BRAWLEY — The Desert Kids News (DKN) began its pilot project in 2018 to raise students' awareness of the Imperial Valley while increasing their literacy skills. The County is ranked last for literacy rates in the State of California. Started by two local teachers, the quarterly newspapers — filled with games, puzzles, educational activities, and articles about the Valley — were delivered throughout the County’s elementary schools.
DKN Managing Editor Kayla Kirby explained the importance of creating a paper for kids.
“Imperial County has the lowest literacy rates in the entire state and we just want to make a difference. We want to give our local kids a product that inspires them and pushes them into a bright future,” said Kirby.
In previous DKN issues, students read about local farming, the Salton Sea, the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, different sites to visit in the Valley, and several other local topics.
With COVID restrictions, DKN’s typical deliveries were interrupted.
“Usually, we deliver physical papers to the elementary schools throughout the County to be distributed among the students. However, school closures eliminated that delivery method. We had to get creative. So, we reformatted our papers and began offering them online,” said Kirby.
Kirby explained the pages had to be adjusted to fit iPad and cell phone screens, the devices she assumed most children would access the material. However, the material can be accessed on any internet-accessible device. Kirby said new material is posted on the DKN Facebook page and the website weekly.
“We try to give them new material every week. Most weeks have a post for each day. Some posts are games and puzzles, while others are fun and interesting reading material that is related to the Imperial Valley,” said Kirby.
According to Kirby, the DKN papers and online content are free. She said the goal was to increase literacy in a fun way, not make a profit. Because the content is free, DKN relies on sponsorships.
“Charging a child to read our paper is unfair and it would not solve the literacy crisis. We wanted to do this because we believe in DKN and we believe that we can make a difference for these kids. They are our future after all,” said Kirby.
The COVID restrictions has made delivery difficult, but Kirby said it also made finding sponsorship difficult.
“We rely solely on sponsorships. We need businesses and organizations in this community to invest in their children. This is a great way to do that. We understand businesses are hurting right now because of the closures, but we just hope that things return to normal soon. Hopefully, the businesses that are doing well through this pandemic can lend a hand and support the smaller ones, including ours, that are struggling,” said Kirby.
DKN is currently looking for ways to get back to delivering physical papers to the students. However, with the ever-changing information, schools may not reopen as soon as DKN hopes.
“With school closures, students are suffering. They need interaction with other children, they need to be in a positive learning environment, and they need physical attention and direction from their teachers. Their education and their social development is suffering. We’re doing our best to offer our papers to these kids as quickly and as safely as possible. I fear that the literacy crisis is going to get even worse,” said Kirby.
For more information about DKN or how to become a sponsor, call (760) 351-0100 or send and email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can link here to the Desert Kids Newspaper website or go to its Facebook page here.