No matter where my travels take me, I always seek out the local newspaper.
I know. My smartphone easily provides more detail about a town than I will ever need. But the local paper does so much more. That’s because it fits the many pieces of the community puzzle together.
Where else can you get a glimpse of what a citizenry most values and fears — all within a few recyclable pages?
In the tiny town where I grew up, the local paper was a powerful tool — no doubt for many reasons beyond my young comprehension. However, I looked forward to the daily delivery for two simple reasons.
First, I loved to read the personal stories — from tragedy to triumph — about the people in my own community. It was the first inkling I had that I might be part of some thing larger than the family who lived at 12 Parkview.
Second, I couldn’t wait to hear the interesting dinner conversations that some tidbit in the paper was bound to spark. Of course, my favorites were the most heated discussions. And when my parents resorted to spelling out words? Well, let’s just say the training led to considerable success in my grade school spelling bees!
Decades of educational publishing experience later, I know my hometown paper was just one arrow in the successful child-raising quiver my parents used. But it was an important tool, and the outcomes it helped produce are still of the utmost importance today.
You see, building a strong sense of place plays a key part in a child’s social and emotional development. When children connect with the community around them, it helps them develop their own personal identity. An added benefit is the sense of stewardship it often inspires.
And the value of generating meaningful conversations? In my view, it’s off the charts. Too often in our busy world, dialogue with our kids tends toward the practical (Did you pick up your toys?) rather than the profound (Keep trying even when it’s hard!).
So any tool that inspires discussion of such issues as friendship and community should be deeply valued. Why? Because that’s when our own stories of personal grit and resilience begin to flow. And aren’t those the kind of Hometown Happenings that we really want our children to remember?
Kate B. Jerome is the author and series creator of two new Read Together/Do Together children’s book series from Arcadia Kids that are designed to jump-start meaningful conversations between kids and their favorite adults. A seasoned publishing executive, an award-winning children’s book author, and a recent Fellow in Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute, Kate is a passionate supporter of inter-generational communication. See her TEDx talk and follow her on Facebook to learn more.