Not exactly: Our kids' papers are the parents of WORLD

Issue: "God, Caesar and taxes," April 17, 1999

Most WORLD readers are probably unaware that this magazine started with a very childish idea. WORLD was born in 1986 in large measure because its present publishers had already experienced significant success distributing news on a weekly basis to school children. As a child, I had enjoyed Weekly Reader-a little newspaper still published and remembered warmly by an astonishing four out of every five Americans. But Weekly Reader and its competitors in America's public schools had, I discovered, all traipsed down the same philosophic pathway that American education itself had gone. Thoroughgoing secularism, scientific naturalism, religious humanism, and sometimes nauseating political correctness permeated the editorial product. What a tragedy, I thought-to take an idea as good as Weekly Reader but then to spoil and skinny it down by leaving out of a child's weekly reading of the news all references to God, all excitement about His role as creator of the universe, all sense that He is the sovereign ruler of nations, all mention of His laws, all understanding of mankind's fall, and all notice of God's wonderful grace. So in 1981, several of us launched the first in what later became a series of Weekly Reader look-alikes-but by no means a series of sound-alikes. That very first year, It's God's World went to more than 20,000 fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade students in Christian schools across the country. But that was just for starters. Circulation doubled to 40,000 the second year. By 1985, we had expanded to five different editions, starting with preschoolers and kindergartners and reaching all the way up to junior high students. Today, nearly 300,000 children in more than 3,500 schools and at least 50,000 homeschool settings get their world news every week from the God's World News series of papers. It was only later that adults started coming back to us to say, in effect, "Hey, we like this. We read this with our kids. Couldn't you do something like God's World for adults?" And that's how WORLD magazine itself was born. It was the child of the children's newspapers. So now, don't you want to get to know WORLD's parents better? I've always envisioned that the God's World News series of weekly papers would have at least these three editorial objectives:

  • To alert children, in language appropriate for their age level, to the important news of the week from around the world.
  • To help them see that news in context. That includes the context of our history, the context of our culture, and most importantly, the context of God's truth as we understand it from the Bible.
  • To encourage them to respond to each week's news in a Christlike manner. That includes developing minds equipped with keen discernment, hearts overflowing with a spirit of grace, and hands prepared to do the work of a servant. Doing all that, of course, is a king-size assignment. It involves journalism and pedagogy and philosophy and child psychology and photography and theology and illustration and vocabulary-all in every week's issue. And that in turn means a staff of exceptionally qualified people. So here, in an operation parallel to the staff that produces WORLD each week, is a dedicated crew of men and women whose task it is to think like children-to sort through each week's news and then to report it to boys and girls across the country with the mind of Christ. Heading that team is Laura Hankins, an experienced educator with undergraduate work at Wheaton College and a master's degree from Covenant College. Before coming to God's World, Mrs. Hankins taught in and then administered a large Christian school in Louisiana. But here, her classroom includes hundreds of thousands of students. She says: "Current events provide a unique context for meeting our editorial goals. Not for a second do I see the teaching of current events as optional for a teacher. Instead, they offer a perfect setting for talking with children about the connection between their faith and the rest of life." Senior editor for the two upper-grade papers is Norm Bomer, a Dordt College graduate who has been a mainstay of the children's papers since the very first edition in September 1981. During those 18 years, he has met the challenge of thousands of weekly deadlines-and always with a zeal to help youngsters think God's thoughts after Him about that week's happenings around the world. More recent on the team are Michael McAllister, a homeschooling father of three who edits the lower-grade editions, and Vicki Drake, mother of four grown children who edits parallel material for teachers. Nat Belz, our corporate creative director, and Rich Bishop, whose cartoons and illustrations you've enjoyed from time to time in WORLD, have contributed extensively to the design of the children's papers. Brian Morrison, Matt Barker, and Rebecca Groves are busy extending the marketing effort of the whole children's papers division. Together, we're aware that children read less these days than they used to. And we know that teachers' schedules are already packed. So we're looking at other ways to weave a biblical worldview into the fabric of kids' lives-projects that may include an interactive Web site with absolutely current news. But the hundreds of letters we get week after week from children all over North America persuade us we're onto something good. If you haven't seen the God's World News papers yourself, and you have children, grandchildren, or neighbors who might benefit, let me know. We'd be happy to send you some sample copies.

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Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.


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