readers of tomorrow

Kindling children's interest in current and world affairs is quite a task.

Kindling children's interest in current and world affairs is quite a task.

Journalist Duncan Guy overcame the challenge by creating a newspaper for primary school children that "reads like a bedtime story".

After putting together a series of stories that he thought would be helpful for his son, The Times I Am Living In, was born.

Three years on, Guy has lost count of the number of The Times I Am Living In readers. More than 600 schools now receive the newspaper through e-mail and countless copies are handed down to other keen readers, says Guy.

The newspaper, published twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is now available in English, Afrikaans and isiZulu.

Because of growing interest in the publication, Guy now devotes his time to creating the newspaper. It is sponsored by his employer, the South African Press Association (Sapa), and is funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa.

Each edition carries two versions of articles about sport, world news, Africa news, business and environmental news and This Day in History.

The main news stories are toned down to make them child-friendly, while the adult versions are taken straight from the syndication.

"A quiz is included in the first story. The answer to the quiz is contained in the adults' story, but the child does not have to understand the adult version to get the answer," explains Guy.

Though it caters for children aged between 9 and 13, it is also read by adults in literacy programmes and community development centres.

It is by no means cool or tries to be, says Guy. The aim is to encourage children to read and to make them interested in world affairs.

Guy therefore chooses current global topics and piques his young readers' interest by inviting them to draw pictures for the articles. He also avoids "horror stories".

He says: "Children do not have the emotional capacity to deal with some of the content in mainstream newspapers."

But it is important to know about developments in the world, he says. Though he does not steer clear of stories about wars and crime, he selects different angles for young readers and puts articles in context by providing background.

"I write the stories in the same way that I speak to my own children," Guy says.

The idea is for children to create their own perspective of things happening in the world and history as it unfolds, he says.

He also hopes that his young readers will graduate to be discerning newspaper readers.

"As long as stories are well written, they should appeal to anyone," Guy says.