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Students like reading the news. Too bad it’s so expensive.

 I’m a big reader of the news and a big believer of teaching current events.

Despite what some adults say, students really like reading about what’s going on in the world.

Last year, I had my ninth graders read an Article of the Week. According to course evaluations, the AoW was the second most popular activity — after The 1,000,000 Word Challenge.

But the AoW was the only news my students read in class. Independent reading focused exclusively on fiction. In other words, my students didn’t have the opportunity to choose news for themselves. And that’s crucial.

As Kelly Gallagher argues, students need more exposure to the news so they can participate more actively in their communities. Though Gallagher and other teachers inundate their students with newspapers and magazines, I’ve not been able to find a workable solution.

The news in print is expensive. Time quoted me 59 cents a copy, which comes to about $600 for a class set per year. The New York Times Upfront is more affordable but comes out only once a month.

The best scenario would involve buying several newspapers and magazines so there would be a good variety. But this idea would be even more expensive.

With the tough economy, I haven’t been able to find a news organization willing to donate free copies of their product to my classroom. “We used to do that” was the reply from several representatives.

I suppose I shouldn’t be annoyed about raising funds to purchase periodicals. After all, much of my time last year involved building my classroom library through DonorsChoose. Something feels weird, though, about asking for big money for newspapers and magazines, which quickly get tossed in the recycling. I care about the news, but a book has a much longer shelf life. My dream is to find a news junkie willing to donate $1,000 a year so I won’t have to worry. (All teachers should have personal perpetual donors.)

Another option is to go electronic. Students could follow several news sources on their Google Reader or follow current events in some other techy way. Problem is, our school is far away from a 1:1 environment, which I find crucial for the kind of voluminous reading I’m suggesting. (My dream is that every student has a Kindle, and we use Calibre to fetch the news and send it, free, to their e-reader every morning.)

With school coming up soon, I’m a little lost about how to figure this out. Maybe this year my focus should be on access, to make sure my classroom has at least one copy of every major (serious) periodical. Classrooms should be places of ideas, and just as books should abound, so should the news. 

Please share your brilliant insights!