By: Mark Fitzgerald
During this year?s Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, more than one million elementary schoolchildren will participate in a bilingual Newspaper In Education (NIE) program sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund.
The program for the fourth through eighth grade not only supplies classes with free, bilingual materials for using the newspaper to learn about Hispanic American history and current topics — it also partners English-language dailies with a Spanish-language or bilingual newspaper in each market.
This year, a record 19 dailies will be participating along with 18 Hispanic-oriented papers. (Lorraine Litton of Campbell & Co., the Dearborn, Mich.-based ad agency that administers the program, said it is still looking for a partner for the 19th daily.)
New to the program this year are The Los Angeles Times, the Orlando Sentinel, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Local student participation in the past has been huge, said Ann Pellegrini, education and partnership marketing manager for the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune and the Chicago edition of Hoy are local partners.
?Last year, which was our third year, we had 800 art works submitted? to the art contest that is a separate part of the NIE program.
Campbell & Co.?s Litton said last year not quite one million kids received materials. This year, the agency is estimating it will distribute 1,298,278 sets of NIE materials.
The program began in 1999 with the jointly produced Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, and for its first two years was distributed only in that market, said Sharon Martin, NIE director for Detroit Newspapers Partnership LP.
Detroit does not have the kind of big Hispanic populations found in Chicago, California, or the Southwest, but the Hispanic NIE program ?caught on right away,? Martin said.
Taking a local program national was a challenge, she added, but Ford Motor Company ?really liked being in the forefront? of providing Hispanic heritage information through the newspaper.
?It?s not the easiest way to run a national program,? Martin said, because individual newspapers can run their NIE programs in very different way. ?But they?ve stayed with it, and brought on new newspapers every year,? she said.
For an NIE program, Ford is ?one heck of a good sponsor,? the Tribune? Pellegrini said. The fund provides materials free, which makes it attractive to schools, and provides prizes such as savings bonds for the program?s art contest, which makes it attractive to kids.
For the Chicago program, classrooms receive supplements for the four-week program, plus delivery of the Chicago Tribune on Thursdays and Fridays for a month. The paper hosts winners of the program?s essay and art contests at its Freedom Center production plant.
This year?s theme is Hispanic Literature and Storytelling/Cuento y Literatura Hispana.