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Telling the Kids : Weekly Reader Prints Extra Edition About Gulf War

January 23, 1991|From Associated Press

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — The day after war broke out in the Middle East, editors of the Weekly Reader began creating the publication's first extra edition since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Along with words, editors of the nation's largest classroom newspaper assembled maps, pictures and other material to help students understand the war's historical and geographical context.

"If you look at TV (news reports) from the mind of a 7-year-old, it's total gibberish," Terry Borton, editor in chief, said. "He knows what is happening is big. He knows it's bad. He knows there are missiles in it. But it's very, very difficult for him to make any sense of it."

Weekly Reader's special issue, headlined "War In the Middle East," is designed to both educate and reassure its readers, the editors said. Copies will reach classrooms Friday.

There are two editions: one for children in kindergarten through third grade, the other for students in grades four through six.

"There are kids in Florida who think it's happening in the Gulf of Mexico because all they hear about is the war in the gulf," said Celia Argiriou, executive editor.

Maps help tell the story. One map shows the distance between the United States and Iraq. A computer-created map based on satellite photos shows how the desert dominates the Middle East.

The edition for older students has a full-page explanation of the threat posed by chemical warfare, including a drawing of a soldier wearing a gas mask and protective suit.

It was important to include that information because many youngsters see people on television, including reporters in the war zone, wearing gas masks, Argiriou said.

Descriptions of weapons--tanks, jet fighters and battleships--appear in both issues. But only the edition for older children includes photographs that show the acts or consequences of war.

News about Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait and events leading up to the war are presented in straightforward fashion, without editorializing.

"America has gone to war many times before," reads one section in the edition for younger children. "All the other wars ended. This war will end someday, too."

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