10 Resources For Making Sense Of The News With Your Kids

As part of preparations for the twice-yearly oral examinations, teachers and tutors often advise parents to make a habit of discussing newsworthy topics with their children.

Parents would do well to heed this advice, but it must also be said that the advantages of exposing children to what’s happening around the world extend far beyond better grades for oral exams—many parents hope to raise children that are articulate and well-informed about world issues, so that they may one day take a stand on matters of import, based on their values, and develop ideas and solutions that will make a difference to society.

Some parents, like this former teacher and blogging mom (read her post here), set aside time for browsing news articles with their children on a regular basis. Others use age-appropriate movies and music as conversation starters, and some have even formed family WhatsApp or Facebook groups with their children, as these are convenient platforms for sharing links and ideas. But for many parents, finding the time, as well as the resources, to ignite a child’s interest can be challenging. We hope the links below provide a starting point for a journey of discovery, and that parents will be inspired to learn more about the world alongside their children.

Join The Current

Targeted at 10–14 year olds, this is a local web site put together by four communication studies undergraduates at the Nanyang Technological University as part of their final year project. Although the site is unlikely to be updated after their project is complete, it’s worth a visit as the layout is attractive and engaging. Click here for an infographic showing 20 ways that kids can engage with the news, and here for more tips and links to kid-friendly news sites, as well as four world issues that kids can start exploring.

School Of Thought Weekly Insights
School Of Thought is an enrichment centre founded by a team of individuals passionate about education, including Nominated Member of Parliament Kuik Shiao-Yin. Since February this year, they’ve released a short but pithy newsletter that informs readers about two key issues each week (one global, one local), along with a trend to watch and a “cool event” in Singapore to attend. These newsletters provide a framework for discussion because they include a backgrounder for each story—kids will learn about the trigger event, as well as the different parties’ responses to the issue at stake. 

PM Lee Hsien Loong’s FB Updates
With over 1 million followers on Facebook, Singapore’s prime minister knows what he’s doing on social media. His posts are easy to read and relate to, but more important, they contain information or messages that he considers essential for Singaporeans, and parents can centre discussions around these posts.

The Day
This student-centric news site trumps many others with its appealing layout and content. Articles are accessible without being dull or dumbed-down, and additional features such as thought-provoking questions, activity suggestions, a glossary, and relevant links complete each article. The catch: Non-subscribers are officially limited to three free articles per month, and a family subscription costs £99 per year. A free trial is available.

The Family Dinner Project: Pickles & Predicaments
This site promotes “food, fun, and conversation about things that matter” by serving up interesting topics that families can discuss over dinner. The “Pickles & Predicaments” section is a collection of posts written for little ones, tweens, and teens; each post outlines a newsworthy predicament, such as cyclist Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace, and suggests questions that parents can pose to their kids. 

Vox is a news site that “explains the news” to regular folk; it offers an easy way to catch up if we’ve been busy letting the world pass us by. Vox articles such as “Brexit: 9 Questions You Were Too Embarrassed To Ask” help readers to acquire at least a superficial understanding of complex world issues and events, and Vox card stacks are akin to Cliffsnotes for current affairs, where you’ll be made aware of crucial facts, key questions, and misconceptions about featured issues. Do note that Vox is an American site meant for an adult audience; parents should use their discretion when selecting articles or card stacks to share with their children.

A Mighty Girl
This Facebook page is particularly useful if you have daughters; inspiring stories about women are posted daily and you can use them to spur on your daughters to find meaningful role models, achieve their dreams, and stand up for themselves and other girls. For a full picture, spend a little time researching the featured individuals before discussing them with your children. For instance, entrepreneur and Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes, hailed as a young technology innovator last year for helping to develop a new blood testing method that only required collecting drops of blood—as opposed to vials—has since been discredited

It’s Okay To Be Smart
If you think your kids might enjoy science videos starring an entertaining host and featuring snazzy graphics, head to the It’s Okay To Be Smart page on Facebook. Sample this video about why we can’t dispose of nuclear waste by sending it to the sun, as superheroes have been known to do. The page also shares videos for exciting science-related developments, such as the recent announcement by scientists that the hole in the earth’s ozone layer is “healing.

Some concepts and stories are easier to grasp on video than in writing, and there are many video makers who have dedicated themselves to the art of simplification. The YouTube channel Common Craft, for instance, is well-known for its “in plain English” videos. Sample one here, about the vote structure for the US presidential elections. Common Craft’s other videos are mostly related to technology or social media. Vox (mentioned above) also produces videos, such as this primer on Syria’s war. You could use the search term “in five minutes” to help narrow your search; here’s another video on Syria by The Guardian. Bloomberg is yet another source, and here’s their video on the European Debt Crisis. Then there’s Seeker Daily; here’s their video on Turkey and martial law. This is but a tiny fraction of what’s available out on YouTube.

Commencement Speeches
Graduation speeches, especially those that go viral, provide fodder for analysis—watch or read them together with your child and talk about the ideals and values that the speakers espouse. Look out for sociocultural references as well, such as in this beautifully crafted speech by Donovan Livingston of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, delivered as spoken-word poetry and laden with references to slavery and racial injustice. 

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