Cloudy and Burger Free: A Recipe for Child-Friendly News

Illustration by Miglena Papazova

If you have ever had an (unsuccessful) argument with an 8-year-old about why mesh sneakers or a light cotton dress are out of the question on a cold, snowy day, you are not alone. Every parent has had to rush through explanations about the weather and received an unblinking, uncomprehending stare.

Bulgarian parents needn’t have that argument again. The weather updates provided by Look!, the first site for child-friendly news in Bulgaria, will not only keep the domestic peace but will also turn the weather forecast into something to look forward to! Look!’s engaging, easily digestible writeups, supplemented by beautiful, fun illustrations, help young readers understand that their parents aren’t really trying to thwart their stylistic independence.

There are good reasons we check the weather forecast at least once a day (and why weather apps are a smartphone staple).

Here’s how a recent article on Look! lays these reasons out. After a catchy headline (“Cloudy and Burger Free”) and illustrator Miglena Papazova’s diverting sketch of weepy clouds, young readers get to the heart of why they need to heed meteorologists’ warnings of rain — “so you don’t schedule a picnic in the park during that weekend.”

You don’t want to learn why the expression “raining on your picnic” became synonymous with poor luck, do you?

Look!’s team of writers simplify complex concepts such as “cold front” and “cloud cover” by connecting them to children’s plans and innermost wishes. Will there be enough snow to go sledding or have a snowball fight with my friends after school? Will my family be able to go to the beach next week? Maybe my mother is right to insist on glove and hat wearing after all.

— Is this Sirius, Dad?
— Yes, but we are seeing its light from… eight years ago! Illustration by Miglena Papazova

Making these connections may look like the logical thing to do, but it’s not something we adults always have time for.

More than a parenting aid, though, Look! is a doorway to the world for children.

Apart from the always-topical weather, it covers subjects such as scientific and artistic achievements, international politics, the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, and the world’s newest sport — pillow fighting!

Few topics are off limits because children are interested in everything, according to Zornitsa Hristova, Look!’s editor-in-chief and a leading author of children’s books. She had always intuited that children have broad interests, but even she was surprised by just how many things they are curious about.

“I did not expect so many questions about science and so many competently asked questions. They ask about outer space and how the brain works; they follow the news that escapes our notice,” Ms. Hristova says. “Children expand our understanding more than we expand theirs.”

Look! is the brainchild of three mothers, who founded online educational platform Knigovishte to promote reading and learning among children in Bulgaria. Desislava Gavrilova, one of the three Knigovishte founders, celebrated Look!’s launch, in May 2021, thus:

“We created Look! as part of because we want Bulgaria’s children today to be curious about the world, to know things, and to develop from an early age a sense of justice and a desire to make the world a better place. It seems to us that somewhere along the way this may just enable tomorrow’s grownup children to really change our country and the world for the better,” Ms. Gavrilova wrote on her Facebook page.

Knigovishte gives out prizes to the most avid young readers

Importantly, Look! admits children into the world of adults by allowing them to still be kids — by letting them play and have fun. Although they are invited to take quizzes at the end of articles, children don’t feel like they are tested at every turn. Instead, the gamified questionnaires ask their opinion and invite them to connect with peers, thereby helping them enjoy learning.

When parents do the explaining, “they may inadvertently take on the role of teachers and get angry if the child doesn’t get it. This will scare the child, and children do not learn well when they feel stupid,” Ms. Hristova says. Instead, Look! writeups maintain a respectful, positive tone and do not talk down to readers.

By covering subjects related to disinformation and online etiquette and safety, the news portal also equips young readers to be more savvy internet users.

Parents can benefit from reading Look!, too. Not only will we get free parenting tips, but it will also do us all good to brush up on certain terms and concepts from time to time. We bet you only sort of knew what a “cold front” is. Read Look!’s definition and you’ll never forget.

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