Virginia Beach, VA (PRWEB) January 06, 2013
The Intellectual Benefit to Society Award is given each year to a member of Mensa to recognize an innovative accomplishment that benefits society. (Mensa is the international society of people who score in the top 2% on IQ tests.)
This year’s honoree, Elizabeth Claire of Virginia Beach, co-founded Easy English NEWS, a simplified newspaper to help adult and young adult newcomers feel welcome and adjust to their new U.S. environment while they are learning English.
Articles about American elections, government, heroes, history, holidays, culture, and geography are written with adult concepts, but in simple English, with difficult words defined in easy English.
Because of Claire's work, many, many people will be able to achieve economic growth they might otherwise not have been able to. Dave Remine, President of the Mensa Foundation.
Each month’s edition also includes a health column and pronunciation column, as well as idioms, jokes, readers’ stories, and a crossword puzzle.
The award will be given during the Virginia Beach Toastmaster’s Club meeting at 7 pm at the Marian Manor. “Toastmasters is a great complement to life as a writer,” says Claire, who has been a member of Toastmasters for 20 years. “If it hadn’t been for Toastmasters training, I wouldn’t have developed the skills (and courage) needed to present workshops to teachers. I was basically pretty shy."
The idea for producing a newspaper came to Claire when she was at a conference for teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) in Toronto, in 1978. There she saw a sample of Newcomer News, a newspaper in simple English produced by the government of Ontario. Claire thought that there ought to be a similar newspaper in the United States. She started a file of ideas and articles that she would contribute to such a newspaper...if someone ever started one.
Twenty years later, during a Landmark Education course, the Self-Expression and Leadership Program, Claire found the courage to start such a newspaper...just in Bergen County, New Jersey. Claire found an eager partner, Mariko Sasaki, director of JBC Language, in Fort Lee, New Jersey.They gave the paper out free, hoping to support it by advertising.
Claire wrote the paper, Sasaki sold ads and managed the record keeping. The two of them personally delivered sets of papers each month to schools, libraries, and ethic grocery stores.
The reaction from readers was positive. (Hey, who doesn't like something free?) But the business model consumed a lot of time, energy, and money without generating very much income. The partners decided to sell subscriptions, eliminate advertising, and make Easy English NEWS a national "welcome” newspaper. Would anyone actually pay for it?
Claire, a life-time member of Mensa, found other Mensans to create a team of copy editors. (“It's essential to have expert fact checkers and fault finders,” says Claire.)
“I had no idea how hard writing this newspaper was going to be," she adds. "But I kept going, even after Mariko withdrew to tend to her language school. I took out a home-equity loan, and took on tutoring twelve students to keep the wolf from the door.
“The appreciation from ESL teachers and their students followed after each month''s publication,” says Claire, “and it went to my head. I became addicted to the positive feedback. Compliments took the place of cash-in-the-bank for many years.
“There were a lot of breakdowns,” says Claire: "computer crashes, lost data, a broken elbow, tending to my mother in hospice at home, then my own cancer surgery the following year. Luckily, I had taken a course at Landmark Education called 'Handling the Breakdowns,' and I never missed getting an issue to press on time."
In 2006, Claire decided, in addition to Easy English NEWS, to produce five specialized phonics books: ESL Phonics for All Ages. This series reduces the difficulties of students with very limited vocabulary learning to read in English.
Today, Easy English NEWS is a staple of many high school, adult school, and college programs for English language learners, in cities all over the country. Easy English NEWS reaches more than 140,000 readers each month. More than five million copies have been sold to date. Claire markets the newspaper through free samples, ESL teacher conferences, and very successful word-of-mouth. Some customers have been subscribing for the entire 17 years.