Sofia is a second-grader at Northside Elementary School in Middleton with plans to become a writer. In a letter to her future self, she says that during the COVID-19 pandemic she spent a lot of time inside doing art and playing piano.
Claire, a fourth-grader at Northside, has questions for her future self. “What’s it like being 20 years old?” and “What’s my job?” she asks in her own letter. Claire, 10, writes that she and her mom, Laura Lundgren, started a newspaper called, The Quarantine Times, to keep a record of what kids were doing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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In fact, that’s where Claire and Sofia’s letters are published — along with five others — on the front and inside pages of the April 28, 2020, edition of the online newspaper that Laura and Claire edit together with the help of Laura’s three other children, ages 8, 5 and 3 years old.
Laura gets content from her own children and from Claire’s classmates. Laura made Claire’s teacher aware of the project and more students have since started to contribute. Any student can participate by subscribing to The Quarantine Times at firstname.lastname@example.org. Laura will send prompts to give students ideas about what items to write about.
Keeping a record of what’s happened during the COVID-19 pandemic through the experiences of children will help them process what they’re living through and be able to write their own versions of history, said Laura, a former English teacher.
“I think this is a story kids are going to be telling for the rest of their lives,” she said. “I thought the newspaper would be a great artifact of this time.”
After thinking about what her and other children were going to look forward to — since sporting events, spring break trips and other fun activities were all canceled — she woke up one morning with the idea to start a newspaper.
The first edition was published on April 1, and there have been three others since then. They’re accessible on the website, but Laura said she prints some out to give to people in the neighborhood and her own grandmother.
“I encourage people to print themselves and give to others who may be offline and would appreciate reading them,” she said.
The response has been positive, with Laura hearing from neighbors who thank her for showing them what children are up to. She said some have grandchildren that don’t live close, so this is one way to connect them to the younger generations nearby.
“I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people who are otherwise pretty isolated, but they really enjoyed reading The Quarantine Times,” she said.
Claire, whose job as assistant editor includes writing, drawing and taking pictures, said one of her favorite assignments was writing thank-you notes for things she’s thankful for during COVID-19. She wrote a thank-you to Disney+ “for always being there for me. I needed Star Wars, you were there. I needed Boy Meets World, you were there. I’m sorry my mom and online school take me away from you…” she writes.
Other contributors thanked microwaves, pajamas and Alexa. Izzy, a sixth-grader from Kromrey Middle School, thanked grocery store workers.
“My mom went to the store a week or so ago and was talking to a worker there and she asked what is the hardest thing about being here. He said dealing with rude people that yell at him when they are sold out of something when it’s not his fault,” she wrote.
The Quarantine Times has made national news as part of an article by The Washington Post that featured projects around the country of kids making their own newspapers.
“That was a real treat for our kids, especially the kids who had their little article featured in that page that got presented in The Washington Post,” Laura said.
Recently, a post on The Quarantine Times’ Facebook page announced that CNN wants to feature the online newspaper on an upcoming show.
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