What Do Kids’ Books Teach Us About the Future of Journalism?

I may read most of my news online, but I still get a print newspaper delivered to my doorstep everyday. I have lots of reasons for doing this but mostly I do it support local journalists and to have journalism be a visible presence for my kids.

At any given point we have a few days’ newspapers lying around the house, along with a few magazines we still subscribe to. The kids see an interesting picture or headline that captures their attention. It sparks conversation, makes them curious about their community and the world around us. We’ll often go from discussing an article in the paper, to looking up something on YouTube and reading more about it online. So I’m not opposed to screens in any way, but I do appreciate the serendipity and spontaneity the physical paper provides.

It is also a way for my kids to understand first-hand the work I do every day on press freedom and media policy. (Update: Still working on supporting a strong future for news but this is my current gig)

I’m lucky that my kids are voracious readers and are drawn to anything that has words on it. In the piles of children’s books around our house I began noticing that a lot of them depicted newspapers. I decided to document representations of newspapers and journalism in kids’ books we owned.

The slide show below is the result.

As the landscape of journalism and media change it is fascinating to see how those shifts are reflected — or not — in the literature we share with our kids and families.

While children’s literature has made its way to the screen, screens have yet to really emerge in kid’s books. There are lots of great interactive books and kids’ apps built around books, but those same screens are largely absent within children’s literature.

Much of the literature our kids consume portrays a world without screens and technology. And for the most part, I’m OK with that. I like that my kids are more interested in learning about animals than apps, and instruments instead of iPads. But I do want to help encourage a curiosity about the creative power of technology too.

I’m intrigued by the opportunity to model new kinds of journalism and media making for kids that encourage them to experiment with storytelling themselves. If, as journalism educator Dan Gillmor has argued, “In a participatory culture, none of us is fully literate unless we are creating, not just consuming” how can we create children’s literature that embodies digital and news literacy for the world they are going to help create?

If you are interested in these issues, here are a few more links to check out:

After putting this together I polled my friends for ideas about kids’ books that are specifically about journalism and media making. Here is what they came up with:

  • Geronimo Stilton, Editor of the Rodent Gazette – Elisabetta Dami
  • Radio Man – Arthur Dorros
  • The American Girl series about Kit Kittredge
  • Ivy + Bean: No News is Good News – Annie Barrows
  • Harriet The Spy! –  Louise Fitzhugh
  • Newsies
  • Click Clack Moo! Cows That Type! –  Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
  • Superman and Spiderman comics
  • Dork Diaries 5: Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All – Rachel Renée Russell
  • The Value of Fairness: The Story of Nellie Bly – Ann Donegan Johnson

Update: Media law professor Chip Stewart sent in this great image via Twitter:



  1. Josh Stearns says:

    Another version of kids, screens and serendipity from the author of FreeRangeKids: http://feedly.com/k/1eJL7Ys

  2. Bob Stepno says:

    Very nice. For a slightly older reader, I’ve been fascinated by earlier generations’ novels about spunky teenage reporters, from Richard Harding Davis’s “Gallagher” (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5956) to Mildred Wirt Benson’s (beyond “Nancy Drew”) novels about Penny Parker, http://www.nancydrewsleuth.com/mwbpp.html
    … And of course all the golden age radio series with reporter heroes or featured visitors, which I write about at http://jheroes.com (with audio player links)

  3. chipstewart says:

    Great list! I’ve read a lot of these (Kit Kittredge, Ivy & Bean, Click Clack Moo) with my daughters. I’ve been interested in journalist villains in Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket books. I wrote about Rita Skeeter and her influence on young readers’ attitudes about journalists here: http://works.bepress.com/daxton_stewart/3/

  4. Holly Wenzel says:

    When I was in fifth grade, my friend Carol and I were in the thrall of a book called “Me and the Terrible Two.” Among other junior-high-type issues, the narrator confronts the “unfair” attitude of her newspaper-editor father, who says she can’t get her name in the paper unless she does something newsworthy. (Spoiler alert: she does.) I was already on track for a newspaper career, but learned the archaic term “Wuxtry, wuxtry! Read all about it!”

  5. Josh Stearns says:

    Just stumbled on this resource full of lesson plans for teaching poetry through the news: http://ncpressfoundation.org/poetry-and-news/

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