November 14, 2017
by Nora Nagy
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Talking philosophy with children through stories

“Philosophy, if it cannot answer so many questions as we could wish, has at least the power of asking questions which increase the interest of the world, and show the strangeness and wonder lying just below the surface even in the commonest things of daily life.”

The Problems of Philosophy — Bertrand Russell, 1912

World Philosophy Day is celebrated by UNESCO on the third Thursday of November each year. By drawing attention to the importance of philosophy and philosophical discourse, we encourage you to acknowledge ‘the development of human thought’ and the importance of critical thinking.

In a previous post we shared some ideas about philosophical concepts in famous pieces of classic literature (Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by R. L. Stevenson and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf). This time we invite you to explore the philosophical aspects of children’s literature.

Philosophy with young learners? Surely it’s too complex and vague a subject to address with young children, some of you may say. We would like to list three fundamental reasons why philosophy is not just already present in the world of our children, it is also an important discipline that they should cultivate over the years of education and beyond. Continue Reading →

November 9, 2017
by Nora Nagy
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Five new classics to explore 4: The Secret Agent

When we open a classical novel, we open the door to multiple worlds (historical, geographical, literary, psychological and philosophical) to explore. It is exciting to see what each title means to us, who the author is, how the books were created and how they can be used to develop our students’ knowledge of language and culture.

Let’s take a look at our five new classic reader adaptations. Then tune in later in the year for a lesson based on each book. The titles are:

  • Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit. Level 1 reader, adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne, illustrated by Viola Niccolai.
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Stolen Jewels by Arthur Conan Doyle. Level 2 reader, adapted by Geraldine Sweeney, illustrated by Agilulfo Russo.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Level 3 reader, adapted by Donatella Velluti, illustrated by Michele Rocchetti.
  • The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. Level 4 reader, adapted by Donatella Velluti, illustrated by Claudia Palmarucci.
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Level 5 reader, adapted by Elspeth Rawstron, illustrated by Sara Menetti.

The Secret Agent

1 Who is the author?

IDENTITY. Joseph Conrad was born in 1857 in Berdychiv (Ukraine). At the time the city was part of the Russian Empire, but before that it was part of Poland. He came from a Polish family of intellectuals and political activists who fought for the reunification and independence of Poland. So he was Russian, but he considered himself Polish. In 1886 he became a British citizen.

EDUCATION. He wasn’t a good student at school, but he read a lot of novels, poems and Shakespeare, and he spoke French perfectly. He showed a great talent as a storyteller from a very early age. English was his third language!

A CAPTAIN AT THE NAVY. At 16 he joined the French merchant navy, transferring to the British one later. Over 19 years he worked on many ships, travelled the world and reached the rank of captain. He suffered from bad health and from clinical depression all his life.

THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. In 1894 he left the merchant navy and became a writer. Although English was Conrad’s third language and he only learnt it from the age of 20, he became one of the most famous and influential British writers. His stories are about people’s reactions to extreme situations, and for many of them he used his experiences at sea.

FAMILY AND DEATH. In 1896 he married an English woman, Jessie George, and they had two sons. He died in 1924 at his house in Kent, probably of a heart attack.
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November 7, 2017
by Nora Nagy
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Lighting up Children’s Lit

The people who made a difference: 1 Astrid Lindgren

“I want to write for a readership that can create miracles. Children create miracles when they read. That’s why children need books.”

Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren © Jacob Forsell

As I read about Astrid Lindgren’s life just about a week before the celebration of her 110th birthday (14 November 1907), I cannot help but think about her childhood. How much do the stories you are told influence what you become? Fairy tales made Astrid crave for more stories, and it is the stories she heard and the stories she experienced through her loving family that inspired most of her writing.

If you browse the website dedicated to her, you will see her creativity and kindness shine through the memories shared by her family members – her son, daughter, great-niece remember her in the most honest and loving ways. Although her stories of Pippi Longstocking, Emil, the Brothers Lionheart or Mio speak for themselves and tell you more about the world of Astrid Lindgren than most biographes could, it is worth discovering her background, visit (even virtually) the places where she lived and which influenced her life, and picture the people who were important to her. What kind of person was she? How did she become the ‘accidental revolutionary‘ she was once defined as? And why is the story of Pippi Longstocking such a wonderful literary achievement?

The more you read about Astrid Lindgren, and the more you read her stories, the more you notice that she was an extraordinary, honest and kind person. Anything you read about her talks about a strong, funny and helpful woman. She loved her family, and she was always there for her children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. She helped anyone who needed help, and she cared about issues such as the environment and animals, she fought against violence (speaking up against corporal punishment). She never aimed to become a politcian, but politicians and journalists took her seriously. Although she wrote (apparently) for children the relevance of her work resounds through all layers of society both in her native Sweden and throughout the world.

The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award was established by the Swedish government in her honour and it is awarded to outstanding people or institutions in the field of children’s literature.

In the spirit of this award which aims at spreading the love and appreciation of children’s literature through supporting authors, illustrators and institutions, we would like to invite you to dedicate a lesson to the wonderful world of Astrid Lindgren.

THE LIFE OF ASTRID LINDGREN

THE PERSON

Ask your students if they know anything about her. If they do, ask them to describe

  1. their favourite characters,
  2. their favourite stories.

Then, ask them what they know about the writer. They might not know much about her, and this is when you can share some basic information. You will find a short biography on this website, but when you have the chance, do read about the details of her life.  The text of the short biography is written in the simple present tense and is suitable for elementary plus level students. Ask your students to prepare a biography card.

Here are some questions to guide their reading.

  1. Where was Astrid Lindgren born?
  2. Did she have a happy childhood?
  3. How many brothers and sisters did she have?
  4. When did she move to Stockholm?
  5. What did she study?
  6. How many children did she have?
  7. Who was her husband?
  8. When did she write the first Pippi Longstocking story?
  9. Who did she write it for?
  10. Where did she live as an adult?
  11. What were her main jobs?
  12. When and where did she die?

THE PLACES

Where did Astrid Lindgren grow up? Where is the family home which influenced so much of her writing? Where did she live then? Where did she go in summer? Go to Google Maps to find the following places, then find information and pictures of these places on the Internet.

  • Childhood: Näs, near Vimmerby, Småland
  • Adult life: Stockholm
  • Summer holidays: Furusund, Stockholm Archipelago
    • Check the meaning of ‘archipelago’ and show your students an example on Google Maps.

HER BOOKS

Astrid Lindgren didn’t start writing until she was in her thirties but her books were an immediate success. Pippi Longstocking, her most famous creation was written when her daughter Karen Nyman was ill in bed and asked her mum for stories. You never know where children’s bedtime stories can take your career.

Ask your students to choose one book from this list, read it and then describe the setting, the characters, the themes and retell the narrative.

    • Pippi Longstocking series
    • Karlsson-on-the-Roof series
    • Emil of Lönneberga series
    • Bill Bergson series
    • Madicken series
    • Ronia the Robber’s Daughter
    • Seacrow Island
    • The Six Bullerby Childrenllag
    • Mio, My Son / Mio, My Mio
    • The Brothers Lionheart

ONLINE RESOURCES

You can also visit one of the website dedicated to the life and work of Astrid Lindgren.

References

November 2, 2017
by Nora Nagy
0 comments

Five new classics to explore 3: Uncle Tom’s Cabin

When we open a classical novel, we open the door to multiple worlds (historical, geographical, literary, psychological and philosophical) to explore. It is exciting to see what each title means to us, who the author is, how the books were created and how they can be used to develop our students’ knowledge of language and culture.

Let’s take a look at our five new classic reader adaptations. Then tune in later in the year for a lesson based on each book. The titles are:

  • Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit. Level 1 reader, adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne, illustrated by Viola Niccolai.
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Stolen Jewels by Arthur Conan Doyle. Level 2 reader, adapted by Geraldine Sweeney, illustrated by Agilulfo Russo.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Level 3 reader, adapted by Donatella Velluti, illustrated by Michele Rocchetti.
  • The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. Level 4 reader, adapted by Donatella Velluti, illustrated by Claudia Palmarucci.
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Level 5 reader, adapted by Elspeth Rawstron, illustrated by Sara Menetti.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

1 Who is the author?

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in 1811 in Connecticut, United States. Her parents were very religious. When Harriet was five years old, her mother died. Harriet’s family had liberal views and was abolitionist. Harriet studied the classics, languages and mathematics in her sister’s school. In 1832 the family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Harriet joined a literary group for intellectuals. One of them was Calvin Ellis Stowe, a college professor. She married him in 1836 and they had seven children. Unfortunately, one of them died when he was 18 months old. After her child died, she said she understood what slave mothers felt when slave owners sold their children. She died in 1896.
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October 27, 2017
by Nora Nagy
0 comments

Five new classics to explore 2: Sherlock Holmes and the Stolen Jewels

When we open a classical novel, we open the door to multiple worlds (historical, geographical, literary, psychological and philosophical) to explore. It is exciting to see what each title means to us, who the author is, how the books were created and how they can be used to develop our students’ knowledge of language and culture.

Let’s take a look at our five new classic reader adaptations. Then tune in later in the year for a lesson based on each book. The titles are:

  • Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit. Level 1 reader, adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne, illustrated by Viola Niccolai.
  • Sherlock Holmes and the Stolen Jewels by Arthur Conan Doyle. Level 2 reader, adapted by Geraldine Sweeney, illustrated by Agilulfo Russo.
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Level 3 reader, adapted by Donatella Velluti, illustrated by Michele Rocchetti.
  • The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. Level 4 reader, adapted by Donatella Velluti, illustrated by Claudia Palmarucci.
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Level 5 reader, adapted by Elspeth Rawstron, illustrated by Sara Menetti.

Sherlock Holmes and the Stolen Jewels

1 Who is the author?

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1859. He worked as a doctor until 1891 but he had a passion for writing stories. In 1891 he decided to become a full-time writer. His first novel was called A Study in Scarlet. He then wrote a collection of short stories called The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which were published in instalments by The Strand Magazine. Conan Doyle wrote 56 Sherlock Holmes stories in total. One of the most famous and popular is ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. Conan Doyle died in 1930. Sherlock Holmes’ fictional house in Baker Street is now a museum. Continue Reading →