Virginia Beach (PRWEB) March 31, 2014
Claire, founder and publisher of Easy English NEWS, celebrated the 18th birthday of the monthly educational newspaper with her staff and families with a restaurant dinner and a comedy show at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach.
Easy English NEWS, a 12-page tabloid to welcome immigrants to the United States, has been helping a whole generation of newcomers to learn English and build vocabulary and conversation skills while they learn how to survive in their new environment. The paper forms a bridge between ESL language textbooks and reading full-fledged English newspapers. Claire recently won the Mensa Educational and Research Foundation's Award for Intellectual Contribution to Society.
"It's been a long haul," says Claire, a former teacher of high school English language learners in New York City and in Fort Lee, New Jersey. She and bilingual teacher Mariko Sasaki started the newspaper in 1996. "Our first efforts were primitive, all produced in Word Perfect, with every article painstakingly cut and pasted onto twelve 11" x 17" boards. We used clip art for illustrations, and created our crossword puzzles by hand on graph paper.
"We had planned to do our newspaper just for immigrants in Bergen County, New Jersey, and support it with ads from local stores and businesses," says Claire. "We had large empty rectangles in the paper saying "Your ad here...call (our number)"
"We also hoped to syndicate it so other entrepreneurial ESL teachers could buy our content and create free newspapers supported by ads in their own counties or cities."
"We failed at both of these intentions, although we did get many small classified ads from English language tutors. While we helped launch Easy English Times of Napa County California, after two months, the Times went their separate way catering to a different audience."
"Easy English NEWS went national in 1997; we stopped taking advertising."
"We struggled for another five years, without earning enough money to pay us even modest salaries," Claire says. Sasaki contributed a small inheritance to pay for printing the paper, Claire took out funds from a home equity line of credit.
"I didn't see much sunshine, or get much exercise, for a dozen years" says Claire.... "This took all my time, days, evenings, weekends, summers... I'm not sure how it kept keeping on. The letters and calls of thanks were all the pay I got for six years."
The packing up of papers went on each month in Claire's living room with family members and volunteers counting and stuffing and labeling envelopes, jiffy bags and boxes for UPS to pick up front of her house.
Through computer crashes, a broken elbow, a mom to tend in hospice-at-home, and surgery for cancer in 2006, Claire kept on writing. "I had the good fortune of having all of the worst disasters happen in the summertime," says Claire.
With the advances in publishing programs, email, fax, Gotomypc, and other magic, Claire was able to move to Virginia Beach, in 2007, while keeping the business running in New Jersey. But by 2010, it was apparent that the whole company had to either fade away or "come closer to mother" so Claire could build it.
In 2012, the newspaper's circulation was 45,000 with a readership of 140,000. Claire was planning to retire on her laurels. She put Easy English NEWS in the hands of a broker to sell it so someone would keep it going to serve the immigrant community.
After a year with no one who could fill her shoes, Claire re-energized and said she will keep on keeping on... "The work isn't difficult....I've gotten very good at it. There's just a lot of it, that's all." If members of Congress can work in to their 80's then so can I. Her teacher customers have told her, "You don't dare retire...we are addicted to your newspaper! Students love its variety. It makes our classes fun and easy."
"Well, that settles it," said Claire. "I can't actually think of anything I'd rather be doing."
Easy English NEWS is sold by subscription, and takes no advertising. It is located at 2100 McComas Way, Suite 607, Virginia Beach, VA 23456. Elizabeth Claire, a veteran teacher is the writer and editor-in-chief of this publication. For more information, call 888-296-1090.