The Missourian will be recognized by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) this July in Bangkok during the Asia-Pacific Young Reader Summit for its youth editorial project, “One World: Their Story.”
WAN-IFRA annually awards World Young Reader Prizes to newspapers that have devised the best project or activity to attract young readers. This year, WAN-IFRA will award 21 prizes to newspapers and a newspaper printing plant that have found innovative ways to attract young people to the news.
The Missourian is the smallest circulation publication to be recognized by the international organization and the only newspaper in the continental United States.
The Missourian’s “One World, Their Story” was a summer reading series published May through July in 2011. Dawn Kitchell, educational services director, created the series to teach children about similarities and differences between young readers in the United States and Germany.
“Last year’s national summer reading theme encouraged global diversity,” Kitchell said. “We saw a unique opportunity locally to give young readers a meaningful learning experience through Washington’s Sister City partnership with Marbach am Neckar, Germany, during its 20th anniversary celebration.”
Relationships built through the Sister City partnership helped Kitchell connect with a sixth-grade teacher in Marbach, who in turn found a student in her class whose family was willing to take on the project.
The family had three children. The mother, Martina, was a schoolteacher. The series focused on 12-year-old Flurina and 14-year-old Gregori.
“The commitment from the family was significant,” Kitchell said. “Each week I emailed a list of questions on a specific topic. Martina worked with Flurina and Gregori to translate the questions from English to German and they worked together to answer the questions and translate them back to English to return via email. Often, I sent follow-up questions to clarify or learn more on specific topics.”
Kitchell then sent photograph suggestions and the family spent several days taking the photographs before emailing the images.
When all the content was in hand, Missourian graphic designer Patty Brinker worked with Kitchell to create each half-page feature that was published in eight consecutive weekend issues of The Missourian.
Prior to publishing the series, The Missourian produced an eight-page special section with information on the community of Marbach and the Sister City partnership. The section also included details on The Missourian’s and local libraries’ summer programs. The section was included in The Missourian and the newspaper provided 7,160 additional copies to schools and libraries.
The Missourian and the Washington Public Library held a Sister City Birthday Party for children before the newspaper series began. The two-hour event was modeled after a typical birthday party in Germany and was held during the Sister City anniversary commemoration when officials from Marbach were in Washington. The mayor of Marbach attended and spoke to the children, which was the highlight of the event.
Kitchell anticipated that Washington children would want to ask their own questions of Marbach children, so The Missourian set up an online forum at emissourian.com moderated by a teacher and classroom in Marbach.
In notifying The Missourian it had been selected for a Young Reader Prize, Dr. Aralynn McMane, executive director, young readership development, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, said, “I must say it was a very easy decision for our jury,” which concluded:
“This is another of those rare, very original but simple ideas that most any paper could adapt and use, even if they don’t have a ‘sister city.’ We particularly liked the visuals and informational graphics.”
Kitchell said she submitted the project to the international competition for just that reason.
“I felt this was a project that could be replicated at any sized newspaper and did a tremendous job closing the global divide,” she said. “The Internet makes it easy to communicate with people in other countries and we can encourage that interaction by showing how similar we all are, regardless of geography.”
The Missourian’s summer reading program has been supported since its inception in 2001 by the Bank of Franklin County. In 2005, the Washington Town & Country Fair joined the project to offer Fair tickets as incentives to keep children reading throughout the summer. The Washington Public Library became a partner in the newspaper’s project in 2007.
This year’s Missourian In Education Summer Reading Program follows the national theme “Dream Big — Read!” The series is now published in weekend editions of The Missourian and highlights biographical children’s books about people who dared to dream big. It encourages children to seek out the featured books in local libraries.
A full list of newspapers from 13 countries recognized this year by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) can be found at www.wan-ifra.org.
WAN-IFRA, based in Paris, France, and Darmstadt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore, India, Spain, France and Sweden, is the global organization of the world’s newspapers and news publishers. Support for this year’s World Young Reader prizes comes from Norske Skog, the Norway-based global paper producer.