A Northern Virginia Daily special anniversary section

Celebrating 75 years: Index of stories
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Program puts the Daily to use in the classroom

Newspaper in Education a newer, beloved initiative

By Jessica Wiant
Daily Staff Writer


Amand Rettburg, one of Elvin Rose's 2006-2007 students at Warren County Middle School, peruses the Daily's sports section after getting a copy of the paper through the NIE program.
Kelly May Phillips/Daily


Students of Mrs. Babcock's 2006-2007 fourth-grade class at W.W. Robinson Elementary School are among hundreds of students who make the Daily part of their learning experience through the paper's NIE program.

Kelly May Phillips/Daily

Ask The Northern Virginia Daily's general manager about the best thing the newspaper does, and she doesn't have to think about it for long.

For Elizabeth Smoot, it is the paper's Newspaper in Education Program.

"We love having this program," she said. "I just think it's the best thing we do."

The concept of the program is simple: Put newspapers in schools for pupils to use. That concept has been around for hundreds of years, and for decades, newspapers have been doing it.

Today there are more than 900 NIE programs at newspapers all across the United States. The Daily began its NIE program in 2004.

Every week during the school year, the Daily distributes 6,000 copies of its newspaper to schools throughout the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

Currently, 37 schools -- from elementary through high school -- and 240 teachers are involved with the Daily's NIE program.

"It's a wonderful feeling to see our newspaper in the schools," Smoot said.

"We'd been wanting as a company to start it for a long time," Smoot said. "The family ownership has a heart for children and a heart for education. It's just one of those programs that makes sense for us."

And since the program's inception, the Daily has taken NIE seriously.

After just three years, NIE at the Daily has earned a strong reputation. This fall, Smoot has been asked to give a presentation about the Daily's NIE program at the annual convention of the National Newspaper Association.

Every newspaper's NIE program is built on a different philosophy, Smoot said. Some newspapers use it as a way to boost circulation. Some do minimal work. But at the Daily, NIE is an active program that constantly engages teachers and students.

The program is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit that involves a three-pronged partnership between schools in the Daily's coverage area, local businesses and the newspaper. The Daily employs a full-time coordinator to keep in constant contact with schools and teachers who participate.

In that role, Kelly May Phillips offers teachers different ways to use the Daily in their classrooms. Phillips offers workshops during the summer months, and educators who have used the program are constantly helping other teachers.

Serial stories and learning tools like pigskin geography are some of the things Phillips obtains and offers to teachers.

"Teachers are busy. We have to make this as simple and as useful as we can," Smoot said. "Kelly works very hard with teaching teachers how to use it."

Phillips agreed.

"It's not about the numbers for us," she said. "We do as much as we can to make it fun, not overwhelming."

Through reading the newspaper and using it as part of other activities, students are able to open their minds to the world around them, reading, math and other subjects. "There's something about a newspaper," Phillips said.

For the Daily, NIE also is a tool to keep newspapers in front of young people and help them realize their importance, Smoot said.

"I have found that teachers are so appreciative, not only that we have the program, but that we believe in it as much as we do," Phillips said, adding "I appreciate them for wanting to teach children in an alternative way."

Phillips shows that appreciation by choosing teachers of the month and surprising that educator with donated goodies and an ad featuring them in the Daily.

Each May, NIE sponsors a "This is Your Community Neighborhood Fair" with the Apple Blossom Mall to teach children about the organizations and services in their area. Every Wednesday, the Daily dedicates a full page called "Kids Scoop" to puzzles, reading and other content for children.

In 2006, the Daily coordinated a school supply drive through NIE for the first time, and in May the Daily held a photo contest as a fundraiser for NIE for the first time.

While the Daily carries much of the cost of the program, businesses and schools contribute, as do some individuals.

Subscribers can contribute to the program by making a "vacation donation." By calling the circulation department, readers can donate the days of their subscriptions that they won't be at home to get the paper.

Smoot says the program is currently at full capacity, and while there might not be room to grow for now, NIE stands to become a tradition in the Daily that is as lasting as the Daily itself.

"This family and this company are committed to this program," Smoot said.

More information about NIE is available by contacting Kelly Phillips at kphillips@nvdaily.com or by calling (800) 296-5137.

* Contact Jessica Wiant at jwiant@nvdaily.com

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