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Personal books and young authors

Using and Researching Dual Language Books for Children - the process of making personal books and the concept of Identity Texts

Creating Personal Books

Teachers with an interest in dual text books have commonly worked with individuals or groups of children (with or without their families) to write personal books, some of which have been published internally by institutions and made available to interested teachers. Some MA students in the Cass School of Education and Communities have researched this area for dissertations and the PGCE primary team have some examples of such work. 

Some teachers and publishers (Davvi in Norway, for example) have used book making by children in a particular community as a means of creating links and sharing experiences between children in different locations and different countries (Solbakk, 1994).

Identity Texts

The use of writing in two languages in the classroom has been developed as a means of exploring the fluctuating nature of personal identity in multilingual contexts. Practice and research in Canada have shown this process to be particularly supportive of children who have recently arrived in a new country and are coming to terms with a new language and a new culture (Cummins et al, 2006).

Some very good examples of this work are available online and in the book Identity Texts: the collaborative creation of power in multilingual classrooms (Cummins, J. and Early, M. 2011. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books).

Developing dual language skills for young authors

Some examples of Personal Books by young authors.

A Friend (1995)

As part of a long-running bilingual mother and child writing group (1986-2000) in a Hackney primary school, Luisa Pieris supported Mohamed, a Muslim child recently arrived from Iraq, to write a story about friendship with his mother. 

The true story tells how a Jewish child from the Yemen overheard him speaking Arabic to his mother and how they became friends on the basis of a shared language. When Mohamed’s family were re-housed he was sad to lose contact with his friend. One day, by accident, on his way to his new school, he met his old friend in the street and discovered that they went to neighbouring schools: Mohamed to a mainstream primary, his friend to a Jewish school. 

The two schools had been developing a partnership, with children visiting each other’s school for special assemblies and Mohamed was very proud to read his story to an assembly that included children from his friend’s school.

My holiday in Albania (2008)

The teachers at Christchurch Primary School in Ilford make extensive use of dual language books and encourage the parents of bilingual children to read to their children in both languages. Encouraged by their teacher, Navneet Padda, some of the children also learn to read for themselves in their home language, as Magda and Albana did with their mothers in Albanian. 

Having become fluent readers they learned to write in Albanian through keeping diaries when on holiday in Albania. The diaries turned into illustrated bilingual books which their school published.

After the success of Magda and Albana’s adventures into bi-literacy the school’s Ethnic Minority Achievement co-ordinator, Catherine Coop invited the 15 Francophone children in the school and their parents to a meeting. As a result of this meeting 9 children from Reception and Y1 classes worked with Catherine to write a group story in English. They later worked together with two of their mothers to translate the story into French and illustrate it. 

A group of KS2 children produced, in a similar manner, a highly inventive and complex story in English which challenged all of them (and their mothers and teachers!) to translate. 

While the children, whose families originate from France, Mauritius, Cameroon and Morocco, all understand French and used it in varying degrees in the home, there were very few opportunities for them to use the language in school. In the course of producing the French version of their books the children gradually gained confidence in using French in a school environment and explored and played with the sounds, the structure and the meaning of their two languages. Both books were published by the school and printed in a limited edition of 15 copies.

In the meantime Magda and Albana, now in Y5 and studying Albanian in classes on Sunday mornings, were following up the success of their holiday stories by working together both in the classroom and in their lunch hours to make up their own adventure story from scratch and translate it into Albanian as they went along. The fantasy in cyberspace was also published by the school; all three books were formally launched in July 2010 and the e-book was made available by the UEL Web and Digital Media Department in March 2011.