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Internationally-acclaimed literacy newspaper gets a new editor


Nila Gopaul is the new editor of The Westcoast Reader

Nila Gopaul is the new editor of The Westcoast Reader

Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Contact:  Shelley Kean at 604.983.7596

(NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C.)—English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor, Nila Gopaul, has been named the new editor of Capilano University’s award-winning literacy newspaper, The Westcoast Reader.

Effective August 1, Gopaul will follow in the footsteps of longtime editor, Joan Acosta, whose ground-breaking work with the WCR has supported ESL and literacy efforts worldwide. Acosta retires this July after 30 years of service with Capilano University.

“I’m absolutely delighted that Nila has accepted this position and will be bringing her expertise to this popular newspaper for adult literacy learners and new immigrants,” said Dr. Patrick Donahoe, Capilano University’s vice-president of student and institutional support. “Her significant international teaching experience will be of enormous benefit in continuing the great work that Joan has accomplished over the years.”

A graduate in communications from Simon Fraser University, Gopaul completed her master of education in imagination (curriculum and instruction) while managing her own tutoring service and language school in British Columbia. Her professional expertise in teaching English to students from all backgrounds has been enriched by developing curriculum to accommodate broad age and demographic ranges in the classroom. She was recently a valued instructor in the intensive integrated skills program in the Institute for English Language programs at Harvard University. 

With her background in communications, business and education, and her skills in educational media and curriculum design, Gopaul intends to bring to The Westcoast Reader the same passion, creativity, commitment and ethical stance evidenced in all her work.

The Westcoast Reader has existed over the years with the help of a partnership with Canwest Newspaper Publishing Group. Retiring editor, Joan Acosta, adapts many of the newspaper’s articles from The Vancouver Sun and The Province newspapers, which allow her to simplify their stories and use their photos at no cost. Another important partner is The North Shore News, which has been supplying the WCR with free photos for the past 20 years.

The WCR is designed to help new readers develop reading skills while providing interesting and relevant information with an adult focus. It started in 1981 with a circulation of 8,000. Today, each issue reaches more than 100,000 people.

With a tight budget, Acosta has creatively produced more than 20 special supplements over the years to help finance the publication. The one on HIV/AIDS received worldwide attention when little was known about the virus.

Throughout its 28-year history, the WCR has helped thousands of people develop literacy skills. They range from adult ESL and literacy learners to hearing-impaired adults and children to people recovering from strokes. It has also been transcribed for blind readers and is very popular in both upper elementary and high schools. Articles are written at three levels of difficulty, providing even beginning readers with a starting point for reading.

In 1987, the WCR received a Leaders of Readers Literacy Award from Family Circle magazine and the Council for Periodical Distributors. It was the only Canadian project to win one of four $5,000 US awards for fighting illiteracy. The award was presented to Acosta in Washington, D.C. where the winners were introduced to then-U.S. Vice-President George Bush Sr. at the White House. Acosta also received a letter of congratulations from then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

She has received numerous individual awards, including the Commemorative Medal for Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee, and a Women in Media Award in 1991. But the one that gives her greatest pride is the Order of British Columbia, which she received in 1994.

“It was very meaningful and a great honour to receive the award from David Lam, who was B.C.’s Lt.-Governor at the time,” Acosta said. “When I got the award, Nobel Prize winner Michael Smith was also being honoured, as was Haida artist Bill Reid. So I was in very prestigious company.

“Very few educators have received the Order of B.C.,” she added, “so it was really special – particularly because this was before literacy was recognized as an important issue by the government.”

In October 2007, Acosta was again honoured with the third annual Council of the Federation Literacy Award.


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