Getting children into the habit of reading newspaper


I have been pushing so many newspapers under the noses of my children that they think I am trying to housebreak them.

But I'd have more luck getting a puppy to read one of them.

I make my living in the newspaper business, which means that newspapers have contributed substantially to the happy little lives of my children.

But, like the preacher's son who grows up to reject God, my kids wouldn't read a newspaper if they found themselves accidentally locked in the bathroom with one.

And I worry, for two reasons. I want newspapers to be around long enough for me to retire from one. And I worry about my kids growing up to be members of a vast, uninformed electorate.

So, I keep scanning the pages of newspapers for stories that might catch their interest. Anything that might lure them into the newspaper reading habit.

I point out to my daughter stories on boy band member Lance Bass announcing he is gay; on the devaluation of the word slut; on how Food Network divas Rachael Ray and Giada de Laurentiis keep their girlish figures; on the cardinal sin of wearing flip-flops in the workplace; and on how condoms have been found to be even more effective in the prevention of STDs than we previously thought.

OK. I can be a little preachy.

For my son, I call his attention to stories about Floyd Landis, the winner of the Tour de France, his family life, his painful hip and his positive drug test; about Lance Armstrong's strong-arming of congressional leaders for more money for cancer research; and about the Pittsburgh Steelers. And I send him columns and editorials from The New York Times denouncing President Bush and the Iraq war.

OK, I am a lot preachy.

I e-mail links to stories to my son, who isn't near a newsstand right now.

And I circle stories in the newspaper and put the pages on top of my daughter's sleeping form. They are usually very short and have pictures. I don't want to stress the system.

My children humor me. But I am pretty sure nobody is reading.

And if nobody is reading, then, for sure, nobody is subscribing.

I am not alone. Newspaper executives all over the country are trying to find ways to hook young people on newspapers the way we, their parents, are. And it isn't going well. When you have Jon Stewart and Yahoo! News, why would you walk out to the sidewalk on a cold, rainy morning to pick up something that is going to leave black ink all over your fingers?

I am on the front lines of these attempts to attract young readers, and I am having no success. I wish those guys in the corporate towers all the luck in the world.

When I told my daughter she had to read at least one article from the three newspapers that arrive at our house daily, she looked at me as if I was ridiculous.

"Mom, I am not 14. I am in college. You can no longer make me do extra math worksheets and read newspapers," she said, and went back to sorting her e-mail.

I left the room hoping that one of her friends had e-mailed her a link to a newspaper article.

My son told me that he deletes all e-mail from me - although the ones with dollar signs or the word food in the subject line seem to be getting through. He said he was not aware that I was sending him newspaper articles.

Newspapers, like public education, are essential to democracy. If my children and their generation turn to blogs and Fox News for information, the United States will be a banana republic in about 10 minutes.

That, and their father and I will be out of work.

He works for a newspaper, too.

To hear audio clips of selected Susan Reimer columns, go to

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