Read Closely


By: Nu Yang

Read Closely

Even though Newsela founder and chief executive officer Matthew Gross has a long career in the education sector, it was also his role as a parent that prompted him to start the news website. As the father of a 10-year-old advanced reader, Gross said he was looking for content that wasn’t being “dumbed down” for his son. What he wanted was “real headlines from the news.”

Launched in June, Newsela is based in New York City and publishes news articles daily at five levels of complexity for students in grades 4 to 12. It is free to use, although it requires users to register.

Editorial director Jennifer Coogan is a former reporter for Bloomberg and Reuters with 12 years of experience.

“With so many people talking about the death of old media, (Newsela) is a great way to revive journalism,” she said. “It lays the groundwork for readers to consume a massive amount of news.”

By partnering with papers from the McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co., Coogan and her team of writers (including former freelancers for Reuters) choose two news stories to upload a day—generally one breaking news story and one feature story. They rewrite the stories to level them according to the student’s reading ability. Gross said he had experimented with having educators write the stories, but found that journalists are the “best non-fiction writers in the world for (his) goal.” With just a click, each version can make the story easier or more difficult using the Lexile educational tool. Some of the stories are also accompanied with a quiz to test reading comprehension.

Stories are placed in several categories, such as war and peace, money, kids, science and law. Recent stories ranged from the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin murder case to the protests in Egypt. Coogan said it was their policy to not put up sports or celebrity news, and so far, they have not heard many complaints.

“Topics and content of (their) articles continues to impress both my students and myself,” said Justin Mack, a fourth grade teacher in New Milford, Conn. “Even my reluctant readers are always eager to go to Newsela and read the articles.”

According to Gross, all 50 U.S. states and 53 countries around the world use Newsela. He found that adult English language learners were also visiting the website. Gross said his focus for the upcoming school year is to get Newsela into as many schools as possible.

Coogan said, “We want kids to get all their news from Newsela and even use it outside of school. We want kids to be news junkies.”

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