Valuable lessons in world awareness

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 July, 2012, 12:00am


My son is in Primary Five and doesn't seem to take any interest in world affairs. I try to encourage him to read the newspaper and watch the news on television with me, but he'd rather play video games or watch television. Any ideas?

Computers and other electronic entertainment media have a very strong pull on children and can easily distract them from other interests. Research tells us that the pros and cons of spending a lot of time with them are complex and vary by the individual. In the short term, at least, you could limit your son's time in front of a screen so that he has the opportunity to take an interest in other things.

Adult newspapers can be rather dry, so one good way to generate an interest in current affairs is for your son to subscribe to one of the children's daily newspapers on offer. Several are available locally that cater for a range of ages and interests. These are attractively presented, very readable and will give you lots to discuss. They also tend to include quizzes, interesting facts, jokes, art competitions, maps and cartoons, all of which appeal to most children. My own daughter loves receiving these every day and is always excited to see what the news of the day is.

I don't know which curriculum your son's school follows, but whether or not it is an inquiry curriculum, I would be surprised if teachers didn't encourage taking an interest in and keep up with local, national and world affairs, especially those linked to the current lesson.

Another way to promote this at home would be to scan different print media and find interesting news articles together that he might share with his class. Start with what you know will engage and fascinate him, such as technology or space features, or perhaps his favourite sport if he has one.

Make him feel grown-up and make it a special part of your day together. Highlight the key facts and talk about them so your son is confident when sharing with his peers. This will not only help to develop his higher order reading skills, but also extend his critical thinking and verbal skills.

In International Baccalaureate (IB) schools, an important part of the Year Six Exhibition (a presentation of a child's learning over their time at primary school) is an awareness of local and global affairs. The students are encouraged to make connections, look at issues from different perspectives and take action on a local issue they feel passionate about. You could encourage your son to get involved in something he considers important, such as recycling rubbish, saving sharks from exploitation or volunteering for a local charity such as dog walking for homeless animals.

Whatever your son's curriculum, being aware of the world around him is important, and I am sure his teacher would support this view.

As parents, try to be good role models so your son sees you reading the newspaper and watching television news regularly. If he is learning or speaks Mandarin, he could also look at Chinese-language newspapers to develop those skills.

Talk to your son about the importance and the advantages of broadening his horizons and taking an interest in the outside world.

Julie McGuire teaches at a Hong Kong primary school