WEST ORANGE, NJ — The new Scholastic News Kid Reporters are sharpening their pencils to get ready for the year of writing, and among them is 12-year-old Gavin Naar, a West Orange resident and new member of the press corps. Gavin will be covering current events and breaking news for the Scholastic Kids Press website and the classroom magazine from home, pitching his own ideas and getting story assignments. He’s one of 50 kid reporters from around the world participating in the program.
To be accepted into the program, students between the ages of 10 and 14 had to submit a sample news article, an essay about why they want to be a kid reporter and ideas for stories about their community. Gavin wrote about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his peaceful protest of the national anthem, and wants to write more about sports this year.
“I wanted to get better at writing,” the Liberty Middle School seventh-grader said in a phone interview with the West Orange Chronicle on Oct. 6. “I’ve always been reading Scholastic News at school and answering questions about them.”
Suzanne McCabe, the editor of Scholastic Kids Press, will be working with Gavin on his stories. In a phone interview with the Chronicle on Oct. 3, she said the kid reporters often come up with ideas that she wouldn’t know to write about.
“Typically I help them with ideas,” she said. “We craft questions and talk about things to look for. They often come up with ideas that we wouldn’t think of.”
According to McCabe, many students are interested in writing about climate change and how extreme weather affects their communities. With a presidential election on the horizon, McCabe said many of the kid reporters will be covering politics.
“We want to make sure they hone their critical thinking skills and make sure they cover the whole issue,” she said. “They’re learning how to express their views. A lot of the time they start out shy and grow more confident over the year.”
Gavin loves sports; he’s an avid football and basketball fan, he runs track and is a brown belt in karate. Besides his goal of interviewing Brooklyn Nets player and West Orange native Kyrie Irving, he wants to use his knowledge of statistics and analytics in the stories he writes.
“I’m really good at stats and analytics, so that helps me prove a point,” Gavin said. “I want to write about sports and problems in the world.”
Gavin’s mother, Cheryl Naar, said she’s excited to see the work he does that is different from what he’s writing in school all day.
“This is a way to develop his writing skills,” she said in a phone interview with the Chronicle on Oct. 6. “At school they’re writing essays, but this is a different style. I hope he can write about things he’s interested in.”
According to McCabe, children’s perspectives are important to take into account when reading and watching the news, and this is important to the Scholastic News program.
“Sometime we think because they’re not adults, they don’t have adult knowledge,” McCabe said. “But when we’re talking about hearing more than one perspective, young voices are no exception to that. I know I want more than one perspective when I’m looking at news.”
Besides the fact that the students in the press corps are being published, McCabe said they are learning more about journalism and becoming more invested in it as a result.
“The more they work on their stories, the more they get interested in the news,” she said. “Our students in Ohio were covering the debates, and one of them interviewed Pete Buttigieg. When one election can come down to a few states, seeing how the press covers an election and how their town fits into it is important.”
Students who have been members of the Scholastic press corps have gone on to start newspapers at their schools, study journalism at Stanford University and work at NBC News. For now, though, Gavin is working on coming up with ideas for what he wants to write about.
“I want to get multiple stories on the website and maybe some in the magazine,” he said.