04 May 2010

Role of language in children's magazines

I remember reading Aunty Wendy’s column `Young Folks’ League’ (in the Illustrated Weekly of India) and stories in the then very popular Tamil monthly `Kannan’, during my childhood days in the ‘60s. The contents were highly educative as they were written in very simple language.  Hence children enjoyed reading them to the core.   

Today, many newspapers publish supplements for children. One such is the ‘yOuNG WorLD’ published by THE HINDU on Tuesdays. Usually the supplement carries contents, which are of interest to children. But what I find odd is the language used. Sometimes it is ambiguous and/or grammatically incorrect.

Let me give two examples of excerpts from today’s supplement to show as to how the language can be simplified and made more readable by children:

1. The 1st page carries the following passage: Put away your books and get ready to have agood time. The holidays are here. It is necessary to take a vacation because your body, mind and soul need time to rejuvenate. Some people like to travel to foreign  lands, while others enjoy visiting places close by that are familiar and easy to get to. There are yet others who just want to chill at home with their favourite books and music. Whatever, be your style, just sit back and have a great holiday.

2. Page 10 carries an advertisement by http://www.heymath.com/. Its brainteaser column lists the following question: In a nuts and bolts factory, machine A produces nuts at the rate of 100 nuts per minute and needs to be cleaned each time for 5 minutes after producing 1000 nuts. Machine B produces bolts at the rate of 75 bolts per minute and needs to be cleaned each time for 10 minutes after producing 1500 bolts. If both the machines start production at the same time, then what is the minimum duration required for producing 9000 pairs of nuts and bolts?

The passages can be simplified and made more child-friendly as follows:

Put your books away and get ready to have a good time. The holidays are here. It is necessary to take a vacation because your body, mind and soul need time to refresh. Some people like to travel abroad, while others enjoy visiting places, which are nearby, familiar and easy to reach. There are yet others who just want to chill at home with their favourite books and music. Whatever be your style, just sit back and have a great holiday.

In a nuts and bolts factory, machine A produces 100 nuts per minute. It needs to be cleaned each time for 5 minutes after producing 1000 nuts. Machine B produces 75 bolts per minute and needs to be cleaned each time for 10 minutes after producing 1500 bolts. If both machines are switched on at the same time, how much time will they take for producing 9000 pairs of nuts and bolts?

I think that simple, grammatically correct and appropriately punctuated language is of paramount importance when it comes to publishing any material for children.



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About Me

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Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
I am a K-12 Education Management Professional turned freelance Education writer. I have worked at different levels in K-12 school systems, textbook publishing, elearning and Education NGOs. I have held memberships in The Association for Science Education (UK), American Association of Physics Teachers and The Malaysian Institute of Physics. I hold a 1st class B Sc Degree in Physics followed by B Ed [English and Physical Science] and M A [Childcare and Education] degrees. My published works include 59 articles in teacher development magazines in India and the US and a book entitled `Creative Classrooms and Child Friendly Schools' (listed in Amazon). This book is almost an anecdotal account of my professional experience in six countries (including Cambodia where I worked as Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Education, Youth And Sports). I served as mentor in the Certificate of Teaching Mastery Program offered by Teachers Without Borders.