Children’s activity page — every week in The 411
Newspaper Fun -- a high-energy children’s activity page that features puzzles, cartoons, games, and a cast of off-beat, humorous animal characters - is published in The 411 every week in the Wilson County News.
Underlying these entertaining elements is a strong educational framework designed to encourage reading. The page explores a variety of themes, many of them aligned with the lessons kids are learning in school, and buried in its puzzles and challenges are lessons that sharpen essential language arts skills.
“With every page I create, my first priority is to make sure you look at it and say, ‘Hey, this looks like fun,’ and then pull out a pencil and go to work,” said Ann Mills, who writes and illustrates Newspaper Fun each week in her studio in Connecticut.
“My sense is that people love to learn new things, but can get turned off when they think something is designed to be educational,” Mills said. “When you put interesting facts and ideas into a framework that’s fun and entertaining, it draws people in. It makes it more of a pleasure to discover the new material.”
With both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, Mills has a diverse background involving education. She worked in several elementary schools, helping to teach and motivate students to read before turning to children’s publishing. For 10 years she created a children’s activity page in southern Connecticut, which focused on the challenges of a highly mobile, military-centered community, and which earned two international journalism awards. That page -- with many graphic refinements and the addition of a cast of new characters -- formed the basis for Newspaper Fun.
“I believe that newspapers play a crucial role in helping people stay connected with what’s going on in their communities,” Mills said. “By attracting children to their local newspapers through features like Newspaper Fun, we’re nurturing a new generation of newspaper readers.”
Mills sees the influence of the Internet as inevitable, and embraces it through her Web site: NewspaperFun.com. Each week, she publishes puzzle answers on the site, using the medium’s graphic potential to animate characters and add some fun to the mix.
“The idea is to create a flow between traditional and new media,” Mills said, “with the common denominator being a focus on good reading habits.”
‘Newspaper Fun’ is provided by the Wilson County News’ Newspapers In Education (NIE) program.