When Melissa Redlich was growing up, the Heritage Farm neighborhood where she lived in Potomac was known for its block parties where families would gather to socialize.
But with the pandemic, that hasn’t been possible for today’s youth, the 17-year-old said.
“It was completely silent and all of the kids and families were retreating to their homes,” Redlich said. “You’re really sad because the connection and the community was a little bit lost.”
Now a rising senior at Winston Churchill High School, Redlich was familiar with journalism and the production of a newspaper because of her role as a features editor at the school’s newspaper, The Churchill Observer. Redlich decided around two years ago to create The Kids Cut, a newspaper specifically geared towards children.
The Kids Cut contains activities such as those that can help young children learn new words, along with word searches, coloring pages and book recommendations. There’s also a section about learning to write characters in Chinese, which Redlich attributes to her time in a Chinese immersion program in elementary school.
Initially, Redlich and a friend dropped off around 50 copies of the paper at houses in her neighborhood where they knew kids lived. About a year ago, Redlich brought a copy to the Potomac Library and from there, she began distributing copies to more county libraries.
Now, she distributes more than 600 copies of each edition to the libraries, Potomac Community Center and two elementary schools.
“My goal was just to create a space for kids to feel like they are able to learn and grow and read,” she said.
Edie Wingate, president of the Friends of the Library, Potomac Chapter, said one of the librarians was “so excited” about the paper and showed it to her. Wingate was “equally excited” about promoting it, she said, so she mentioned it in the chapter’s next newsletter.
“We thought it was so neat for a youngster to come up with something like that,” she said. “We wanted to do everything we could to get it circulated as widely as possible.”
When Potomac Library closed for a refresh project in May, Wingate put Redlich in touch with people at Davis Library in Bethesda, which is the nearest library. From there, circulation of The Kids Cut continued to expand.
Redlich said she tries to publish at least one edition each season. The most recent edition, the eighth, came out in July and focused on summer, with images of beaches and sand.
Redlich has been going to Potomac Library since she was very young to read and look at the fish in the tank there, she said.
Nowadays, though, she said she feels like today’s culture is “a lot less library centered” with more people getting books from online retailers such as Amazon or other booksellers instead of borrowing them from a library.
“One of the things that libraries bring for kids is the activities that they have for all ages,” Redlich said. “I don’t want it to be forgotten.”
Redlich said she wants to expand the newspaper’s distribution to countywide. There are no production costs because she produces each edition on her computer and sends it to libraries for printing and distribution. She has received a few emails from parents saying their kids like the newspaper.
She also received an email from a Spanish teacher who praised her for The Kids Cut’s language learning content.
“That’s why I’m doing this,” Redlich said. “That’s the kind of feedback that I like, to know that I’m on the right path.”
Christine Zhu of Gaithersburg, a rising junior studying journalism and Spanish at the University of Maryland, is the Bethesda Beat summer intern.