By Fitzgerald, Mark
Editor & Publisher , Vol. 124, No. 19
Study: NIE really improves writing skills
Reading newspapers improves student writing skills, a new academic study demonstrates.
Journalists and educators have long believed that young newspaper readers are also better writers.
Now they have some actual proof: an inch-thick report by two New York University professors of their yearlong study of the gap in writing and reading skills between middle-school children who read New York Newsday in the classroom and those who did not.
"The results indicate that students who participated in newspaper activities on a regular basis scored significantly higher on writing samples than students who did not participate in the ewspaper project," write Lenore H. Ringler and Carole S. Rhodes, professors at NYU's School of Education, Health, Nursing, and Arts Professions.
In addition to demonstrating the link between newspaper reading and writing, the study amounts to an unqualified academic endorsement of Newspaper in Education and other newspaper-related classroom activities.
"An educator for more than two decades and an evaluator of numerous educational projects, this observer has never seen a project that has engendered so many positive feelings on the part of the participants, both students and teachers, and such enthusiasm by the students for an educational endeavor," Carole Rhodes writes.
"The feelings of the students can be summed up by one fifth-grader who said, |Tell your bosses that using the newspaper was the best thing to happen to us in school ever,'" Rhodes continues.
Using the newspaper in class motivates students to learn more about their world, the researchers conclude.
"Developing newspaper readers during the middle grades should lead to an increasing number of adults who are interested in understanding events that occur in their community and in society in general," they write.
Newspapers also are able to hold their own in the fight for children's attention between schoolbooks and tv, the report suggests.
"As text materials appear to compete with television for the attention of our young people, it is important to note that newspaper reading motivated students to read and write about topics that were of interest to them," Ringler and Rhodes write.
Newspaper reading also motivates students to create their own newspapers - a very beneficial educational activity, the authors say.
"This is the perfect cooperative learning activity in which students learn to plan together, to think critically, to negotiate their differences, to make group decisions and, most importantly, to carry out a project from beginning to end. It is a real-life experience which will be invaluable to them as they move beyond the classroom and into the world of work," they write.
Their report will be formally presented May 16 in New Orleans at the 1991 Conference on Newspaper in Education and Literacy sponsored by the American Newspaper Publishers Association.
The study was funded by New York Newsday and New York City's Community School District Two, the ethnically diverse, urban district whose schools participated in the project. …