Seventy per cent of people aged 14 to 34 who read the newspaper every day consider themselves engaged -- in terms of voting, volunteering, activism, donating to charities, etc. -- compared with 54 per cent of less frequent readers.
Source: Canadian Newspaper Association report -- "Reading Between the Lines: Debunking Common Myths about Young Newspaper Readers"
Have we got news for you
Some family rituals include celebrating faith together; ours involved the newspaper. This was how Craig learned about child labour at age 12. The headline on an article stopped him in his search for the comics: Battled Child Labour, Boy, 12, Murdered. Iqbal Masih was sold into slavery at age four, escaped from a carpet factory in Pakistan at age 10 and became an advocate for child rights. Two years later he was shot for speaking out.
Our father always read the paper spread out flat on the breakfast table, drawing us into his daily routine and all that was going on in the world. Usually we picked one article as a point of discussion and spent five to 10 minutes talking about it. Our parents would then take the discussion one step further by encouraging us to think about possible solutions and actions. We would tell our friends about the plight of blacks in South Africa, send money to kids affected by war and reduce our own energy use.
It was only when we were much older that we really understood the significance of these discussions. Archbishop Desmond Tutu told us he was glad to receive the paper every morning. We asked why since news is often perceived as the same story playing out: the same conflict, but different groups of people. "You're looking at it the wrong way," he said. "The newspaper is God's prayer list delivered right to my door every day. In this way, I know the issues on which to act."
Today kids are more informed, aware and connected than any other generation. They pick up on world events on the Internet, from television, in the classroom or through friends at school -- often without their parent's knowing. That's why it's important to talk about what your kids are watching, reading and hearing. "Be a sensitive listener," says Dan Dolderman, a psychologist at the University of Toronto. "If your kids are bothered by something in the news, talk about it. And if they're not ready, don't force it."
Dolderman adds that we need to encourage kids to be informed young citizens. This doesn't mean you have to discuss a violent crime in your own community. But talking about social issues will encourage kids to voice their opinions and feelings. We can validate these emotions and, if possible, put a positive perspective on them. For instance, if it's poverty you're discussing, talk about local efforts such as collecting food for a shelter.
Iqbal's story angered Craig and spurred him to action. With his friends, he went on to found Free the Children. It all began with a prayer list on our kitchen table.
Get in the act: next steps
1. Read the newspaper as a family at least once a week. Discuss the impact of individuals you read about -- at the local, national and international level -- and the difference they are making in their communities and in the world.
2. Clip articles of particular interest and put them up on the fridge, where kids end up quite frequently and are likely to read them.
3. Identify one action you can take together on an issue discussed in an article that inspires your family's passion. Make a plan to do something about it.
Craig and Marc Kielburger are the founders of Free the Children and coauthors of Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World (Simon & Schuster, 2006) and Me to We: Turning Self-Help on Its Head (John Wiley, 2004).