Last fall we visited the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. A few of the exhibits got a bit technical on the engineering details of rocketry and were, if you'll pardon the expression, somewhat over my head.
But many of the exhibits were fascinating. One that particularly caught my attention was a replica of Sputnik. About the size of a beach ball, with antennae poking out in various directions, it was a surprisingly tiny and simple device to have such an important place in world history. As I looked up at it, I realized, "I remember reading about this in the Weekly Reader."
Well, maybe I didn't actually read a whole lot about it. When Sputnik beeped its way into history in October of 1957, I was six. The Weekly Reader probably didn't have a lot of in-depth text in its first-grade edition. I do, however, clearly remember seeing a picture of Sputnik on the front page.
The Weekly Reader was a student newspaper that showed up every week at our five-pupil rural school. It had a different edition for each grade, which in our case meant a different edition for each student. I don't remember whether we had any formal lessons based on the Weekly Reader, but I definitely read every one of my issues and probably my older sister's copy as well.
I learned about the Russians sending the dog Laika into space and worried about whether it was able to get back to Earth. I read about space pioneers Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard. Learning that John Glenn, orbiting the Earth, saw more than one sunrise and sunset in just a few hours gave me my first real understanding of how our orbit around the sun gave us our days and nights.
Reading about the election of John Kennedy, I pondered how odd it seemed to say "President Kennedy" when the only President I remembered in my whole nine years of life was Eisenhower. I'm sure the Weekly Reader had full coverage of President Kennedy's assassination three years later, but I don't remember it that well. By then I had other sources of news, having begun reading more than just the comics in the Sioux City Journal.
Years later, when my own kids were in school, at least one of them was also a Weekly Reader fan. In about fourth grade, my son kept each issue carefully organized in a three-ring binder.
The Weekly Reader, I was glad to discover, is still alive and well. It's in full color now, but it still has weekly editions for each grade level. Best of all, it still comes out in print. It does, of course, have a website with videos and interactive online lessons—not to mention a presence on Facebook and Twitter. Its mission of delivering the news to kids is still the same; only the methods of delivering the news have changed.
And no doubt they will continue to change. I can imagine one of my grandkids, many years from now, talking to one of his or her grandkids about it. "I remember getting the Weekly Reader when it was still printed on paper. Back then, in the days of the old Internet, computers were so primitive we had to type in commands on something called a "keyboard." And remember that funny little device called a "mouse" that you saw in the technology museum? I actually used one of those. Everything was so slow, that sometimes we didn't get the news until hours or even a whole day after it happened."
The Weekly Reader. Its technology will change; it might even become the Daily Reader. But I hope it stays in business for a long, long time.