The Newspaper- A Great Resource For Children’s Authors


What is the newspaper saying about children?  I’ve been told children’s authors need to be persistent purveyors of the media in order to figure out what’s happening with kids. The things we read can give us story ideas and help us understand the world of children. With that in mind I decided to read last Sunday’s edition of the New York Times and look for articles about children. There were lots!

The cover story described how the American firearms industry is pouring millions of dollars into getting kids interested in guns. They give free guns to youth groups, sponsor gun camps for kids, have developed a video game called Point of Impact and publish a magazine called Junior Shooters. They are also lobbying to reduce the minimum age for hunting.  I have been thinking about writing a children’s story about a time my son, who had been raised in a home where not even toy guns were allowed, was asked by a friend to go shooting birds. What should he do? Gun control is certainly a hot topic. Might be good to write a story about children and guns. 

In a story about funding cuts to the Children’s Aid Society the history of New York’s Street Arabs or homeless entrepreneurs was recounted. Some 100,000 homeless children in New York City who hawked rags and newspapers for a living were relocated to American rural farm families as workers between 1853 and 1929. This was called The Orphan Train Movement. It could be interesting to write a story about one of those children.

An article in the sports section examined whether teenagers are physically and emotionally mature enough to play on National Hockey League teams or whether they should be playing in the juniors until they turn 20. I’m not sure if sports stories are my genre but a teen novel about a gifted young hockey player would no doubt be popular. 

A couple of articles were deeply disturbing but might make for thought-provoking story writing.

One was about young female teens who unbeknownst to them have had pornographic pictures of themselves published on the internet. They thought their abusers had been arrested but they didn’t know before they were imprisoned they had spread images of their female victims across the internet. 

Another was about the lack of homes for Native American children. The courts don’t like to place Native American children with foster or adoptive families who aren’t Native American, but there aren’t nearly enough Native American foster homes for all the children who need to be placed. 

Each one of the haunting photos by David Seymour in an exhibit described in Sunday’s New York Times could inspire a story. There was one of children playing amongst war debris on the Normandy Beach and another of a young boy on trial in Naples. One was  of children in an air raid shelter in Spain and another of a little child surveying the bombed German city of Essen. 

The New York Times also carried an interesting Sunday dialogue debate about whether children watching violent television programs and movies are more violent in their behavior. Statistics and research was provided to support opposing points of view. Perhaps  a non-fiction book about helping kids make wise media viewing choices could become a best seller. 

The last story was a ‘feel good’ one. Quebec parents had insulin pumps tattooed on their stomachs to support their little son who had to have an insulin pump installed in his stomach. Would this story make a cool picture book for kids?

Reading the newspaper is a great way for children’s authors to keep abreast of what is going on in the world of children and can be a good resource for finding ideas for stories. 

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MaryLou Driedger is just beginning to write fiction and non-fiction for children after working as a teacher, newspaper columnist and free-lance journalist for thirty years. She also blogs at What Next?

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.
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