explanation of a federal court, this article helps give additional information little children need to know for comprehension. Moreover, the writing splits a complex sentence into two simpler sentences to match the readership.
Even more importantly, Newsela offers several excellent tools for teachers and parents. Opening an article shows the following:
The “write” and “quiz” buttons offer the opportunity to engage children further with the articles. The write option provides a prompt to which children can respond. The quiz option offers multiple choice reading comprehension quizzes. These tools can help teachers more easily meet common core classroom objectives.
As a resource for providing news as well as testing comprehension, Newsela stands to be an asset to any teacher. With the current common core focus on informational texts, Newsela gives an opportunity to bring a more modern approach into the classroom. Finally, most important for training the future voters is the presentation of news they can understand to encourage a love of the civic duty of awareness.