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Connecting with Tomorrow’s Readers: a Classroom of Kindergartners

by on October 27, 2010 6:43 AM

Do you like writing?

 The question came from my son’s kindergarten teacher. Most of the time, I wanted to say. What I really love is the finished product. But the actual process can be exhausting.

Since I was sitting in front of 20 fidgety five-year-olds ready for their daily writing exercises, what I said instead was I love writing!

A few of the kids tugged on their clothing. One started picking lint off his pants.

My guest-speaking gig came about after I accepted a parent-wide invitation to volunteer in my son’s classroom for “kid writing.”

Every day for about 25 minutes, my son and his classmates draw a picture, then add a one- or two-sentence description underneath. A few weeks ago, our son brought home his first kid writing book, which included pages on visiting the Creamery with Daddy and seeing one of his teachers on the JumboTron at the football game.

When I informed my son’s teacher I’d be coming in to volunteer, he asked if I would speak to the kids about my job. Maybe, he said, I could plant a seed about writing as a career.

So there I was, crammed once again in a tiny chair, trying to explain the job of managing editor of a website to a bunch of kids who were probably thinking about the grilled sandwiches on the lunch menu that day.

Do your parents ever read the newspaper? I asked.

Many of them nodded.

OK, imagine if there was no paper, only a computer. And you found out everything you needed by looking at that screen.

I had their attention now.

My timing couldn’t have been better; turns out these kids were anxiously awaiting the arrival of an iPad in their classroom. The day I came in, my son’s teacher had to duck out early to get the details. When he told the class why he was leaving, one of the girls clapped her hands and exclaimed, “Yes!”

She just turned six.

These kids, it seems, are the future readers of Their principal has his own blog. Their parents already get their news on their iPhones. By the time my son and his classmates become parents themselves, the word “newspaper” may have as much relevance to their lives as a VCR.

Until my visit to my son’s classroom, I hadn’t given much thought to how my new job would affect his attitude toward reading and writing.

Granted, he’s already pretty excited about learning the English language; tonight he produced a one-man musical that essentially meant belting out the words to a jingle he picked up at school. First you take the B. Then you take the AT. Put it all together and then you have BAT. (These renditions are typically accompanied by some awkward but entirely entertaining dance moves.)

But my job just may stoke that enthusiasm. Not sure my son would jump at a chance to visit Mommy’s office. But he never turns down an invitation to sit on my lap and look at the computer—even if it’s just a photo gallery of the Homecoming parade.

Don’t get me wrong. My son spends more time in the library—both Schlow and the one at Easterly Parkway—than he does in front of a computer. He loves paging through books, as do I, and he doesn’t own a single handheld device.

Soon enough, though, he’ll become a full-fledged member of the digital revolution. Who knows where he’ll go to get movie listings, dining guides, or the day’s headlines.

But I have a feeling it won’t be a newspaper.

Michele Marchetti is a freelance writer and the former managing editor of Prior to moving to State College, she spent more than 10 years writing for national magazines. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Glamour, U.S. News & World Report, Runner's World, Good Housekeeping, Working Mother, Yoga Life and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Follow her on Twitter at or contact her at [email protected]
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