NIE, the acronym for Newspapers in Education, is an educational partnership between the newspaper industry and school systems.
In Cleveland and Bradley County, 74 sponsors are putting newspapers in the schools — some businesses contribute to every school in the system. The NIE program was introduced to the local school system in 2001 and is promoted by local businesses and organizations, as well as the circulation department of the Banner.
In this cooperative venture, schools use newspapers to teach a variety of subjects: history, reading, social science, math, economics, composition, journalism and government — to name a few — at all grade levels from pre-kindergarten to high school.
This partnership is a win-win benefit not only to the schools, but the community. It is more than a pro bono effort by newspapers or a commercialization of the education process. NIE succeeds only if a close relationship develops between the schools and the newspaper.
The reach of NIE has expanded tremendously since the program was first introduced in the nation in the 1930s. Aimed mostly at secondary school students, the program was used to teach current events or a two-week unit called, “What is a newspaper?”
Today, there are programs and activities for preschool through college and beyond. Outside the school walls, NIE programs can be found in prisons, senior citizen centers, institutions for the physically and mentally challenged and classes for new residents from other countries who are learning English.
Since the early 1980s, many NIE programs have included an emphasis on literacy in their communities. Most of these use the newspaper to teach adults as well as young people how to read, often in family settings. Others concentrate on making the public aware of literacy programs or on bringing community groups together to support literacy programs.
The mission of this program is to provide an economical, flexible tool to motivate youth in building basic skills, developing critical abilities and fostering an understanding of human events at all age and skill levels.
Why use the newspaper? It is an example of a community talking to itself. It links students to the real world. It helps motivate students to read and build lifelong reading habits. It is a cost-effective way to educate youngsters because it can inform as well as teach. It can entertain as well as teach. Newspapers are flexible and adaptable to all curriculum areas and grade levels. They are ideal for building many basic thinking abilities and for fostering an understanding of human events. They are easy to use because they can be marked, cut, pasted — their versatility as an education tool is expansive.
It depends on the teachers to make NIE successful. Only they can decide the ideas and activities that will be used, and the goals to be achieved. This is a source youth will use the rest of their lives. It can prove to be valuable teaching aid even in the age of multiple text and media demands. Assignments can be exciting, different, fun and interesting — not boring and repetitive.
A special project of the Newspaper in Education program is the publication of the monthly Character Education edition by the Cleveland Daily Banner and sponsored alternately by Cooke’s Food Store and Fresh n’ Low Cost Plus Foods. Character Education is a state-mandated program promoted in all our local schools. Each month, schools in Cleveland and Bradley County are featured, along with a listing of Students of the Month from every school in the 12-page tabloid, which has been recognized by the Tennessee Press Association and Southern Newspapers Association.
NIE and Character Education benefit schools in many ways. They:
— Sharpen students’ thinking skills.
— Increase students’ interest and motivation by providing study materials relevant to their lives.
— Prepare students for active citizenship in their democracy.
— Heighten teachers’ interest in new teaching techniques.
— Involve schools in the lives of the communities they serve.
— Improve relations with students’ families.
— Respond to the needs of local businesses as future employers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Teachers can access NIE helps, lesson materials and information online with this link on the Banner web page: http://www.usaweekend.com/section/classroom03