Commentary by John Howell

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011

We have watched with interest as The Panolian’s Newspaper in Education (NIE) program has changed in recent years.

Sponsors in the Batesville business community have generously pitched in to underwrite our cost of printing and distributing extra copies of the newspaper for delivery each Friday to students in the county’s schools.

Originally conceived as a means to provide supplemental reading material for students, the newspapers have been used as teaching tools as varied and creative as the imaginations of the teachers themselves. Teachers have invited us to their classrooms and shown us how they use newspaper stories — in younger grades to find words and letters, for instance, and among older students, to identify parts of speech and sentence construction.

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But as student access to digital information has grown exponentially, we have come to understand that in addition to serving as supplemental reading material, placing the newspapers in students’ hands today helps bridge the distance between print and electronic, local and elsewhere, the real world in the classroom and its cyber components.

The newspaper also provides a window into local government, politics and community — a civics and sociology lesson, if you will — like nothing else can. It helps them to discover that they are citizens themselves, rapidly growing to adulthood in this time and place, soon to find some of the same challenges, problems and rewards that the generations before them have found. We want to give them the newspaper to help equip in this discovery and learning process.

We appreciate the sponsors who understand the importance of this link between the students, the newspaper and the community. We provide newspapers to as many Panola County students in grades four through seven whose teachers request them and as sponsorship dollars allow. They will be offered weekly to teachers in South Panola, North Panola and North Delta schools on a first-signup basis until the quantity is exhausted.

The number of sponsors, of course, will determine the number of newspapers that we will be able to provide each Friday.

Already, First Security Bank, Tri Lakes Medical Center, Panola Construction Company, Stephen Sullivan and Panola Paper have joined us as sponsors of the 2011-’12 NIE program. If you share our interest in providing this important resource material for Panola students and teachers, our sales representatives will be glad to explain how the sponsorship works. Just call Bowen Bridges or Amy Geiger at 563-4591.

And, thank you for your interest.