International Literacy Day 2018

8th September is International Literacy Day, a day which is celebrated annually worldwide as an occasion to promote literacy for both children and adults and highlight its importance to individuals, communities and societies. To mark it, we reflect on our own memories of learning to read…

Laura

Growing up, bedtime stories were a highlight of every evening. My sister and I had very different tastes in books and so had a complicated rota for whose turn it was to choose the story and in whose bed the story would be read! I don’t really remember when we started reading ourselves rather than being read to but I do have clear memories of having the chicken pox when I was 7 and working my way through every single Famous Five book!

Flo

Before I could actually read, I memorised Peter Rabbit and would recite the whole thing, turning the pages in a pretty convincing imitation of reading! The first books I properly read on my own were the Josie Smith books by Magdalen Nabb. I loved these so much that my mum wrote a letter to the author and actually received a handwritten reply! Magdalen was particularly taken with my name as she was living in Florence at the time – “The City of Flowers”, which she lamented was increasingly more populated by cars than flowers…

Elinor

I don’t remember the first book that I read completely on my own but I do remember the first books that I read together with my parents. We had several books from the Puddle Lane series which had a simple sentence on one page for me to read and then a more detailed paragraph on the opposite page for my mum or dad to read. They were great as I felt like I was reading on my own but still getting a full story. I also enjoyed reading books by Shirley Hughes, particularly the Alfie stories and the book Dogger. Another favourite was Burglar Bill, which I can still quote lines from now and which I look forward to reading with my son when he’s a bit older. I loved reading books (or being read to) from a young age and always looked forward to bedtime stories.

Anna

I have always loved books, but one of my main motivations when learning to read was so I could decipher the very glamorous – and not very feminist – women’s magazines that were stuffed down the legs of my mum’s leather boots in the wardrobe in my parent’s bedroom, all red lipstick and impossibly large hair. In fact I always wanted to read things I probably shouldn’t: I can remember being fascinated by Shirley Conran’s Super Woman for quite some time; most of the text meant very little to me, but here was a book entirely about grown-up, real knowledge, to be read when no-one was looking.

Tommi

Reading has always been a very important part of family life for me, and the house I grew up in and my grandparents’ house were always full of books with shelves occupying most available wall space. We would have books regularly sent over from Finland for birthday and Christmas presents, and Mum, Dad, Naini, Mummi and Vaari, along with anyone else that could be cajoled, would read to us at bedtime. Our summer holidays driving across Europe to Finland always started a week or so before departure with a visit to George’s bookshop in Bristol, so we could select the books to keep us occupied in the back seat. I’ve written about Muumipeikko ja Pyrstötähti (Comet in Moominland) being one of the first books I remember reading on my own for a post on World Book Day so I won’t say any more about that here. The first book that I remember getting in “trouble” for reading was JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It was the classic story of a young child not realising that his parents could see the hunched shape and the torchlight visible through the blanket that seems so funny in hindsight. Dad later admitted that he would always let me “get away with it” for half an hour or so before telling me it was really time for lights out… I cannot imagine a life without the pleasure of reading, and a love of books must surely be one of the greatest gifts you can give any child.

Find out more about International Literacy Day on UNESCO’s website.

Expectation vs. Reality: Moving Beyond Stereotypes of Indigenous People in the Circumpolar North

This month we published Tourism and Indigeneity in the Arctic edited by Arvid Viken and Dieter K. Müller. In this post Dieter reflects on the research he and his co-editor carried out on Sami tourism.  

Indigenous peoples have been a focus of tourism research for quite a while. In the scientific literature, tourism has been promoted as an opportunity for indigenous people by offering possibilities to make a living and promote indigenous development. Alternatively, tourism has been portrayed as a threat to indigenous culture by contributing to commodification and sometimes the development of fake cultures.

Reflecting on our Nordic experience, my colleague Arvid Viken and I had some trouble seeing how these interpretations can be utilized to explain and understand the situation of the Sami, the indigenous people of Northern Europe, in relation to tourism. Here the story told is rather that there have been great expectations regarding indigenous tourism development that so far have not been realized, or at least not to the extent anticipated. This was the point of departure for our idea to do a book on indigenous tourism in the Arctic, and not least in the Nordic countries.

In our understanding the Sami are a modern people living modern lives, and in fact only a small minority of the Sami is directly involved in the traditional industry, reindeer herding. In fact, even reindeer herding is a modern meat producing industry using helicopters, trucks, motorcycles and GPS-tracking. However, globalization and international competition in the meat market implies that it is a tough way to make a living, not least in a situation where many Sami have an increasing interest in their own culture and their traditional industry. In this context tourism is just one potential livelihood that people choose outside reindeer herding. However nobody has to engage in tourism. Instead, Sami get involved in tourism because they desire to do so, not because they do not have any alternatives.

Still, there are multiple expectations toward the Sami to get involved in tourism and to act in a certain way. A great example was noted many years ago by a fellow Swedish researcher who studied the process of establishing the World Heritage Area Laponia in the North of Sweden. The area is a mixed World Heritage site acknowledging the physical features of the landscape as well as the fact that it is a landscape formed by Sami reindeer husbandry since time immemorial. However, when visiting the site a UNESCO delegation expressed concerns about the fact that reindeer herders used cell phones and other equipment that did not match their expectations of an indigenous people.

I think this is a great illustration of the situation of indigenous people in welfare states. It also indicates the challenges that Sami tourism entrepreneurs have to deal with, i.e. tourist expectations that don’t reflect the modern indigenous everyday reality. Still, as the case studies in this book teach us, even the situation in the circumpolar North is complex and varies between places. Hence, one should not overgeneralize. Instead, I hope the book will inspire scholars to join us in digging deeper into the conditions of indigenous tourism in northern locations and move beyond stereotypical understandings of indigenous people.

Dieter K. Müller, Umeå University

For more information about this book, please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Polar Tourism by Bernard Stonehouse and John Snyder.

Heritage Tourism in China

This month we published Heritage Tourism in China by Hongliang Yan. In this post, the author discusses some of the heritage sites covered in his book and the stories behind them.

Heritage Tourism in ChinaAs one of the world’s earliest civilisations, history has left much heritage for China. It is not merely the representation of the country’s past but also an important resource which supports the development of China’s tourism industry today. Heritage Tourism in China looks at the relationships between heritage and tourism in contemporary China. It uses heritage to examine the social changes of China and how history and heritage were interpreted, planned and promoted for tourist consumption.

Because of the characteristics of Chinese governance, heritage tourism planning and management are largely decided by the public sector. In recent years, with the implementation of “Economic Reform and Open Door” policies, stakeholders from other sectors have increasingly been playing some more important roles in heritage tourism. This book examines the issues from the viewpoints of policymakers and other influential stakeholders at local, regional and national levels who had interests in heritage tourism.

To help the reader to understand the link between heritage and the key issues discussed in the book, four historically important heritage sites were discussed in detail on the issues around their management, planning, interpretation and promotion for tourism, which also provides the key link between the global context of tourism and notions of modernity, identity and sustainability.

Among these sites, the Confucius temple, mansion and family cemetery in Qufu (UNESCO World Heritage Site) were selected for examination as they have embodied the core values of traditional Chinese culture and philosophy: Confucianism. Their preservation, management and also the evolution of the Confucius cult ceremony well reflected the relations between tradition and modernity in contemporary China.

Another example, Mount Tai, China’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site was also examined in the book because of its outstanding combination of beautiful natural landscape and cultural impacts and being regarded as a sacred mountain in China. The preservation and development of the site provide a good example of the governance of protected areas and the challenges to sustainability.

The heritage sites discussed in this book are symbols of Chinese civilisations and beliefs. An important focus of the discussion in this book is on how they are affected by alterations in people’s values and beliefs in China over recent decades. The book develops and applies a broad framework to assess the relationships between the planning, development and representation of heritage sites for tourist consumption and the notions of modernity, identity and sustainable development in contemporary China.

For more information about this book, please see our website. You might also be interested in Tourism in China, Tourism Research in China and Industrial Heritage Tourism.

Education and Literacy in Ethiopia

Martin with the schoolchildren
Martin with the schoolchildren

We were recently approached by one of our authors, Martin Pütz, who was asking for support for his education project which is helping to build, renovate and provide resources for four primary schools in Ethiopia (250kms south-east of the capital Addis Ababa).

One of the classrooms before the renovations
One of the classrooms before the renovations

The basic goals of primary school curriculum are to prepare children for life and higher education through reading, writing, maths and other topics and lessons. Therefore, universal basic education is regarded a high priority for developing countries and is also a focus of the “Education for All Movement” as set out by UNESCO. The project aims to place education high on the agenda, particularly for the most marginalized children from socio-economically disadvantaged nations such as Ethiopia.

Learning English
Learning English

The present area of focus, Basic Education and Literacy, will be addressed in a number of ways. By providing textbooks, journals, magazines, and in the era of globalization even computers, students will be more motivated which will eventually lead to an improvement of cognitive skills and intellectual abilities.

School children in Ethiopia
School children in Ethiopia

The availability of chairs, desks and blackboards will be conducive to a better learning environment and human dignity. In this vein, the renovation of walls, ceilings, floors and windows will be equally important to guarantee a healthy environment free of negative influences such as humidity and the lack of sufficient electricity in the classrooms. One other basic need of human beings is the necessity of being able to use toilets before, during and after lessons, something which is usually taken for granted in Western societies. Renovations will certainly help achieve the goal of providing Basic Education and Literacy and will thus lead to enhanced quality of education, a lower drop-out rate and better chances to succeed in social and professional life.

Children in the classroom
Children in the classroom
Children learning in their own native language
Children learning in their own native language

The project site comprises four primary schools (Alem Gena School, Memihir Ager School, Demeko School, Dingay Tira School) near Addis Ababa. Originally, the schools were dusty, their walls were not well plastered and the children were exposed to wind and, in the rainy seasons, to showers of rain. There were no proper doors or windows, no toilets suitable for girls, no adequate potable water or hygienic sanitation facilities.

However, Martin has raised money for the project and the repair work began in January 2012 and is expected to be finished by July 2013. Martin will visit and inspect the four schools in February 2013.

The project has been funded by the Rotary Foundation, the Rotary Districts 1860 (Germany) and 1920 (Ethiopia) as well as the Rotary Clubs Bad-Bergzabern and Mittelhardt-Deidesheim. We were pleased to be able to contribute to the fund by donating money for resources and teaching both in the local language and in English.

If you would like any more information about the project or would like to contribute please contact Martin at Puetz@uni-landau.de.

An Interview with Elizabeth Coelho

Having just published her latest book Language and Learning in Multilingual Classrooms we caught up with author Elizabeth Coelho and asked her a few questions about her work.

How did you first become interested in immigrant and multicultural education?
I became interested in language teaching first. As a young teacher I spent a year teaching English in Bulgaria, which made me realize that simply being a teacher who spoke English was not enough; I needed to know how to teach language in a way that was engaging and effective. During that year I also experienced culture shock and other difficulties associated with being in a place where I did not speak the language or understand the cultural norms. This was the early seventies and I arrived in Bulgaria, naïvely, with a suitcase full of miniskirts… And there were many other occasions when  I misinterpreted the culture. In Bulgaria, for example, shaking the head means “Yes.'” Endless confusion when asking for help or ordering in restaurants. This experience helped me later to understand the adjustment process of the  immigrant children I worked with on my return to the UK and then, later, in Canada.

In the UK I worked in a special program for Creole speaking children from the Caribbean. We were a team of teachers placed in different schools and every Friday we met for professional development. I learned an incredible amount from my students and my peers about teaching, language, culture, and racism. A year or two later I was teaching English as a Second Language to immigrant students from all over the world in a Toronto secondary school, and taking professional courses to become better at it.

Which other researchers in your field do you most admire?
Jim Cummins is always an inspiration. Learning about the value of students’  own languages was pivotal for me. Viv Edwards at the University of Reading also helped me along the same road.

What makes your book unique compared to others published in this field?
I think I occupy a middle space between academic researchers and the teacher in the field. I am first and foremost a teacher, having spent 17 years in the classroom, mainly as an ESL teacher, and then many years in various positions working with or training teachers. I read the work of the researchers (Cummins, Krashen, and others) and talk with teachers who are doing wonderful work in the classroom, and am able to connect theory and practice. This book provides an overview of relevant theory and research and then provides many suggestions for classroom practice based on the theories.

Elizabeth Coelho

Why is it important for children from linguistic minorities to receive special attention in classrooms?
Because we are teaching them in the wrong language and must compensate for that. According to UNESCO, “It is an obvious yet not generally recognised truism that learning in a language which is not one’s own provides a double set of challenges, not only is there the challenge of learning a new language but also that of learning new knowledge contained in that language… Studies have shown that, in many cases, instruction in the mother tongue is beneficial to language competencies in the first language, achievement in other subject areas, and second language learning.” (UNESCO, 2003: p.15)

Unfortunately, providing mother-tongue or dual language instruction may not be feasible in many schools or districts, for political, practical, or philosophical reasons. Therefore we must do all we can to compensate for the fact that we are teaching in the wrong language for many of the students.We do this by providing scaffolded, differentiated instruction and assessment for students at various stages of development in the language of instruction— in all subject areas and at all grade levels. My book provides many practical, curriculum-based examples of how to do that.

What encouragement would you offer to teachers who are struggling with multilingual students in their classrooms?
The task of educating students whose linguistic and cultural backgrounds are different from your own, or from those of the school, may seem overwhelming, especially since most teachers have not received significant preparation for teaching in contexts of linguistic and cultural diversity. But, to put things into perspective, the challenges facing immigrant children and youth, and their parents, are even greater than those facing teachers. We owe it to such children to overcome the challenges that face us as educators, in order to help them meet theirs. In this way educators can help newcomer and minority students to realise their aspirations for a brighter future, and at the same time help to ensure a healthy future for the entire community. This may sound like a daunting responsibility – but most teachers didn’t choose teaching because it seemed like an easy job. Most teachers have the compassion, the imagination, and the passion for teaching that is needed in a profession where the one thing we can be sure of is constant change.

You are involved in a great cross-cultural adventure. You face many challenges, but you will also find your journey illuminating and rewarding as you learn more every day about the backgrounds and experiences of your students. Undoubtedly your view of the world will change, and your awareness of your own cultural background will be enhanced, as you learn from your students about their worlds and as you teach them about yours.

And finally, what is next for you?
At the moment I am working with colleagues at the University of Girona to adapt the book for teachers in Spain, where immigration is a relatively recent phenomenon. Through this process I continue to improve my Spanish and am gaining a new awareness of the challenge of expressing knowledge and sharing perspectives in a language I am still learning.  I am filled anew with admiration for students in elementary and secondary schools who are doing this six hours a day, five days a week, forty weeks a year.

Because I am now living in Spain most of the time I have become increasingly interested in CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). CLIL is an increasingly popular approach to foreign language teaching in Spain and many other countries in Europe, and many teachers are providing instruction through the medium of English in subjects such as Social Studies, Arts, or Science. The learning objectives include language-learning objectives as well as the usual content objectives. I believe many of the approaches and strategies described in my book, that have been used effectively with immigrant and minority students who are learning the language of instruction, are equally useful in the CLIL context. So I am looking for opportunities to share some of this knowledge and experience with CLIL teachers and advisers.

Reference: UNESCO. (2003) Education in a Multilingual World. Paris: UNESCO. Position paper on language and education in multilingual societies. Available at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001297/129728e.pdf