But, dont be fooled by all the fun. Underlying these entertaining elements is a strong educational framework designed to encourage reading. The page explores a variety of themes, many of them aligned with the lessons kids are learning in school, and buried in its puzzles and challenges are lessons that sharpen essential language arts skills.
"With every page I create, my first priority is to make sure you
look at it and say, Hey, this looks like fun, and then pull
out a pencil and go to work," said Ann Mills, who writes and
illustrates Newspaper Fun each week in her studio in Connecticut.
"My sense is that people love to learn new things, but can get turned off when they think something is designed to be educational," Mills said. "When you put interesting facts and ideas into a framework thats fun and entertaining, it draws
people in. It makes it more of a pleasure to discover the new material."
With both bachelors and masters degrees in education, Mills has a diverse background involving education. She worked in several elementary schools, helping to teach and motivate students to read before turning to childrens publishing. For 10 years she created a childrens activity page in southern Connecticut, which focused on the challenges of a highly mobile, military-centered community, and which earned two international journalism awards. That page with many graphic refinements and the addition of a cast of new characters formed the basis for Newspaper Fun.
"I believe that newspapers play a crucial role in helping people stay connected with whats going on in their communities," Mills said. "By attracting children to their local newspapers through features like Newspaper Fun, were nurturing a new generation of newspaper readers."
Mills sees the influence of the Internet as inevitable, and embraces it through her web site: NewspaperFun.com. Each week, she publishes puzzle answers on the site, using the mediums graphic potential to animate characters and add some fun to the mix.
"The idea is to create a flow between traditional and new media," Mills said, "with the common denominator being a focus on good reading habits."
The Newspaper Fun Page in Blount Today is made possible with the help of Alcoa Tenn Federal Credit Union.
The Newspaper Fun Page is on page 33.