Do you remember getting Weekly Reader (WR) in your classroom as a child? Whether five or ninety years old, it seems most people have been exposed to it at one point or another in their lives. Most of us probably did read it as a child.
When accepting an award for his role in the motion picture Philadelphia Tom Hanks thanked WR for teaching him a love for reading and of tolerance. What a profound influence it seems to have on all who are fortunate enough to read it.
Maybe this dates us all because most of us are familiar with WR, but it just so happens that WR celebrated its 100th birthday in 2002, and in its 100 years it has grown from its first issue of Current Events to a weekly periodical for children. It continues its tradition today of featuring everything from current events to just plain interesting and educational reading material for children, parents, and educators. WR has publications for all ages now, even for parents who want to be involved with their children’s education in the classroom at school and the classroom of life. It has a history of an educational program that is designed to promote literacy with interesting subject matter, which educators and students alike continue to look forward to each week.
WR is also involved in another type of history in the making. Slyde the Playground Hound had its big debut in WR last April just in time for National Playground Safety Week. WR, in conjunction with Slyde and other safe play partners, helped this Play Smart, Play Safe program reach over 46,000 educators to help teach safe play in the simplest way to over 750,000 children. The curriculum includes a poster and activity guide for the classroom to raise safety awareness. Since WR is something the children can take home, it can also have an impact on parents and siblings.
Cheryl Kaczmarek of BCI Burke (co-sponsor of Slyde) gave a little history of how the partnership for the Play Smart, Play Safe Campaign came to be. After talking with Dr. Donna Thompson of the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) and Lifetime Learning Systems (who works with vendor partners for special programs with schools) at an NAESP show, they thought it would be a great idea to have some type of curriculum associated with Slyde that would appear in WR.
They knew the time investment and cost to get the ball rolling would be substantial, but the program could be a reality if they could pool resources with other playground safety experts. It was decided that they could team up with Slyde, the NPPS, Sof’fall, Today’s Playground magazine and Play Matta and make this work. After a series of phone calls and meetings with potential partners at the NRPA in October, they decided it was a “go.” This program is now co-funded, co-sponsored and was co-developed with the help of all the partners. “
This is the first time in playground history that a comprehensive playground safety program is being pushed out to the schools at one time. In the past, curriculum programs have been more of a pull…schools can ask for it and get it,” Kaczmarek says.
They also knew that WR could provide an effective and efficient avenue, as well as a credible, wholesome one, to help everyone on board accomplish this. “If we didn’t have everybody on board, we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” notes Kaczmarek.
Part of the reason injuries on the playground can occur is because some children aren’t aware enough of the risks. Sure, they should be allowed to be kids and have fun, but they should be educated about potential injuries. Slyde is a great tool for this as he is playful, simple to understand, and the kids seem to think he’s the neatest thing since sliced bread.
We had the opportunity to visit a classroom with Slyde recently and noticed how effective he was. The kids hung on his every movement and every word was spoken when he was there. He is becoming an icon in the classroom, right up there with Smokey the Bear, which is great because he speaks playground safety on the children’s level and can help create a safe play environment.
For this reason, WR was equally excited about having Slyde appear in their publication. “Our goal at Weekly Reader is to get kids excited about reading and writing. This [Slyde] is so important because students will also be reading about important safety tips, and you have this engaging character, Slyde, who is just a natural fit with our curriculum,” says Mia Toschi, editor, and spokesperson of Weekly Reader. “We are hoping with Slyde, we can reduce the numbers of playground injuries.”
Just to illustrate the impact Weekly Reader has on children, they have an article on the Heimlich maneuver, and other lifesaving procedures, which they publish every year. Many lives have been saved each year by children, and even adults, who have been able to read this special article each year and apply what they have learned. Children as young as 10 years old have saved younger siblings because they were exposed to the publication in the classroom. Think what an effect Slyde can have on playground safety education as well, with his message reaching that many children in one week’s time.
“This really is a historical collaboration. It was because everyone wanted to bring this together. All the corporate partners should be commended. Everyone really stepped up to the plate,” says Toschi.
Every one of these partners can give themselves a pat on the back for helping bring playground safety to the attention of all who enjoy playing equipment. They truly do have the children’s best interest at heart.