How do children learn what is happening in the world? My 15-year-old media-savvy daughter relies on Facebook and the BBC news website. But 10-year-old Francesca is generally unaware of global events unless they are pointed out to her at school or home.
With this in mind, I was intrigued when invited to road test Learn the News learnthenews.com an e-newspaper designed for children aged nine to 14.
Available in English, the e-newspaper is delivered every Tuesday by e-mail in a PDF format that can be printed out.
It covers a range of news topics from around the world and Asia, including age-appropriate stories on the environment, business, and sports. Stories are sensitively selected avoiding disturbing stories or images.
One of Francesca's favourite columns is Today in History, which offers a glimpse of what was happening on the same day many years ago.
Numeracy and literacy worksheets accompanying each story are designed to encourage young readers to check their comprehension, while testing other core skills, such as grammar and maths.
Francesca enjoyed one worksheet showing how journalists draw readers into a story with the use of short, punchy headlines. The exercise involved Francesca creating headlines for an issue of Learn the News. The Quick Quizzes that test knowledge after reading a story were also popular.
Stories are written in a simple, direct and objective voice, and presented in a well laid-out and colourful format at two language and comprehension levels, for upper primary and lower secondary school students.
Readers of all ages are also supported with a useful glossary to help explain difficult words and terms.
The cartoon strip about a journalist called Jimmy who roves the world reporting on real-life stories is another interesting touch.
The e-newspaper was launched in Asia late last year but has a dedicated following in South Africa, where it has been running for more than eight years. Stories from Hong Kong are run occasionally, but the focus is on news from Asia, plus key world issues. Verdict: Learn the News is a simple and effective way of helping children learn about current affairs. Each edition stimulated a dialogue in our family. So at HK$690 a year to motivate children to read and understand the world around them, it seems good value. The digital format means it also travels with you.