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New children’s page in The Courier News

The Courier News is pleased to share a new feature in our pages this week – Newspaper Fun – a high-energy, children’s activity page that features puzzles, cartoons, games and a cast of off-beat, humorous animal characters.

But, don’t be fooled by all the fun.

Underlying these entertaining elements is a strong educational framework that encourages reading. The feature explores a variety of themes, many of them aligned with school curriculum, and buried in its puzzles and challenges are lessons that sharpen essential language arts skills.

“With every page I create, my first priority is to make sure you look at it and say, ‘Hey, this looks like fun,’ and then pull out a pencil and go to work,” said Ann Mills, who writes and illustrates Newspaper Fun each week in her studio in Connecticut.

“People love to learn new things. I work to make the learning fun and entertaining. This draws families in and keeps them coming back for more,” Mills said.

With both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in education, Mills has a diverse background involving education. She worked in several elementary schools, helping to teach and motivate students to read before turning to children’s publishing.

For 10 years she created a children’s activity page in southern Connecticut, which focused on the challenges of a highly mobile, military-centered community, and which earned two international journalism awards.

That page – with the addition of a cast of new characters – formed the basis for Newspaper Fun, which launched in 2004.

“Newspapers play a crucial role in helping people stay connected with what’s going on in their communities,” Mills said. “By attracting families to their local newspapers through features like Newspaper Fun, we’re nurturing future generations of newspaper readers.”

Mills appreciates the influence of the Internet, and embraces it through her web site, which complements and extends the effect of Newspaper Fun. Each week, she publishes puzzle answers on the site, and offers a range of ideas, tools and puzzles for parents, teachers, librarians and others to use to encourage children to read and learn.

“The idea is to create a flow between traditional and new media, with the common denominator being a focus on good reading habits,” Mills said.