Children benefit in many ways from a sense of community, a sense of belonging and connection to their communities. Strong social connections lead to all kinds of opportunities, including friendships and a sense of belonging. And communities benefit as well -- people with a strong sense of community are more civically engaged and work to improve the community's quality of life.
There are a variety of ways to involve your children in the community, but there is one method that you can do in your own home -- read your local newspaper. Read it in print so your child can see you reading.
When you read a newspaper in front of your child, you have the opportunity to show its value to your child. Explain how a newspaper reports on the community. For older children, explain the role of newspapers as community watchdogs and why they are typically more reliable than social media posts.
Invite your child to sit in your lap and point out familiar places and words. Tell them the name of your community and find that name in different places throughout the newspaper.
Look at the photos and discuss the kinds of buildings and clothing people wear. What does that say about your community? Identify places you have been together and talk about what you like about your community.
A high school journalism teacher in California tells the story of how he apologized to his students for his one-time belief that print newspapers were going to disappear.
For years, he promoted that his students access news through their digital devices. Recently, he noticed that something was missing -- his students did not feel connected to their local community, but they were feeling connected to their high school. He looked around campus and saw what their own school newspaper was providing students -- in print.
"When 1,300 students walked through our Senior Square, each holding a copy of the latest edition of the Casa Chronicle, they were connected. Whether they approved of the student profiled in Campus Life or not. Whether they attended the basketball game featured in Sports or not. Whether they kept the paper in their Jansport to show mom or tossed it on the floor of the cafeteria with an eye roll -- they were connected," said Dan Austin of Casa Robles High School.
Who reads a community newspaper? The community leaders and people involved in communities. Reading in print at home and sharing the newspaper with your child starts them on a habit that is shared by the leaders and civically engaged people in your community. Let your child know that they are now part of that group.