What's black and white and read all over?

A newspaper, of course. And The Pantagraph's Newspaper in Education program (which has been around almost as long as that joke) continues to be an integral part of dozens of Central Illinois schools via their access to our award-winning website, Pantagraph.com.

For some people, a newspaper helped us learn to read. We could look at the funnies or comics, with their short words and pictures, and burnish our reading skills. As we got older, we'd read the sports scores, Dear Abby, Ann Landers, Erma Bombeck or George Will, learned to follow a recipe, figure out how to determine our property taxes and stay on top of news in our hometowns and from across the globe.

As technology has changed, newspapers have changed, too. Most are now printed in color; almost all have a robust websites and various social media platforms to keep you informed 24/7. The competition has gotten stiff as federal regulations loosened rules and "online" meant anyone with a computer could suddenly be a "journalist."

But the content of the newspaper — published or on your desk top or laptop computer, tablet or phone — still brings the world to you, regardless of your age or your interests.

And that's what NIE does: The program provides free access to Pantagraph.com for schoolchildren, who use it to keep up-to-date on local, state, national and world events; learn math, language, computer and design skills; and to find out what's going on in their community.

As they grow older, they also can benefit from exploring posted jobs and cars for sale; quizzes on our "games" page run a gamut of subjects. 

All in real time. All with "real" news produced by local journalists about local people, places and things.

Right now, NIE needs your help to continue providing the 24/7 history book that any newspaper website has become.

The Pantagraph is in the midst of a fundraising effort for the program, offering gift cards as a thank you for donations of from $5 to $50. See Pantagraph.com/classroom for details. Beyond the promotion, NIE welcomes monetary support throughout the year.

Research shows that students who use newspapers as a learning resource increase reading skills, have a better awareness of the world and earn higher achievement scores. As our school districts, teachers and parents struggle with the instability of state funding, even a small donation can make a big difference to a local student.

Readers are leaders. Help create future leaders right here in Central Illinois.