This is my story with the children’s newspaper. I don’t know how to tell it, though. It is much easier to live your story than to tell it.
When my son turned 8, I retired to take care of him full time. We decided that it was time for one of us to invest in the child, and I wanted to be the parent that does it.
Around that same time, I started looking for a daily newspaper for the child. For 2 reasons –
1. All of us in the family are newspaper junkies. We need our newspaper with the morning coffee and the breakfast. If that newspaper is not there, we are lost all day.
2. Having been at levels where I was in interview panels to select people for admissions into colleges, and jobs in companies for over a decade, I realised one thing. There was a consistent pattern. The talent that was walking in that interview room door was awesome – Above 95 percent in academics throughout, IIT or an equally prestigious institution, done very well in the preliminary or entrance exam etc. Yet, we had to reject about 2 out of every 3 candidates that entered that door – because of our selection ratio. We only had that many seats or posts.
And I realised, consistently, that the candidates we rejected, had one thing in common –they were simply not able to discuss current affairs. Most of them did not read current affairs at all, and a few depended on online news or TV for their current affairs and ended up reproducing the same things that they had read or heard. There was no analysis and no depth to their answers.
The candidates who were able to make it, in contrast, had read about current affairs, knew their numbers, were able to present both sides of the story. When we asked them where they went for their current affairs, every single one of them said that they read a detailed story in a newspaper, and supplemented it with TV debates or online news.
The second thing I realised was that something like this cannot be rushed. It is a habit that has to be formed during childhood. The ability to analyse, to see both sides of the story, to express something in simple words – these are things that take years of consistent engagement with the news. Today, there is a great tendency to get polarised, or to even break friendships based on someone’s response to a political event. But if you keep reading the papers, you realise that everything is ephemeral. Your ability to rise above the immediate or the urgent, and see the bigger picture, is developed only after years of engagement with a wider outside world. We can always tell when someone has taken a crash course in news.
I observed this for over 14 years of that professional career, and realised that even after a child has excelled academically and done everything right, when it comes to that last step, how aware you are, how analytical, and how you view the world, makes all the difference. This was a classic case of “For want of a nail, the kingdom was lost.”
My ask, I thought, was really simple:
- A daily newspaper
- No violence, rape, ISIS or negative news
- Written in the child’s style, in a lucid, easy way that even kids can understand.
- Available for him to read BEFORE school, at breakfast, so that the habit is formed.
I mean, if we can get 4 newspapers delivered to our house every morning, how hard can this be, right?
Wrong. It wasn’t hard. It was impossible. No one else thought a child needed to form a DAILY habit of reading a newspaper. Times of India and HT do school subscriptions, and the child struggles with that size. It is too huge for him or her to actively navigate, read, and enjoy.
On June 21st, 2017, I ranted on GurgaonMoms, the Facebook group, wondering if I should attempt to create a paper at home for the child to read. The sheer encouragement I got from that group, and the number of women saying, “Go for it!” encouraged me to try. I did.. the first edition was a disaster.
But I sat at my desk every single day, working a little bit. On June 30th, 2017, my son came from his grandparents’ place after a 10 day break. I handed him the 4 page simple printout. He went into his room, and when he emerged 15 minutes later, he hugged me and said, “Mom, if you think you know how happy I am, you know nothing.” Those words sealed it.
It is a simple, print at home newspaper in A4 format, created by parents for their own children.
Within the first week, Aditi, my senior from IIM Cal, a neighbour, and a very dear friend, saw the paper and said she wanted to do this too. So she started doing the Sunday edition, while I did all the others. Then, I posted on Gurgaon Moms, and some other mothers responded to the call. Shampa was one of the first to respond, and her son Ayush, sent the first child drawn cartoon strip – called Bob Mania. Bob Mania still runs in the paper, and he has consistently created one strip a week for most weeks in these 16 months (17 by the end of November).
Within 2 months, we were 7 mothers creating 7 editions, and within 4 months, we also had child cartoonists on every edition – all 7 of them. Everyone needed to work only once a week but they got the paper every day for their child. Further, every parent brings a different perspective to the table, so the children also read about everything from IT, Finance and Business (me), to architecture and Indian history (Pradeepthi), puzzles and riddles (Neha’s edition has at least 5 of them every Saturday), nature stories (contributed by Ashwin Baindur from Pune), Space (Monica aunty’s edition), health (Deepti aunty is a dentist by profession)..
For one year, the paper was run as a closed loop circulation only – you got the paper if you contributed to the content – either as an editor or as a contributor.
In July this year, we, the editorial group, decided that we were now ready to take the home grown paper to a much larger audience. We had a year-long proof of concept, we knew how holidays and sickness and other aspects of being a stay at home parent affects our ability to contribute on time, how we are thorough professionals who will complete Diwali or New Year celebrations and then sit down on the paper.
We are the only paper that has an edition on the day after Holi, Diwali and even New Year.
So in July, the paper was opened to everyone. It is now available for a nominal subscription. Children can see it online as an e-paper, or they can download and take a printout on any home or office printer.
Nidhi Arora: Your’s Truly
Aditi Kumaria : Aditi is IIM Cal 1998 and the first editor mom to join TCP.She is a mother and a corporate professional and both roles being equally important for her. She wanted her child to start reading news but was worried about the negative content that is usually highlighted.Partnering with TCP on its first year journey has made her appreciate all the hard work that Nidhi has put in to make her vision a reality.
Harinder Kaur: A founder partner for Pidgin Consulting, an HR Consulting firm; Harinder is a mom to two who are opposites for anything and everything! She met Nidhi Arora over work and learnt about TCP. Loved the newspaper and hesitatingly took the opportunity of doing the Friday editions thinking that it is only editing.Has been associated with the paper since June 2018 and enjoys every bit of it, especially the features because most of them come from the questions her children ask her! She feels that it is one of the things that fuel her creativity and her quest for knowledge!
Ekta Eccleston: Ekta worked in the IT industry for 7 years and gave it all up happily to start a family. Rejoined the workforce recently, after a very long break. Her journey with TCP, as the review editor, is still in its infancy but creating something for children gives her immense joy and a sense of fulfilment.
Shivani G. Narang : Shivani works as a Principal Consultant at an IT consulting firm. She is mother to two 6-year-olds who are creative in their own right, and enjoy reading about new things. Shivani has been associated with TCP for the past 5 months and is the editor for the Sunday edition. She believes that this is her little contribution to the world and she appreciates every single reader, young, or old!
Neha Jain: Her TCP journey began in July 2018, which put her dream into reality to inculcate good reading habits in kids. In the era of e-social world where quality content is hard to find she is proud to make sure their newspaper content is kid- friendly, covers a wide range of topics, is learning with fun and free from any negative content.
Deepti Chhabra: She is a mother to 2 wonderful girls – 11 years and an 8 months old and a practicing dentist (for 17 years). She loves to work with kids at work & otherwise too. What excites her about TCP is that it is a platform to keep up with the current news. It is an opportunity to do something she likes, and in a format which she would personally like to read.
Pradeepthi Vissamsetti: She is a Freelance Content Writer, Translator (English, Telugu) and City Editor for Momspresso Telugu.She’s also the Co-Founder for an NGO called Sahaja Foundation which helps young children in improving hygiene and we also aim in developing moral and ethical values in them through various activities.She has been associated with The Children’s Post from past one year. TCP is now an integral part of her family, her daughter loves reading and contributing to TCP.
The Current State
Today, we have 6 editors churning out 7 editions and almost every edition has a child cartoonist’s original work. There is a reviewing editor who checks every edition before it goes out. So she works every single night, all 365 days. Which means that she spends the whole day being a professional and a parent, puts the kids to sleep and then, every single night, sits down to review a 4 page edition.
Very recently, on Children’s Day, we, the editorial group, decided to meet with the kids. This was the first time that the entire group was meeting face to face. And on that day, we realised that EVERYONE’S journey with The Children’s Post started at GurgaonMoms – either as a post asking for child cartoonists, or as a post sharing the special editions, or through another post… Honestly, The Children’s Post owes its origin and sustenance, to GurgaonMoms, the group, and the lovely people in that group. So whenever we create a special edition, I always feel like sharing it with the awesome mothers on this group. GurgaonMoms has a very special place in my heart. Because of that encouragement on that day, my son has had a regular newspaper every single day for almost 17 months now. In Grade 5, his class teacher acknowledged him as the kid who was “most aware” of current affairs. It meant a lot to him, and so, to me. I also think of this as an important motivational story. Whenever someone comes to me with any idea now, I think of that day on GurgaonMoms and the ladies who wrote “Go For It!” It was a small word of encouragement from them, and look at the difference that made! So I follow that example and tell the person, “You won’t know unless you try. Go for it!”
The children – our readers, contribute about 50 percent of non-news content, and we would like to make that at least 60 percent.
We have gone from about 50 readers in July to about 3500 readers now.
If you can take a printout and want to use it for your own child only, you can join the Facebook group of parents: www.facebook.com/childrenspaper
And if you would like to give your child the paper to read on the screen, then please please spend some money and subscribe to the e-reader – www.thechildrenspost.com . The e-reader is much better for the eyes of the child than a pdf. Of course, it also helps us financially, and that is support we really do need.
We would like to:
- Create a HUGE community of children who read. In the polls that we have done on the Facebook group and in our discussions, we find that we, the parents, have a lot to learn as listeners. We would like to change that.
- Demonstrate and prove that mothers sitting at home can create something magical. The Children’s Post of India is the country’s most productive publication, and we can say that shamelessly. With no office, no employees and at absolutely no cost, we create a newspaper that is current, relevant and published every single day – including on days when the other newspapers take a break. There is also a layer of checking the paper every single night. These are mothers who spend the whole day being full time parents or professionals and then sit at night to create this magic.
- Get registered as a proper legal entity and monetise the paper. Then run it as a proper startup business with a unique delivery model. We have plans to involve more mothers from more towns and cities of India and help everyone get economic value. What is unique is that we are a zero cost model with a proven track record of delivery, and readers who positively love us.
I am Nidhi Arora, an avid reader, traveller, and a technology enthusiast. I love poetry with the same passion as information security, and I love being a mother best of all. Really think that children have a LOT to teach us, though Gibran comes a close second. And lastly, firmly believe in the Indian idea that the primary objective of human life is to further our spiritual journey. We are not bodies with souls. We are souls in bodies.
Thank You Nidhi for this wonderful initiative and making GugaonMoms a part of this beautiful journey. More success to the entire team