November 27, 2002 2 min read
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English Made Easy

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It can be a challenge for teachers to find reading materials that are engaging to older immigrant students who are learning to read in English.

At least one enterprising newspaper editor is trying to fill that need.

Elizabeth Claire, a former teacher of English as a second language who lives in Saddle Brook, N.J., publishes a monthly newspaper, called Easy English News, designed especially for such students.

She markets the publication to teachers of English as a second language at middle and high schools, as well as for adult programs. Since she started the newspaper in 1996, paid subscriptions have grown steadily to the current level of 25,000. A set of newspapers for a classroom of 20 students costs $30 per month.

Besides providing an instructional tool, Ms. Claire aims to help immigrant students feel welcome in the United States and to adjust to American ways of doing things.

“I cover what immigrants need to know,” she said.

As the editor and publisher of the publication, Ms. Claire often includes American news stories in simplified English, but she also publishes articles about how to handle various aspects of life in the United States.

The November issue, for example, includes articles about how to choose a bank and a description of Thanksgiving.

Potentially difficult terms such as “ATMs” or “cranberry sauce” are printed in boldface within the newspaper and then listed along with their definitions on the back page.

The newspaper also has a page devoted to submissions by readers—their favorite page, according to Ms. Claire. From that page, readers learn the stories of other immigrant youths like themselves.

Ploscar Mircea, for instance, a native of Romania who lives in Lake Hiawatha, N.J., writes in the November issue about the stress he and his family experienced when they arrived in the United States because his parents couldn’t find jobs at first.

Shirl Currie, an ESL teacher at the 1,360-student Faribault High School in Faribault, Minn., is one of the newspaper’s subscribers. She’s in her third year of using Easy English News in classes with her ESL students. Her school has 80 ESL students.

“It’s a great reading resource for the kids,” she said. “The regular newspaper is too hard for them to understand. And [in Easy English News] there is always something about their own cultures, which they don’t always have in regular papers.”

—Mary Ann Zehr

A version of this article appeared in the November 27, 2002 edition of Education Week


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