The publication earlier this month of Coreen Sears’ book Second Language Students in English-Medium Classrooms marks the 20th book in the Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides series. Here, the series editor, Colin Baker, tells the story of the development of the series.
The series started with a challenged conscience and a dream in the early 1990s. I was writing academic books, editor of an international academic journal, and co-editor of a series of books on Bilingualism and Bilingual Education. The academic side was secure, satisfying in university terms, and writing books was a pleasure.
But there were two nagging questions in my mind in the early 1990s. Did my contribution make any difference in the classroom to teachers instructing and students learning? Was I having any effect on the ways parents brought up their children to be bilingual? At times, the honest answer seemed to be ‘no’ or at best ‘too little influence on practice in both classrooms and homes’.
My spectral self-doubts were shared in the early 1990s with Mike Grover, the founder and Managing Director of Multilingual Matters. By talking about publishing, he helped me see that the difference between theory and practice, research and daily living, was not a divide, but essential parts of a larger whole. In publishing, having both was important, and getting some kind of bridge between the academic and the practical was always worth attempting.
I was indoctrinated at university not to write a popular practical book as (a) it would make me look a shallow academic and ruin my reputation and promotion prospects, (b) that research and not ‘practical guidance’ was the role of a university academic. The advice by my seniors was not to depart from an academic lifestyle. Disobedience was chosen. Conscience won. The dream began.
A hospital operation started the ball rolling. The operation was 100% successful, but the skilled surgeon told me it was essential to stay home for two weeks to rest and recuperate. After two days I was totally bored. So, in the bedroom and then study, I wrote a book for parents about bringing up bilingual children. With the help of Marjukka Grover, wife of Mike and Editor of the Bilingual Family Newsletter, over 100 questions that parents and teachers tend to ask were posed and refined. In two weeks, I had answered each question, created a rough draft of a book in FAQ style, and was fit for a return to university. The book became A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism. It was first published in 1995, with further editions in 2000, 2007 and 2014. Jokes about ‘it shows signs of the anaesthetic’ were prevalent among my colleagues in 1995!
The book became the world’s bestselling guide for parents and teachers in raising and developing bilingual children, and has been published in Swedish, Estonian, Spanish, Turkish, German, Mandarin Chinese and Korean. A version of the book was published by Multilingual Matters in Spanish as Guía para padres y maestros de niños bilingües with Alma Flor Ada joining as co-author.
Both the English and Spanish editions of A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism sold well and led to the start of the PTG series. The first books in the Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides series date from 1998/9 and covered important ‘guidance’ topics for parents (e.g. dyslexia and Deaf children), with Coreen Sears’ book Second Language Students in Mainstream Classrooms being for teachers. Subsequent books have included topics as diverse as: reading and writing, sign language, family language strategies and the effect of siblings on language development.
Some books in the series are for parents; others for teachers; a few are for both parents and teachers. For example, for parents Claire Thomas’ 2012 much-applauded book Growing Up with Languages gives sound and honest advice on raising bilingual children.
Another book that has received considerable praise in reviews is for teachers. Written by Elizabeth Coelho and entitled Language and Learning in Multilingual Classrooms it gives seasoned and comprehensive guidance on all aspects of classrooms where there are newcomers with varied languages. An example of a book for both parents and teachers is Trevor Payne and Elizabeth Turners’ Dyslexia: A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide that utilized much practical experience of dyslexic children with academic understandings.
The series is very well-known for its books for teachers on International Schools. Written by international educators such as Edna Murphy, Eithne Gallagher, Maurice Carder and Coreen Sears, these provide a boundary-breaking set of guides for both new and experienced teachers in the fast growing number of International Schools throughout the world. The 20th book in the series is Coreen Sears’ second book Second Language Students in English-Medium Classrooms.
A recent and strongly developing strand to the series is books on the development of multilingual children. Written by authors such as Tony Cline, Andreas Braun, Claire Thomas, Elizabeth Coelho and Xiao-lei Wang (with two outstanding US books), these reflect the growing acceptance that multilingual children and multilingual classrooms are sufficiently different from bilingualism and bilingual education to merit their own advice and guidance. When the series started in the early 1990s, advice about multilingualism was seen as covered by bilingualism. This is no longer the case, as the above authors demonstrate so well. The dream has developed.
Written from the conscience, the following initial dream for the series was composed in 1995. “This series will provide immediate advice and practical help on topics where parents and teachers frequently seek answers. Each book will be written by one or more experts in a style that is highly readable, non-technical and comprehensive. No prior knowledge is assumed: a thorough understanding of a topic is promised after reading the book.”
My thanks go to all the authors of the twenty top-quality books in the series. These authors are teachers, parents, professional developers and academics. All authors have been a joy not only to work with, but also to learn from and to share the dream with. Much gratitude also goes to the staff at Multilingual Matters who shared my dream that we could produce excellent books that give advice and guidance at a practical level. Not least this includes Mike and Marjukka Grover who shared, supported and stirred the dream.
For more information about the Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides book series please see our website.