Newspaper initiative to improve literacy


AN INITIATIVE to give transition year students a better idea of how newspapers work and to improve literacy will begin on Monday.

The Press Pass scheme will see free national and regional newspapers distributed to 14,000 students in 250 schools over a fortnight.

They will be accompanied by a workbook.

The idea “should help to improve literacy standards for those students taking part” because of the “strong yet practical focus on reading and writing”, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said yesterday.

The initiative by National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) is in conjunction with the Department of Education.

NNI co-ordinating director Frank Cullen said the newspaper representative body was “happy to support” the Minister in trying to address the State’s literacy levels.

An OECD report last year saw a slip in reading levels among Irish 15-year-olds from fifth place in 2000 to 17th place.

Literacy was not just about reading but about becoming “media critical” and learning “how to understand the media” and about valuing different sources, Mr Cullen said. By reading newspapers, young people also developed “real-life knowledge of our society and our world”, he added.

Recent international studies found increased reading levels among children who used newspapers in the classroom, NNI director of newspapers in education Enda Buckley said.

The project would get “credible well-written press into young people’s hands, if they haven’t been exposed to that as a daily experience at home,” NNI chairman Matt Dempsey said.

He noted that 70 per cent of 15- to 18-year-olds in Ireland “regularly read a newspaper”, according to the Joint National Readership Survey.

The “great advantage of newspapers” was that they were collated from “reputable sources, by reputable people and put down in print easily and at a pace that suits the reader,” he added.

During the fortnight of the scheme, newspapers will be read and shared around classrooms with an accompanying workbook.

The workbook aims to show students how a newspaper operates and gives practical insights into five areas of newspaper journalism: news, sport, features, analysis and photojournalism.

A national writing competition is also part of the initiative with the best work being published in newspapers.

This was a “really exciting” part of the scheme as students had a chance to see their work published “in some of Ireland’s leading newspapers” while newspapers had a chance to “unearth some” talented young writers and “budding journalists”, Mr Dempsey said.


Seán Bourke (15)Transition year student at Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál, Blarney, Co Cork.

His peers “get news from their phone, apps or their computer, more technological places”, he says. He reads newspapers “not very often and only the sports section really”, and instead gets his news “from the internet or on Facebook”.

His generation “as adults, will read newspapers on the internet”.

On newspapers helping with schoolwork, he says: “You are going to need to be caught up with everything, so you are going to learn something from newspapers.”