Bearing Witness, Children Create Newspapers

Maly Przegelad

As difficult as the current pandemic is for adults to comprehend, one can only imagine what it must be like for children. To help and inform children two large papers, the New York Times and the Washington Post, created a section for and by their youngest audience.

 

Washington Post

Back in April 2000, the Washington Post conceived of its own section for and by children, KidsPost. With the current pandemic, children everywhere are asking questions, such as what will end the the quarantine and what social distancing is. (The previous post described three world leaders answering the questions and concerns of children.)

To mark the 20th anniversary of KidsPost, the editors profiled 12 children “from around the world who have noticed problems in their communities or countries and are working to solve them.” Continues Christina Barron, KidsPost editor, “They have fostered abandoned kittens, collected eyeglasses for those who can’t afford them and created artwork for the apartments of people moving out of homelessness. And they have raised awareness of countless issues, including hunger, gun violence and bullying.” The twelve are the following:

  • Shana Grant, Washington, DC. Gun control and nonviolence
  • Kauã Rodolfo, Brazil. Environmental awareness
  • Maimouna Ndiaye, Mali. Girls in programming
  • William Winslow, California. Childhood hunger
  • Haaziq Kazi, India. Ocean trash
  • Genesis Butler, California. Animal rights
  • Naudia Greenwalt and Linkin Eger, Wisconsin. Childhood cancer
  • Sidney Keys III, Illinois. Enhancing literacy among boys
  • Milena Radoytseva, Bulgaria. Improving online behavior
  • Demetri Sideva, Florida. Protecting Tampa Bay waterways
  • Alice Imbastari, Italy. Picking up trash

 

Children’s Newspapers

Adrian GrycukTablica_Mały_przegląd_Pałac_Mostowskich_Nowolipki

This plaque commemorates Maly Przeglad, the newspaper for and by children that Janusz Korczak started. Photo by Adrian Grycuk, in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Most remarkably, KidsPost featured newspapers that children themselves have started. “There’s little chance you will forget the home quarantine of 2020. But the details will fade over time—unless you create something that lasts. Kids around the country are doing just that by making their own newspapers,” the authors say. “They’ve become reporters, photographers, editors, art directors, and even cartoonists. And they are doing what good journalists do: keeping their communities (or maybe just their families) informed and entertained.” The young creators discuss what they can do during the quarantine, find humor in writing about their siblings, advocate the purchase of fair-trade chocolate, tell about caring for a pet. One writer went a step further, creating a news website, Ryland’s Newspaper, with news, comics, and puzzles. This page is honored to follow this remarkable publication.

Their contributions offer a ray of positivity and hope. I am reminded of the efforts of Janusz Korczak (1878-1942). A Polish pediatrician and orphanage director who dedicated himself to the rights and dignity of children, he founded a newspaper, Mały Przegląd (Little Review), written and produced by children. Just as children are learning from caring adults, adults themselves can learn a lot by listening to the voices of children!

 

The New York Times

The former, for its Sunday, May 14, 2017, edition, created a special section, New York Times for Kids. Although the section has pieces by professional writers, Caitlin Roper, a school teacher who conceived the idea, “wanted to make sure to feature children’s voices, too … It captures where kids are at and what they’re caring about.” For the second edition, which appeared November, the paper hired its first junior columnist, Harper Ediger. To this day, the section comes with a warning: “Editors Note: This section should not be read by grown-ups!” Starting 2018, the Times for Kids became a monthly feature. It’s entertaining and informative. And, yes, there are fart jokes.

In This Time of Crisis, Three World Leaders Give Children a Voice

children have a voice Easter Bunny is essential

Children have a voice. And they need to express that voice and caring adults who listen.

In his orphanage, Janusz Korczak created a Children’s Court. There, the students upheld the school’s constitution by acting as judge and jury of their peers. Even if the court comprised only teachers and administrators, the message would have been the responsibility to the community. With the children themselves acting in these roles, it was they who led in maintaining their community.

Fred Rogers was another beloved figure who took children—what they said and how they felt – seriously. He related to their fears, concerns, and sadness in everyday situations. And he addressed frightened children publicly during times of profound crisis: in 1968, with the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy; in 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded on live TV; in 2001, with the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The heads of state of three countries, Norway, New Zealand, and Finland have followed these examples.

 

Norway

Prime Minister Erna Solberg in March 2020 held a press conference to address the worries of children in her country. “Many children think it is scary,” Ms Solberg said, “It is okay to be scared when so many things happen at the same time.” She reminded children that they are not at high risk of suffering major ill effects, but they can play an important part to protect older people and others who are vulnerable. She held a second telecast in April, after which she answered questions, such as when they would be able to visit their grandparents again. Norway has national day, May 17, as a celebration of children.

 

New Zealand

Declaring the Easter Bunny an essential worker, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern ensured that springtime would still hold magic for her country’s children. Even before then, in March, the Prime Minister convened a conference to address the fears of children. “Kids ask a lot of questions most of the time, and right now they understandably have plenty about COVID-19,” said the Prime Minister. Accompanying her was a child-development specialist, Dr. Michelle Dickinson. “The kids just had questions about the virus, how they are transmitted, how to keep their grandparents safe, how does soap work,” she said.

 

Finland

On Friday, April 24, the Government of Finland, comprising Prime Minister Sanna Marin, Minister of Education Li Andersson, and Minister of Science and Culture Hanna Kosonen, dedicated a time to answer from children ages 7 to 12. They have many concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. What does the pandemic mean? When can we go back to school? What about those of us graduating?

This is Finland’s National Child Strategy. Based on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), itself inspired by the teachings of Janusz Korczak, the initiative sets out to “formulate a vision for a child and family-friendly Finland that spans government terms and crosses administrative boundaries. The Child Strategy will be based on information and research evidence, and it will promote the implementation of the CRC.”

In this time of crisis, three world leaders gave children a voice. What did they have in common? They were all women. And back in March, for the sake of the children of America, our future, I hoped, I thought a woman would be next… to be our next leader.

 

Addendum: The New York Times on Friday, May 1, published an editorial recognizing three outstanding leaders. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden of New Zealand is one of them. The others are Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark. All three are women.

A Very Good Book on a Good Neighbor

The Good Neighbor - 003

Upon looking at the humble man changing into an old cardigan and sneakers, singing children’s songs on a decidedly low-budget set, one would never know he came from a well-connected family. And one would never imagine that the modest figure who, as an adult, kept his weight at 143 pounds as almost an act of faith was one the boy so many teased as “Fat Freddy.” Yet, as readers of The Good Neighbor learn, both these aspects of his growing up had the notable influence on his persona of Mister Rogers. On the other hand, Mister Rogers and Fred were exactly one and the same. “What you see is what you get.” Readers of this thoughtful biography learn that, too. Remember, this is the man who told every child, “I like you just they way you are.”

 

Rogers, with his traditional values, may have seemed old-fashioned. However, as an educator, he was—if anything—ahead of his time. Psychologists and child-development experts were just understanding how critical a child’s early years are for both learning and cultivating emotional maturity and well-being. (One of these, Dr. Margaret McFarland, was remembered recently.)

 

“Human kindness will always make life better,” Mister Rogers is quoted in the book. Two of his most memorable episode are included:

  • His conversation with Jeff Erlanger, a boy who used a wheelchair to get around. (The two would reunite many years later.)
  • The wading pool “swim” with Officer Clemmons, a bold statement against segregation. At the end of the episode, Mister Rogers dries off the officer’s feet.

That last point is worth bearing, as it is reminiscent of the life of Jesus. The Good Neighbor goes into considerable detail, exploring Rogers’s religious life—his upbringing in a traditional Presbyterian family and his college work at the seminary, both of which would infuse Mister Rogers, both the man in the cardigan on TV and the real-life figure.

 

Another area in which Fred Rogers had a passion and talent is music. The reader of The Good Neighbor will learn about how he created—played and actually composed—music. The admiration Rogers had for musicians—and musicians had for him—was evident on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood; these many memorable moments are revisited.

 

“Fearless authenticity” describes who Mister Rogers was, both on screen and in real life. “It’s you I like.”

 

Mister Rogers Neighborhood Trolley

Maxwell King, The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2018.
ISBN 1419727729
ISBN-13: 9781419727726

Margaret McFarland: The Overlooked Person Who Helped Fred Rogers Sculpt Children’s Souls

Margaret McFarland NYT Remembered

 

Who was Margaret McFarland? We certainly know Fred Rogers, but Dr. McFarland? Christina Caron, a writer at the New York Time wrote a beautiful retrospective obituary of McFarland as part of the “Overlooked at the Time” series. And, perhaps, unappreciated.

 

“Her input in almost all the scripts and songs of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was the defining element in her career in child development.” Fred Rogers studied under Dr. McFarland at the Arsenal Family and Children’s Center during his time at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

 

“Fred Rogers is a man who has not closed off the channels of communication between his childhood and his manhood,” Caron quotes McFarland saying about Rogers. “All of the subsequent phases of what it means to be loved by a male and loving to a male were lost to me. I wanted a kind of fathering.” In fact, McFarland’s father died when she was five. The New York Times article claims that the event would later ignite her interest in child psychology.

 

McFarland and Benjamin Spock collaborated with Erik Erikson. As the article points out, McFarland believed that the subject of child development was key to “the solution of many of the problems with which man is grappling.” It was Spock who urged parents to treat young children as people, not of the future, but people now. (Later, Arsenal also attracted T. Berry Brazelton, another highly respected author and pediatrician known for his books and newspaper columns on raising children.)

 

Storytelling was McFarland’s primary approach to teaching. An interesting anecdote (book 138-9) is that when Rogers wanted to introduce the children at Arsenal to what sculptors do, McFarland said, “I don’t want you to teach sculpting. All I want you to do is to love clay in front of children.” One could readily say that she – and Fred Rogers – also sculpted children’s souls.

Grounded Planes Take Flight in Congo

Fantasy Planes in Congo

 

In this remarkable Telegraph photo essay, children in a bleak landscape have little but to play in, around, and on a series of abandoned jetliners. Evidently, these airplanes provide a flight of fancy, a respite, however fleeting. Many of these photos were in an earlier Daily Mail piece.

 

Toy and model airplanes have been part of my youthful fantasy. In fact, planes like the DC-8 shown, were those Space Age miracles that I flew on. Still in touch with my childhood self, these planes still evoke emotion.

 

In this portrayal, however, innocence has but all been lost.

 

Greta Thunberg Has a Message for the World. TIME Is Listening

 

Greta Thunberg - Time Person of the Year

Greta Thunberg earned Time’s coveted Person of the Year. The challenges her Asperger’s present aside, she has drawn on her talents and strengths to lead the world to a better, more sustainable future.

 

https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=person-of-the-year&utm_term=_&linkId=78763203

A Day in the Lives of Two Homeless New York City School Children

A Day in the Live a Homeless NYC Student

 

Every day, among New York City’s public school students, more than 114,000 are homeless. A recent New York Times article and photo essay followed two of these children, Darnell (8) and Sandivel (10). Both students and their remarkable families invited a New York Times reporter into their lives. Their school days begin before the sun rises and do not end until well after sundown. Like their moms, Darnell and Sandy show tremendous resilience, making the best with what little they have. Both mothers fled abusive relationships; their strength offers their children strong role-models.

The essay tracks a day in the life at school for each child. School offers a refuge, hope, a place to learn and grow. Like the children and their moms, the schools offer nurturing support with what desperately little they have. It’s a long day, and a long ride back “home.” Tomorrow, they will do it all over again.