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What year were you born? Well, let’s go back several decades from there—to September 1979.

On the radio, pop songs like “Don’t Bring Me Down,” “Sail On” and “Lonesome Loser” climb Billboard’s charts. Video games are becoming a big deal, and “The Muppet Movie” is a surprising summer box office hit.

In Arizona, the first issue of Bear Essential News for Kids—Volume 1, Issue 1—rolls off the press! Packed with short columns, news briefs and fun and campy artwork, the black-and-white publication breaks new ground in the newspaper biz.

But can a free paper made for kids, families and classrooms succeed?

More than 450 monthly issues later, welcome to Volume 40, Issue 1!

The main story about Bear Essential News’ big birthday is this month’s main feature in the middle of the newspaper. It’s a time warp of sorts, and you can learn about what the times were like, why the newspaper was created and about how Boomer, a polar bear, ended up in the Sonoran Desert.

Since Bear Essential is an educational newspaper (about 80 percent of its circulation goes directly to public, charter and private schools in Phoenix and Tucson), it has steadily evolved over these four decades.

The newspaper is brighter and more colorful; the news and features are more in-depth to help students succeed when it comes to new state standards; there are free classroom work sheets online that go with each paper; there’s a weekly electronic newsletter for parents and teachers; the website offers tons of news, Bear’s hugely popular guides, contests and activities; plus, Bear has its social media!

According to a SurveyMonkey poll of Bear readers, Get the Scoop! (news stories written by our Young Reporters) is the most popular part of the newspaper, closely followed by the front cover seek-n’-find. Bear contests came in third in popularity, and we’ll offer some great ones to celebrate our 40th!

“I love to find the objects,” one kid respondent writes.

“Very informative,” writes another. “It’s great to read the kid stories and their experiences.”

“Happy birthday, Boomer Bear,” wrote a long-time fan. “I’m in eighth grade now but still love reading your newspaper. I hope to be a Young Reporter soon.”

September 2018