North Dakota papers create literacy project using shared printing firm

Dec 1, 2022

Fourth-grade class of Brandy Anderson in Bowbells, North Dakota
Page with Kid Scoop youth feature in Tioga Tribune

Worried about declining readership of her two 3,000 combined circulation weeklies, Cecile Wehrman has organized eight of the nine newspapers in Divide County, North Dakota, to print and deliver 12,000 copies of Kid Scoop News to school children. The papers share a printing firm in Minot, North Dakota. Wehrman has raised nearly $100,000 in grant money to fund the literacy program that began in August 2022 and has plans to expand to the entire school population of North Dakota.

Kid Scoop News is a monthly 24-page tabloid newspaper for children. It grew out of the weekly in-paper youth feature, similarly titled Kid Scoop, that appears in Wehrman’s Journal and Tioga Tribune weeklies. Kid Scoop News is structured as a non-profit and is being distributed through state press associations and other partners around the country, currently throughout Nebraska, northern and southern California, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Partnerships are growing as news of learning loss due to school disruption during two years of the COVID-19 pandemic shows up in low reading and math test scores.

Wehrman realized that young families weren’t choosing to read the adult-level newspaper because “it was too much reading. Adult literacy has declined. Many adults don’t read well,” she concluded after several efforts to actually give away free subscriptions of her weeklies.

“When I first saw Kid Scoop News, it made me smile. The content and the graphics drew me in. It was the same reaction with everyone I showed it to,” she explained. “Even though it looks like entertainment, the content is educationally sound,” she said. Vicki Whiting, creator of the monthly Kid Scoop News in 2012 and the original Kid Scoop weekly page some 30 years ago, is a former elementary-school teacher. Her weekly page appears in newspapers in 42 states. All the reading activities in both publications link to required reading and math standards and use lively puzzles, games, math and literature, along with high-interest reading about science, geography, history and wildlife.

Wehrman’s family has deep roots in the North Dakota county that hugs the Canadian border and is about 30 miles from Montana. They were homesteaders from Wisconsin. For years, she worked for another family that had originally owned The Journal publishing company for 90 years, then purchased the papers herself outright in 2012. She raised funding to supply Kid Scoop News to thousands of children from a grant from the original owners’ charitable trust, from American Legion posts which have a gaming concession, and from utility co-ops, corporate charitable funds and individual donors.

She also supplies 60 home-schooled children on Minot Air Force Base. One mother wrote her: “My fourth-grader just loves Kid Scoop News. He spent the whole weekend doing all the activities!”

After a pilot project last May, teachers reported “the content is “top-notch” and “reinforces what we must teach, and the kids are excited about reading this little paper.”

Kid Scoop believes kids want to learn and that learning is fun! Its educational activity pages teach and entertain. Learning resources are used by both families and schools. Teachers use the page in schools to promote standards-based learning. Parents use the Kid Scoop materials to foster academic success, a joy of learning and family discussions. Over 25 years of experience in the field has taught us that children learn when they are engaged in the subject. We know that our puzzles and activities draw children into the page. This stimulates the child’s interest, and they then read the text. Every section they read and complete furthers their mastery of an academic skill. When parents show an interest and read the page with their child, they increase the value of this educational tool.