Aside from, perhaps, a shared fondness for Britney Spears and instant messaging, elementary school students and teenagers don’t have much in common. But under the direction of journalism teacher Linda Evanchyk, these oft-distant universes merge in Kid’s World, a quarterly publication for K-5 students written by the Choctawhatchee High School newspaper staff in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
It all started four years ago, when some of the reporters asked Evanchyk to help them find a way to share their writing with an outside audience. The scribes already were mentoring a 2nd grade class at a nearby school, so they gathered input from the kids and conceptualized a publication for grade schoolers. Kid’s World writers still discuss ideas with the youngsters as they develop each issue—and it shows in the kid-friendly format of the paper, which goes to some 19,000 children in the Okaloosa County elementary schools.
The four-page publication boasts a newspaper-meets-coloring-book layout, complete with bold line art and puzzles alongside the large-type, brief articles designed for younger eyes. As a newspaper, Kid’s World takes on timely subjects such as presidential elections, the Olympics, and weather—but it spins them for youngsters. For example, when the Florida panhandle was barely spared the wrath of a torrential storm, a headline in Kid’s World read: “We were in the path of Hurricane Georges. . . . Look! It just missed us!” The paper often offers information in the guise of games: Past issues have included a connect-the-dot manatee illustration with an article about the endangered animal and an election crossword featuring clues for such political buzzwords as “donkey” and “ballot.”
The Kid’s World staff deals with some unique challenges in writing for a young audience. For one, observes Evanchyk, “we can’t be complicated—some of these kids are just learning how to read.” However, she continues, “this is a wonderful learning experience for aspiring journalists because they learn to write for different audiences.” Says 11th grader Robin Donlon: “My writing has improved so much since I started [working on Kid’s World]. Plus, we have a great time.”
The readers have a pretty good time, too: The paper’s staff often receives fan letters from the kids. “I like it because it’s cool,” writes a 2nd grader in a typical letter. “It’s fun to read.” As fun as it is, Evanchyk is determined that the newspaper be a learning tool. “And my students and I have spent many nights and weekends at school to ensure just that,” she says.