What Makes a Good EFL Teacher and How Can Teacher Educators Best Support Them?

This month we are publishing Early Professional Development in EFL Teaching by Chitose Asaoka. In this post the author explains how she came to study student teachers’ professional development in a Japanese EFL context.

Over the last twenty years, I have worked as a teacher educator of English as a Foreign Language in Japan. In order to become a secondary school teacher in Japan, you need to attend a teacher certification programme offered at a university and acquire a teaching qualification upon graduation. As a teacher educator in one such programme, I have always tried to mentor and accommodate student teachers (most of whom are native speakers of Japanese) through many situations and contexts.

In a teacher certification programme, student teachers learn about up-to-date approaches and methods of teaching English, such as communicative practice and student-centred approaches. They also learn how to use English effectively as a medium of instruction, which is one of the most-recently introduced education policies in Japan. During a three-week period of teaching practice at schools, however, many of the student teachers face the reality of the classroom and are asked to adjust to school contexts. Thus, they often cannot freely put what they have acquired into practice. For example, I frequently hear post-practicum stories from them, where they are asked to teach with the grammar-translation method, since passing the entrance exam is still a big priority for students. Moreover, they are not often allowed to teach in English, for various reasons, which is different from their pre-practicum expectations.

In many such cases, student teachers are often isolated and struggle to resolve the challenges by themselves. I am also remote from their actual school-based experiences and can only monitor their development through their teaching logs or stories when they come back to the university. Thus, questions were raised in my mind, and I started to feel the necessity to re-examine the process of student teachers’ professional development in a Japanese EFL context, as well as the kinds of experiences and challenges that they typically go through. For them to become good English teachers, what qualities are necessary, and what kinds of support can we provide as teacher educators? These questions inspired me to embark upon an empirical study in which I monitored how student teachers developed their teacher expertise, how their views on what makes a good English teacher shifted and developed, and what factors had an impact on their learning-to-teach processes.

Through detailed case studies created from interviews and reflective journals, this inquiry delves into the particular context of initial teacher education in Japan and draws out unique perspectives on student teachers’ professional development in initial teacher education. This book also shows the possible need to intervene at various stages of language teacher education, which is highly relevant for other settings of initial teacher education programmes beyond Japan. I hope that the findings presented in this book will be of interest and value to future teachers, in-service teachers, teacher educators and researchers interested in teacher education and the professional development of foreign language teachers.

Chitose Asaoka
casaoka@dokkyo.ac.jp

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Reflective Practice as Professional Development by Atsuko Watanabe. 

Firsthand Experiences of Overtourism

This month we are publishing the first book in our brand new series, The Future of Tourism: The Future of Airbnb and the ‘Sharing Economy’ by Jeroen A. Oskam. Inspired by the themes discussed in the book, in this post some of us reflect on our own experiences of overtourism, the phenomenon of there being too many visitors to a particular destination.

Anna

On a trip to Rome I found myself getting annoyed that you are not allowed to stand still in the Sistine chapel – so many people want to see it that unless you’re someone important you have to move through on a kind of human conveyor belt. As I left the chapel, having imbibed my 30 seconds of Michaelangelo, I did realise that really I was the problem in that scenario: I have little interest in High Renaissance Art, or Catholicism, and I was yet another tourist ticking an item off their list. If people like me stayed away, the people for whom it might truly mean something would have a chance to stand and wonder.

Elinor

When I went to Japan on a work trip in 2013 I really enjoyed visiting temples particularly in Kyoto. However, some of the more popular ones were so busy with tourists (mostly large groups of Japanese schoolchildren) that it was almost impossible to see the temples or get a photo without other people in it. I much preferred visiting some of the less popular temples which were smaller and quieter where I could wander round the gardens in peace. If I were ever to visit Japan again I would certainly try and avoid the more popular spots and seek out the quieter, more tranquil places.

Laura

I have experience of overtourism from a resident’s perspective. I grew up in a tiny village in one of the UK’s National Parks. Some years ago, cycling became increasingly popular and with it came a rise in the number of ‘sportives’, where hundreds of cyclists participate in an arranged ride, touring countryside along a predetermined route over a number of miles. Our village happens to fall on the route of one of the more competitive, rather than leisure, routes. I remember the first time it happened when for about 3 hours one morning it was almost impossible to get out of our house and across the road as cyclists whipped through the village at high speed. The village also feels the benefits of increased tourism as it also falls on the route of a popular and well publicised walking route. We have seen increased maintenance of gates and stiles in the surrounding countryside and the village pub also benefits from huge numbers of walkers coming through the village. But it does also mean that it’s much harder to go out for a peaceful country walk without seeing another soul!

Flo

I’ve experienced (and been a part of!) overtourism a couple of times on holiday. The first time was when I was interrailing with my friends as a teenager and we went to the Louvre in Paris. The crowd in front of the Mona Lisa was ridiculous – just a sea of arms holding cameras and phones aloft, taking pictures. I never really got close enough to the picture to see it without somebody’s head in the way. The second time was in Lisbon a couple of years ago. I was there in August – peak tourist season and it was packed. Impossible to walk down the pavement in the centre without having to step down into the road, trams spilling over with people and graffiti all over with variations of “Tourists Go Home”. It was the first time I’d been confronted with the friction between locals and tourists and I couldn’t help feeling guilty about being on the wrong side.

Sarah

I was in Copenhagen for work and had a spare couple of hours so I made the 45-minute walk from my hotel to the Little Mermaid. I had just arrived in the city so took a lot of photos on the way. Approaching the sculpture, there were very few people around which I thought a good sign but realised I’d reached my destination on seeing a crowd gathered. After patiently waiting my turn to take a photo my battery ran out at exactly the point of snapping the pic! It was lovely to be there and experience seeing the statue in person but I had to admit to myself that it didn’t seem the same without the photo, a feeling I assumed I shared with everyone else there – especially those posing precariously on rocks and draping themselves over the statue! I returned a few days later – when it was much busier – to get my precious photo. I’m going to try harder in future to experience places without my phone/camera at work!

For more information about The Future of Airbnb and the ‘Sharing Economy’ please see our website.

The National Institute of Education, Sri Lanka

We were recently approached by the Director of Bilingual Education for Sri Lanka’s National Institute of Education, G. H. Asoka, with a request to donate some textbooks to them for use in teacher development courses on bilingual education. In this post the Director tells us a bit about the National Institute of Education and how the books we’ve donated will be used.

Sri Lanka’s National Institute of Education (NIE) is the apex body of developing curriculum of Sri Lankan general education. Its role consists of four tasks: advising the Minister of Education in any succeeded government, teacher development, curriculum development and educational research. The department offers services on bilingual education and foreign languages addressing these four areas.

The books donated by Multilingual Matters will be used in the teacher development courses on bilingual education initiated islandwide and several will be kept in the library of the Institute and for the use of the Department of Foreign Languages and Bilingual Education.

The NIE is a national service with links at international level too. As the Director of Bilingual Education, I am responsible for these four tasks in line with bilingual education in addition to National Curriculum Development in general education.

There are different types of projects run under different educational disciplines. In 2019 the projects being run with regard to bilingual education are as follows:

  1. Action research programme with 40 researchers in 2019 islandwide
  2. Trainer-trainer programme on CLIL
  3. Awareness programmes for different stakeholders such as parents, principals, ISAs, teachers, directors and other stakeholders of education
  4. Five research reports on learning in bilingual education
  5. One research report on pre-service teacher development in bilingual education
  6. School and cluster based bilingual education programme islandwide
  7. Handbook on Sri Lankan CLIL
  8. Teacher Moderator Manual on CLIL
  9. Research conference in the Eastern province on Bilingual Education
  10. National Curriculum Framework on bilingual education
  11. Publishing the research journal
  12. Reviewing articles in international journals

We’re pleased to be contributing to the important work the National Institute of Education does and hope the books we’ve donated will prove useful.

Using a Narrative Approach to Explore Teaching Practice

This month we are publishing Narratives of Adult English Learners and Teachers by Clarena Larrotta. In this post the author discusses her choice to use narratives to present a picture of adult language learning.

Working as a university professor of adult education and TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages), I came to realize there was not a book that could help the graduate students in my classes to grasp the reality of teaching English and literacy related subjects to adult learners. Similarly, interacting with volunteer adult educators who did not have language/pedagogy training and who volunteer as ESL instructors because they know the language and have time to do so, I realized there was not a book I could recommend for them to read and that captured the voices of both adult language learners and teachers. Therefore, this book was born as a response to these two groups of people when they asked, ‘what can I read to get a good picture of what is going on with regards to teaching adult language learners and non-traditional adult learners?’

Considering this audience, narratives and storytelling seemed to be the perfect medium to transmit a powerful and memorable message to them. I wanted them to understand that we need to go beyond theory and outside the classroom walls to include community and envision adult learners as whole human beings. Older learners are among the least studied groups in the literature and many of them take on new challenges as they migrate to a new country, and as they face the need to learn a new language-culture.

Providing an account of both narratives (adult learners’ and teachers’) aimed to inspire trainee teachers and practitioners in the field of adult education to become better and more reflective teachers. The book supports the idea of preparing trainee teachers for actual scenarios they are likely to encounter with adult language learners and colleagues in adult education programs. Likewise, the volume invites actual adult educators to reflect on their practices and contemplate the realities of the learners they serve. In summary, the book aims to honor the work of language learners and TESOL practitioners and to share highlights from their learning/teaching journeys.

The narratives in this book make accessible the stories shared by learners and teachers as they lived them in real-life settings. The book chapters and their respective stories contain a beginning, middle and end. The beginning provides the context and supporting theory, the middle presents the main issues to be considered and the end gives clo­sure to the reader. As a result, each chapter introduces (1) the participants in the story – teachers’ and learners’ experiences and their interactions; (2) the context, socio-political, and socio-cultural dimensions; and (3) the physical settings where the story is located -the program, the course, the language-culture and country of origin. The learners’ stories allow teachers to gain empathy and cultural knowledge. A narrative approach to exploring one’s teaching practice leads to a better understanding of that context and hopefully sharing this learning will promote change and encourage other teachers to make sense of and reflect on their personal teaching stories as well.

Clarena Larrotta, PhD
Texas State University
CL24@txstate.edu

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Educating Refugee-background Students edited by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry.

Building Bridges as We Go: Connecting Schools with Multilingual Families

This month we are publishing Connecting School and the Multilingual Home by Maria R. Coady. In this post the author explains how her own experiences provided the inspiration for the book.

I grew up navigating various ethnic and linguistic enclaves north of Boston, Massachusetts, where I was born. My grandparents’ families had emigrated from parts of Italy, and I fondly recall my great uncles and aunts speaking their local language and mixing English and Italian. I imagined what they thought while sitting under the cool shade of the apple trees while younger generations of American kids ran through the yard and played bocci. Family was central to our identity, and our identity was our culture, our history, and our language.

My sense of both family and language permeated every aspect of my own educational experience up through college: what I thought I could do, how I could do it, what I would study, and who I could become. One thing for sure was the message that I received from my family: being successful in school was paramount. I was the first generation to navigate access to college, so I learned the hard way (alone) to unravel the complexities surrounding educational programs, relationships, and even financial aid.

As my career matured from an early start in business into bilingual education, the same lens of access to education illuminated the barriers that other families—children, parents, and caregivers—faced. I could envision the bridges between the school and immigrant, multilingual families but remained dismayed by how infrequently I actually saw them built. What remained obvious to me was how many multilinguals have a similar experience—valuing education without having the knowledge of how to access it fully.

Rural multilingual family working in the horse farming industry, southeast United States

The inspiration for this book stems from my own experiences and 25 years of working with multilingual families in the northeast US, Colorado, and rural north central Florida. I have also had the experiences of working with international rural communities. I find that rural, multilingual families’ strengths go largely unnoticed, and are definitely not tapped into as a resource. Their many languages and literacy practices differ from those assumed by educators, leaving families positioned as disinterested in their child’s education.

The Gómez family is one telling example. A family of five children, I recall the second youngest daughter wanting to participate in a 4 day, overnight field trip to Washington, DC—a very long distance from Florida. This annual 5th grade trip, organized by the school, required students to have cameras (back then, disposable cameras), a suitcase, spending money, and good walking shoes. Although the parents understood the importance of the trip to their daughter, they did not understand the process of completing the extensive field trip paperwork, which was provided in only English, nor the details and items needed for the trip. The father and mother worked overtime and sold personal items in order to pay for some of the trip itself. My students and I fundraised to ensure that the daughter had the shoes, camera, and suitcase needed, and while advocating for one family at a time is important, we need the tools to make more systemic changes in schools on behalf of multilingual families.

Our job is to build relational trust (Bryk & Schneider, 2002) with families, and as Michal Domínguez (2017) notes, hacer puentes al andar – building bridges as we go.  That is the spirit of this book, which is filled with concrete ways to support reflection, action, and to humanize our work as educators by connecting schools with multilingual families.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Narratives of Adult English Learners and Teachers by Clarena Larrotta.

10 Tips for Teaching Multilingual Learners

This month we published Language Learning and Teaching in a Multilingual World by Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes, Jean-Paul Narcy-Combes, Julie McAllister, Malory Leclère and Grégory Miras. In this post the authors give us some advice for teaching multilingual learners.Teaching a language or content in a multilingual classroom (or any type of learning environment, such as telecollaboration or distance learning) is becoming the norm as well as a challenge faced by more and more teachers. But it is also an asset, as learners have opportunities to communicate with peers of different origins, cultures and backgrounds and thus develop tolerance and respect for others. To maximise the benefits of these opportunities while minimising the potential threats, here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Take each learner as he/she is, as a unique, complex and multifaceted individual who brings their knowledge, skills and cultural understandings to the learning situation. A one-size-fits-all approach is likely to prove ineffective in a multilingual environment (and in other environments too).
  2. As a teacher, always be kind and supportive and learn why you should be.
  3. Value (and use) all the languages of each learner in the classroom equally. No language should be ruled out.
  4. Propose clear and realistic learning goals and ensure that learners understand them. To that effect, use the language resources available (virtual or physical).
  5. Adapt the work to the needs which emerge as the project moves forward instead of following a predefined sequence. However, never lose sight of the initial goal: it can be reached in many different ways.
  6. Propose meaningful tasks that are connected to the world outside school. By doing so, the learners will get involved in the activities, which in turn will foster learning.
  7. Arrange for the learners to communicate and interact in the target language with people from other countries, as a meaningful way to use and practise the language they need for their schooling.
  8. Identify all the tools that can be made available to students to help them become independent language learners and users. A teacher does not have all the solutions, but learners can be resourceful and incredibly helpful when trusted. Resources can be available in the learners’ original language and connected to their culture.
  9. Encourage peer collaboration and interaction: see number 7. Interaction helps students make meaning and learners’ explanations are often more understandable to their peers than the teacher’s. In a multilingual class, learners who have the same original language could work together.
  10. Work to foster learner creativity and engagement by providing stimulating learning environments.

Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes, University of Nantes
Jean-Paul Narcy-Combes, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle
Julie McAllister, University of Nantes
Gregory Miras, University of Rouen
Malory Leclère, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle

Contacts

mf.narcycombes@wanadoo.fr

julie.mcallister1@univ-nantes.fr

 

For more information about the book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like The Multilingual Reality by Ajit K. Mohanty.

Taiwan’s Gendered Language Learning Ideologies

This month we published Gender, Neoliberalism and Distinction through Linguistic Capital by Mark Fifer Seilhamer. In this post the author talks about the research that informed the book.

The title of my new book just out this month is Gender, Neoliberalism and Distinction through Linguistic Capital: Taiwanese Narratives of Struggle and Strategy, with ‘Gender’ prominently foregrounded as the first element of this title. But while ‘Neoliberalism’ and ‘Distinction through Linguistic Capital’ had been dominant themes since the very beginning of the manuscript’s preparation, the extent to which my focal participants’ (female) gender impacted their experiences is an issue that was addressed only fleetingly in the manuscript I originally submitted to Multilingual Matters back in 2016. This early version featured a fairly straightforward class-focused Bourdieusian analysis of my participants’ narrated experiences, seemingly (in retrospect) oblivious to the fact that gender does indeed play an outsized role in my participants’ stories, as well as in the dynamics of multilingualism in Taiwan more generally.

The centrality of gender to my participants’ experiences as language learners was pointed out by a reviewer, who asked what I made “of the fact that some students are quite successful at making friends with foreigners, getting free language practice, lining up Skype partners, having boyfriends to talk English with and to pay for trips abroad”. This reviewer went on to pose other questions that served to guide my radical overhaul of the manuscript: “Are young women considered ideal candidates for the sorts of international marketing/public relations/sales jobs many of the women get? How are ideologies of language acquisition gendered in Taiwan, and are these women seen as compromised in terms of their relationships and friendships with foreigners?”

Ideologies of language acquisition are indeed highly gendered in Taiwan, with the idea that males are simply no good at learning languages regarded by many as a commonsensical notion. This common belief results, of course, in language study beyond minimum requirements being almost exclusively the preserve of females. At the start of this research, I did not set out to include only female participants. In the junior college program specializing in languages that I was recruiting participants from, male students were, however, very much in the minority and my pool of possible participants consisted almost entirely of female students. Because it is commonly believed that female brains are specifically wired for learning languages, young women are encouraged to study foreign languages and pursue careers in international marketing, public relations, and interpreting – the sorts of occupations that my participants did, in fact, wind up in. My participants, in their interviews, had indeed addressed Taiwan’s gendered language learning ideologies and the notion of gendered language work, as well as positioning by others due to their relationships with foreigners. In my revisions, the focus on gender and the intersectional questioning that this focus necessitated really did change the fundamental character of the book.

In what now seems to be a glaring omission, I neglected to include an ‘Acknowledgements’ page for this book. This can be attributed to the extreme sense of relief I felt when the editors allowed me to go over the stipulated word limit with my final revised manuscript. Looking back now, I’m pretty sure they would have had no problem with my adding an ‘Acknowledgements’ page, but at the time, I was reluctant to request any more words for anything. I will take this opportunity now then to acknowledge the assistance and contributions of numerous individuals: my study’s participants, without whom the research and book would not have been at all possible; my doctoral thesis supervisors, Lionel Wee, Joseph Sung-Yul Park, and Mie Hiramoto; and everyone at Multilingual Matters, who were all incredibly patient with me, granting me extension after extension as I struggled to address reviewer concerns. And I am also immensely grateful to the anonymous reviewer who alerted me to the inadequacies of the earlier version of my manuscript – before gender was prominently brought to the fore.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language, Education and Neoliberalism edited by Mi-Cha Flubacher and Alfonso Del Percio.

Multilingualism As Lived Through Visual Means

This month we published Visualising Multilingual Lives edited by Paula Kalaja and Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer. In this post the editors explain how they used visual methodologies to examine multilinguals’ emotions and their expression of those emotions.

It is only gradually being acknowledged that multilinguals, or people who use more than one language, form the majority of people in the world, not monolinguals. However, multilinguals find themselves in different contexts and for different reasons, and their knowledge of the languages varies. In addition, becoming and being multilingual are quite heterogeneous and individual achievements are experienced very differently by subjects, depending on their contexts and life trajectories.

There are two approaches to multilinguals. The objective approach attempts to figure out the mechanisms inside a multilingual’s mind and trace developments in his or her knowledge of any language (and possible stages in the process) in terms of mastery of a linguistic system or in terms of an ability to communicate or interact with others in the language. In contrast, the subjective approach attempts to find out how a multilingual feels about becoming or being multilingual, or what the different languages and their use mean to him or her personally. In other words, the second approach focuses on multilinguals and their lives as subjectively experienced or as lived, including positive and negative emotions, attitudes, beliefs, visions and identities.

Traditional methodologies (such as questionnaires, interviews and observation) may not be the most suitable options when tackling issues like this, as they may suffer from a “linguistic bias” in their attempts to describe or explain emotions, which are not always easy to put into words. So, to address these sensitive issues, we decided to make use of visual methodologies of various kinds, including drawings and photographs, as mediators between emotions and their expression by multilinguals. However, as a rule, visual data were complemented with other types of data, and the starting points and ways of analysing the pools of data for form and/or content vary from one study to another. But even if visual materials are not always used as the only pool of data, they bring to the foreground aspects that individuals choose to visually represent and comment on. So, using visual methodologies may also be about what is not visible, not represented or not valued by the multilingual subject.

As editors of Visualising Multilingual Lives, we invite the readers to learn about visual narratives accounted by multilinguals in different parts of the world, printed in full color. The different chapters of the book offer coherent, original and individualized insights into multilingualism as experienced in three domains: the multilingual self, the multilingual learner and multilingual teacher education. With a preface by Claire Kramsch, the volume acknowledges the potential of arts-based methodologies in grasping the singularities of multilinguals and their linguistic biographies.

Paula Kalaja paula.kalaja@jyu.fi
Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer silvia.melo-pfeifer@uni-hamburg.de

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy Language Teacher Psychology edited by Sarah Mercer and Achilleas Kostoulas.

Filling the Gap in Research into Teacher Education for YL Language Teachers

We recently published Early Language Learning and Teacher Education edited by Subhan Zein and Sue Garton. In this post Sue explains the inspiration behind the book.

Up until recently, I think it is fair to say that Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) was very much a neglected area of research in English Language Teaching (ELT) and Applied Linguistics. It was even more neglected if we look at languages other than English. Fortunately, as Fiona Copland and I noted in our introduction to the 2014 ELT Journal Special Issue, that has changed quite rapidly over the last few years, for English at least, to the extent that we can perhaps say that the field has experienced something of a coming of age. This can be seen, I think, in such milestones as that ELTJ Special Issue as well as a Language Teaching’s 2015 State-of-the-Art article by Yuko Butler reviewing research in East Asia from 2004-2014 and the recent Routledge Handbook of Teaching English to Young Learners published last year.

However, in all this very welcome activity, one area that still seems to attract less attention is that of teacher education for teachers of young learners (YLs), and it is this lack of attention that was the inspiration for this volume. There are, of course, some very notable exceptions, such as Helen Emery’s 2012 report for the British Council, and the work of my co-editor, Subhan Zein. However, the body of published research remains limited and yet the education, development and training of language teachers in primary schools is of paramount importance.

So that is why we decided the time was ripe for a volume of research into teacher education for YL language teachers. Note here that we say ‘language teachers’ not ‘English language teachers’. From the start, we were committed to preparing a volume that recognised that language teaching is not only English language teaching. Chapters about English teaching dominate because that is the reality we live in, but there are also chapters about teacher education for teachers of French, German and Spanish in the UK and for teachers in bi-lingual/multi-lingual education in Turkey (Turkish-Italian), Kazakhstan (Kazak -English–Russian) and the USA (Spanish–English). A global perspective was also important to us. Following my involvement in the 2011 British Council project on Investigating Global Practices in Teaching English to Young Leaners, I was ever more strongly convinced of the relevance of the local to the global and the importance of the idea of resonance – that the experiences of teachers and teacher educators in one context can resonate strongly with those in an apparently very different context, and that we can all learn a lot from each other. That is why we have chapters from Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Taiwan, Turkey, the UK, the USA.

The diversity and variety of the chapters in the book are, I feel, one of its biggest strengths and, although this might seem contradictory, its biggest unifying factor, and we sincerely hope that the research presented will resonate with readers both in similar contexts and in very different ones.

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Early Instructed Second Language Acquisition edited by Joanna Rokita-Jaśkow and Melanie Ellis. 

World Book Day 2019

It’s World Book Day! In this post we talk about what we’re reading at the moment and what’s on our to-read pile. You might want to add to yours after reading this!

Laura

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen which is actually the book that I mentioned wanting for Christmas on our Christmas books blog post (hurrah to my sister for giving it to me!). It is every bit as funny, light-hearted and enjoyable as I hoped (I’ve just read the complete Narnia collection and desperately needed some light relief!), but also full of astute descriptions of very relatable characters and situations. It’s set in Ireland so I have to keep my phone handy as I read so that I can get translations of some of the Irish English and pronunciations of the foreign names! I have a very nice hardback edition so I am desperately trying to finish it before my next conference trip; that shouldn’t be difficult as it’s so good!

What do you want to read next?

Next on my reading list is The Librarian by Sally Vickers, which was another Christmas present, this time from my mum, who works in a library so the title obviously appealed to her.  I didn’t actually enjoy the last book I read by this author (The Cleaner of Chartres) but the blurb says “The Librarian is a moving testament to the joy of reading and the power of books to change and inspire us all” so it sounds good and I am going to start it with an open mind!

Tommi

What are you reading at the moment?

I am currently reading: Regions of the Heart: The Triumph and Tragedy of Alison Hargreaves by David Rose and Ed Douglas – It’s an interesting biography of a British climber who died climbing K2. She was strongly criticised for climbing risky mountains and leaving her young children at home. I haven’t yet read enough to give an opinion of it. I’m also reading Autarktis by Tommi Liimatta, which seems to be about lives in Northern Finland. I’m finding it a bit too disjointed and feel it’s trying to be too clever if I’m honest, rather than having a smooth narrative. But I’ll struggle on a bit further! Finally, I’m reading The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson which is thoroughly entertaining and informative in equal measures.

What do you want to read next?

On my “guilt pile” of books to read next are: Wise Children by Angela Carter. Having just seen a fantastic stage production at the Bristol Old Vic, I really wanted to read the novel. All the Presidents Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward is also on the list, as is The Battle to Do Good: Inside McDonald’s Sustainability Journey by Bob Langert. What I would really love to read next is something by Miika Nousiainen. An easy reading, gently amusing Finnish writer whose most recent book Juurihoito had me in stitches. So if Miika is reading this blog I’d really appreciate him finishing off his next novel whatever that might be…

Anna

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. She is one of my favourite writers, and this is her (highly unconventional) memoir in which each brief chapter centres around a brush with death or disaster. I would highly recommend it, as well as all of her novels.

What do you want to read next?

I always have a huge to-be-read pile but with a trans-Atlantic flight coming up I’ll be able to make a bit of a dent in it. In my hand luggage will be Blood and Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene and Uninhabitable Earth (just to make me feel REALLY bad about being on that plane) and for some light relief the latest Jack Reacher novel.

Rose

What are you reading at the moment?

I am eking out the last few pages of Susan Fletcher’s Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew; I am loving it so much I don’t want it to end! Fletcher recounts Vincent van Gogh’s year in the Saint-Paul Asylum, Saint-Rémy, where he admitted himself, and was a patient from May 1889-May 1890, painting some of his most loved, intense paintings during that time, through the eyes of Jeanne Trabuc, the Asylum warden’s wife. It’s an absolutely wonderful, moving and lyrical novel.

The heart, she thinks, is the painter. Love, and moments like this, are the art. The Dutchman taught her that.

What do you want to read next?

Next on the list is Kate Atkinson’s Transcription as she is one of my faves; I especially loved her other two novels set around World War II (Life After Life and A God in Ruins) so I’m excited to get stuck into this one.

Elinor

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende which was a Christmas present. Three characters are brought together by a car accident in a snowstorm in Brooklyn and end up embarking on a dangerous journey. The story switches between the current day and each of the character’s pasts and how they came to be in Brooklyn. I was immediately drawn in by the characters’ narratives and am keen to know how the book will end.

What do you want to read next?

I always have a shelf full of books to read, in fact I start to get a bit panicky if I have fewer than ten books lined up! While I also have the book I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell and am looking forward to reading it, I think my next book will be Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. It was recommended by both my mum and mother-in-law so I have high hopes!

Sarah

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. I’ve only just started but I like it so far. I also read the author’s first YA novel, The Hate U Give. The protagonists of both books are young black women in the US and deal with some heavy issues – far removed from anything I’ve ever experienced. Though you can get a similar feeling from TV and films, I love that books make you appreciate different perspectives and experiences in-depth. I hope World Book Day encourages lots of people to get reading!

What do you want to read next?

Next on the list is Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield.

Flo

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just started Wise Children by Angela Carter, having seen the same theatre production as Tommi at Bristol Old Vic. It’s the story of twin chorus girls, Dora and Nora Chance, and their strange theatrical family – it’s surreal and full of sets of twins and mistaken identities, just like a Shakespeare play. It’s a bit odd reading the book having already seen the play, as that’s all I can picture (and it seems like the script was very faithful to the original text)!

What do you want to read next?

I’ve actually come to the end of a big backlog of books so I will be making notes from this blog post – I’ve already got my eye on I Am, I Am, I Am!