Celebrating the 20th volume in the Parents’ and Teachers’ Guides book series

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’.

Mike & Marjukka Grover
Mike & Marjukka Grover

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 Parents' and Teachers' Guide to BilingualismA 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!

Guía para padres y maestros de niños bilingüesThe 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.

Growing Up with LanguagesSome 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.

Language and Learning in Multilingual ClassroomsAnother 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.

Second Language Students in English-Medium ClassroomsThe 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.

Family Language LearningTwo other books have only just been published (2015): Family Language Learning by Christine Jernigan and Approaches to Inclusive English Classrooms by Kate Mastruserio Reynolds.

Approaches to Inclusive English ClassroomsA 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.”

Mike & Marjukka Grover
Mike & Marjukka Grover

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.

Celebrating 40 volumes in the New Perspectives on Language and Education series

The Multilingual Turn in Languages EducationThe publication of The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education edited by Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier this month marks the 40th volume of our New Perspectives on Language and Education series. Here, the series editor Viv Edwards writes about how the series has evolved over the years.

The titles that form part of the New Perspectives on Language and Education series tend to cluster around three main themes – English as an international language, modern language teaching and multilingual education, with a host of other issues hovering around the edges that refuse to be pigeonholed in this way.

Identifying and disseminating new perspectives on ‘big’ topics like these requires Janus-like qualities. On the one hand, you need to recognize proposals which, while resonating with issues that you know are trending, hold the promise of taking things a few steps forward, not simply being more of the same. On the other hand, you need to be prepared to take risks: is this something new and original with the potential to make people rethink long-held assumptions? As Multilingual Matters prepares to publish the 40th title in the series, this seems a good time to offer my own particular take as editor.

NPLE coversHot topics

Looking first at the new and original, NPLE has a proud record. In terms of ‘hot topics’, Testing the Untestable in Language Education, edited by Amos Paran and Lies Sercu, and Joel Bloch’s book on Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 Writing have made important contributions to debates in two fiercely contested areas, while Andrey Rosowsky’s Heavenly Readings focuses on literacy practices associated with Islam, an issue which has received remarkably little attention to date. The quality of the contribution made by any individual title lies, in my opinion, in its power to challenge readers to revisit and even reconsider deeply held beliefs. An excellent example is Jean-Jacques Weber’s Flexible Multilingual Education, which controversially places the needs and interests of children above the more customary approach which focuses on individual languages.

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In the case of topics such as English as an international language, it is possible to argue that the impact of NPLE titles is cumulative. Let’s take some recent additions to the list that specifically set out to bridge the gap between theoretical discussion and practical concerns: Aya Matsuda’s edited collection Principles and Practices of Teaching English as an International Language and Julia Hüttner and colleagues’ Theory and Practice in EFL Teacher Education. In the case of Julia Menard Warwick’s English Language Teachers on the Discursive Faultlines the focus is on different constituencies and stakeholders as she compares controversies around English as a global language with similar tensions surrounding programmes for immigrants.

 

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Another interesting cluster of titles concerns innovations in pedagogy and the management of multilingual classrooms. Take, for instance, Managing Diversity in Education, edited by David Little and colleagues; Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Classrooms where Jennifer Miller and colleagues explore new dilemmas for teachers; and Kathy Mills’ The Multiliteracies Classroom. The 40th and most recent addition to the NPLE list, Jean Conteh and Gabriela Meier’s The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education is a welcome addition to a strand of scholarship helping to develop a clearer understanding of classroom challenges.

Politics

Books such as these are underpinned by important political questions. In other examples, however, the political theme is even more clearly foregrounded. Particular personal favourites include The Politics of Language Education, edited by Charles Alderson which, with the value of hindsight, looks at the institutional manoeuvres that shape projects charged with innovation and change; Maryam Borjian’s English in Post-Revolutionary Iran, which chronicles the changing attitudes to English teaching and qualifies as the only academic book I have ever read which could be described as a page turner; and Desiring TESOL and International Education by Raqib Chowdhury and Phan Le Ha, which raises uncomfortable issues of market abuse and exploitation.

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Innovative methods

Innovations covered by NPLE authors go beyond pedagogy and policy to include new approaches to data analysis. Roger Barnard and colleagues have been responsible for a trilogy of highly original edited collections: Creating Classroom Communities of Learning, Codeswitching in University English-Medium Classes and Researching Language Teacher Cognition and Practice. Each of these edited collections aims to promote dialogue around a particular theme by inviting a second researcher to interpret the same data, or to comment on the approach of the first author.

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Updating classics

Occasionally we have the opportunity of updating important works by major international authors. A case in point is the second edition of Gordon Wells’ ground breaking The Meaning Makers which sets the findings of the original study of language and literacy development at home and school in the context of recent research in the sociocultural tradition, also drawing on new examples of effective teaching from the author’s collaborative research with teachers. Another good example is Sociolinguistics and Language Education, edited by Nancy Hornberger and Sandra Lee McKay, a state-of-the-art overview of changes in the global situation and the continuing evolution of the field.NPLE covers 7

Think globally, act locally

While decisions about what to take forward have to be commercially sound, Multilingual Matters values coverage not only of global interest but also takes pride in showcasing more local issues. Obvious examples of this include Lynda Pritchard Newcombe’s case study of Social Context and Fluency in L2 Learners in Wales; Anne Pitkänen-Huhta and Lars Holm’s edited volume on Literacy Practices in Transition, which showcases perspectives from the Nordic counties; and Minority Populations in Canadian Second Language Education edited by Katy Arnett and Callie Mady.

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A personal coda

As someone who has worked for longer than I care to remember with both large international publishing houses and Multilingual Matters, one of the last of a vanishing breed of small independents, it seems fitting to end on a personal note. Many readers of this blog will be aware that it is now just over a year since the death of Mike Grover, who together with his wife Marjukka, founded Multilingual Matters over three decades ago. Their finest legacy, embodied in their son Tommi and his current team, is the company’s continued openness to the new, the innovative and even, very occasionally, the quirky. Those of us privileged to work as editors and authors with Multilingual Matters appreciate the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with knowledgeable and committed individuals rather than anonymous, corporate players. Long may this last!