North Dakota Editor Promotes ‘News’ Kids Can Use
By Michael Standaert
North Dakota News Cooperative
After several years of declining scores, only one third of fourth graders in North Dakota are proficient in reading. Seeing that stark slide prompted one local newspaper publisher to act by providing a newspaper kids can call their own.
Currently around 30,000 of the Kid Scoop News newspapers are being distributed to 70-80 schools in the western half of North Dakota. Distribution includes Stanley Elementary School.
Hopes are, by the end of 2023, the paper could reach most schools in the state, according to Cecile Wehrman, owner of Journal Publishing in Crosby, which publishes the Journal of Crosby and Tioga Tribune. Wehrman has spearheaded the effort since last May.
The main aim is boosting declining student literacy, Wehrman said, through something fun and accessible to elementary school kids. Kid Scoop News includes a range of reading, science, animal knowledge, math, crossword puzzles and games, activities and colorful graphics in each issue.
“When people hear the current proficiency rates for reading, they’re alarmed,” said Wehrman.
Reading proficiency data from the Nation’s Report Card, a tool developed by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to track math, reading, science and writing skills at fourth and eighth grade levels, quantifies that alarm.
In the NAEP data, only 31 percent of fourth graders score at or above the reading proficiency level, down from 34 percent in 2019 and 38 percent in 2002. By that tally, 69 percent of fourth grade students in the state do not read at what is considered proficient, slightly worse than the current national average of 68 percent.
With reading proficiency rates declining and computer, phone and other device screen time increasing among elementary school kids, Wehrman said she hopes Kid Scoop News can be part of the answer toward reversing those trends.