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Using the New York Times With Children of all Ages

by Laurie Block Spigel

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Read a comment from a homeschooling parent * Reader Idea | A Home-Schooled Teenager on Learning With The Times

The whole world can be delivered to your door every day just by subscribing to your local newspaper. As the world comes into your living room, it also invites you to go out and enjoy your environment, with a keen eye to what’s going on.

Using the New York Times as a daily text is one of the great benefits of homeschooling in NYC. We start our day with a peek at the paper over breakfast, and whatever we find on the front page often becomes our focus for the next few hours. We look at every single subject talked about on the front page, often in a unique way that applies to our daily life and affects the city we live in. We read charts and graphs and averages, learn of inventions, discoveries, and lifesaving devices, discuss opinions in politics and art, and are informed of historical events.

When I was a little girl my parents used to read the Sunday NY Times in bed, spending a long, lazy morning going through section after section. Naturally, we were curious. I will never forget when my father showed me which parts of the paper were “just for me.” I was amazed. A special page in this great big book review section, just for me? Today there are even more parts of this great newspaper that are suitable for young children. Here is a list of some things to look for.

  • Monday: The Metropolitan Diary on page two in the Metro section, part two of the paper. These are little quips, poems, NYC diary entries, submitted by readers, with amusing illustrations. Sometimes children write in and are published here.
  • Tuesday: The Science Times section has a Q & A column, biographies of scientists, natural history and archeology, medical news and updates of scientific experiments, astronomy news, and more. This was one of my son’s favorite sections!
  • Wednesday: The Dining In/Dining Out section has recipes (lots of math here) and restaurant reviews. Look for neighborhood maps and articles on seasonal produce.
  • Thursday: The Home & Design section includes architecture and gardening, and lists house tours and walking tours, and the Styles section just started coming out on Thursdays as well, full of fun NYC photos.
  • Friday: The Weekend section (in two parts: Movies & Performing Arts and Fine Arts and Leisure) is better than Sunday’s Arts & Leisure section, with art/music/theater/film reviews, and the Family Fare column and Spare Times for children just inside the back page of the Fine Arts & Leisure section (read this column for just one year and your family will never be bored again!), and there is an Escapes section too.
  • Saturday comes with portions of Sunday’s paper, which includes the Book Review (sometimes they have a page or section of children’s books), the Automobile section, Arts & Leisure, Travel (the personal travel essay on the inside back page is fun), the Magazine (check out regular columns like Ethics, Language, the recipe page, ads for camps, the Funny Pages, and the “Lives” essay at the end).
  • Sunday includes the Week in Review section which contains political cartoons, and ideas and trends, and also the City Section, with neighborhood notes.
  • Daily: Sports (math), Weather page (science and geography), editorials and the op-ed page, Business section (economics, math, social studies), plus headlines and news that includes maps, graphs, charts, statistics, and more.

Suggested activities:

  1. Have every family member read one article of their choice during the week. Friday or Saturday evening at dinner everyone shares their article with the rest of the family. We really enjoy this. It is a fun and casual way of sharing information, and it takes off the pressure of having to read the whole paper (no one can ever read the whole thing!). This activity makes us all feel that we learned more. We search the paper each week for something juicy and unexpected, and we each have our favorite sections. On Friday I might hear about a new musician’s performance, a new movie we should go see, a bank scandal, a commemorative event, or any number of things.
  2. Entice your kids to find a new vocabulary word in the morning paper and use it at dinner that night. Sometimes we have a contest to see who can use it again during the following week. This is fun, and a great way to learn college-level vocabulary.
  3. Choose one family outing a month from the newspaper, each child taking his or her turn to make the selection. This means checking out the movie reviews, museum exhibit listings, historical sites, street fairs, local events, etc. When everyone knows that reading the paper will get them to experience a family outing, watch them pore over the movie clock, read the reviews, and check their favorite sections for fun ideas.
  4. You can also access the Times online. Go to The NYT Learning Network and find an incredible resource including daily lesson plans, On this Day in History, quizzes and games, word of the day, science Q & A, archives of lesson plans, a teen news magazine, and other educational connections.
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A comment from a homeschooling parent

The New York Times as learning tool

"Thanks to Laurie Spigel, whose passion for the arts and whose style of teaching I love, we have incorporated the New York Times in our daily learning. There are so many ways to incorporate your hometown paper in your studies. News helps us develop a curiosity about the world, and become better thinkers. And sometimes in the mundane, can be found the sublime. Apart from news, the Metropolitan Diary on Mondays is such a read, and gives a distinctly New York perspective of life."

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