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Children’s Literature in Action Book Publication and Launch

Centre for Language, Culture and Learning, Goldsmiths, University of London

30 September 2022

A lot has been written and said by critics, authors, parents and teachers about children’s books and how they benefit children. But what do the children say? How do they respond to stories and use them to create their personal inner landscapes of meaning?

Goldsmiths, University of London, proudly presents ‘Children’s Literature in Action’ which explores this question through the power of practitioner and action research.

This innovative book contains a series of highly original research studies carried out by students taking the ‘Children’s Literature in Action’ module which is part of the MA Children’s Literature programme. These studies were carried out by MA students between 2014 and 2021. The authors investigate the power and impact of a range of different reading experiences for children from reception to secondary school age. Focusing on different ways in which children’s literature supports the development of empathy, critical thinking and creativity, the book is divided into four sections, each with an introduction by the editors.

Part One: six studies explore the impact of picturebooks on children’s reading and how picturebooks can be used in practice to deepen understanding of children’s own literary lives and their understanding of the wider world.

Part Two: six studies look at how culture and humour motivate young readers. These chapters truly reflect the power of practitioner and action research and should give the reader a spark to give it a go themselves.

Part Three: four studies discuss the use of poetry in the reading and language classroom as a highly personal and effective way to develop reflexivity and be empowered by the nuances of language

Part Four: three studies, undertaken during the pandemic, focus on relationships and how

they affect reading motivation. It reflects a few of the diverse physical spaces and types of relationships in which children may actively connect with stories.

Children’s Literature in Action is beautifully illustrated by our MA Children’s Literature book illustrators (in collaboration with a creative writer). The three lead editors are Richard Charlesworth, Deborah Friedland and Helen Jones. There are 19 MA alumni contributing their outstanding research studies to the book with an introduction by Dr Julia Hope and Professor Michael Rosen and a conclusion by Professor Vicky Macleroy.

Cover design and Reading Relationships Illustration by Georgia Cowley

You can purchase a paperback version of the book here.

You can also read an e-copy of the book hosted on the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning website accessed here:
Children’s Literature in Action E-Book

You can watch a recording of the ‘Children’s Literature in Action’ book launch here.


Blog by Deborah Friedland, Helen Jones and Richard Charlesworth (Lead Editors)

IBBY Children’s Literature Silent Book Exhibition

Centre for Language, Culture and Learning Event – Goldsmiths, University of London

11 March 2022 – 10.00 am – 6.00 pm

Poster print design for the book exhibition by Ningjing Yuan, MA Children’s Book Illustration student, Goldsmiths, University of London

This was a wonderful opportunity to see an Exhibition of Silent Books from the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Honour List 2017.

74 Silent Books from 20 countries

(Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, UK, USA)

What is a silent book? This seems an odd term for a book that always seems so polyphonic – full of voices and sounds. Silent books are picturebooks, comics and graphic novels with no words to tell the narrative. Words may appear on signs and in the illustrations but do not guide or tell the story.

Many of the books are very experimental. I feel like as we grow older, we tend to oversee and overcomplicate everything so some of the books are a bit hard to read and understand without words, but once you slow down and try to see things exactly as they are, it starts to make sense (exhibition visitor).

The exhibition was originally shipped from Switzerland, and we transformed the Top Floor of the Educational Studies department into an exhibition space. The PhD and MA Children’s Literature students helped to set up and run the exhibition. Over 50 visitors came to the exhibition and became fascinated about how the illustrators from different cultures and countries had decided to illustrate their stories. Reflections written, scribbled, drawn on post-it notes stuck on a large outline of a book captured some of the varied and fascinating reading experiences of visitors to the exhibition who came to browse and then stayed for hours.

Reflective snippets from exhibition visitors

A very impressive exhibition – very inspiring, which recalls my bygone days, full of fun and imagination, and cultural messages.

Really inspiring exhibition! I particularly loved the different styles and ways to tell a story without words.

A great exhibition! Interesting to see a common theme of children going on an imaginary journey with their toys.

Lovely variety of books. Lots of journeys. I intend to buy some of them for my school.

Really fantastic! It’s a good chance for me to enjoy so many great works!

Fascinating selection – so many different types of narrative.

Very reluctantly had to tear myself away from this very yummy selection! Thank you so much for this treat!

Such a great book will make the reader feel amazing!

Love this book so much! I can’t wait to start drawing now.

I want to repeat the story again and again.

Lovely book, good illustrations, captivating story, bold colours, and the sense of motion.

This book definitely shows how silent books can work on many levels and can be both for adults and children.  

It was a great experience. I love all the books. So amazing!

I realised the charm of silent books! Books in every country have their own styles. Lovely!

Do read more about IBBY Silent Book Exhibitions and how they came into being. You can access resources on reading these books in a community with different languages and a booklet using Silent Books with children.

We look forward to hosting a new exhibition of Silent Books at Goldsmiths in 2023. If you are interested in a PhD or MA Children’s Literature (3 pathways – Issues and Debates, Creative Writing; Children’s Book Illustration) contact me at Goldsmiths:

Blog by Vicky Macleroy

The Remaking of Language Education

Read about an exciting new book publication co-edited by 4 members of the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning and published in February 2022.

This blog was first published on the Multilingual Matters website:

Liberating Language Education emerged from our desire to unite our passion about language, education, and lived multilingualism with our visions of what language education can mean, feel, and look like in times of unprecedented change and uncertainty. This passion is reflected in our personas of ‘the weaver’, ‘the fool’, ‘the traveller’ and ‘the activist’ in the introduction of the book: they illustrate the complexity and richness of language experience and language learning across the lifespan and highlight the entanglements of the personal and biographical with the historical and socio-cultural dimensions of language and language pedagogy.

This kaleidoscopic perspective is amplified by the plurality and heterogeneity of voices and orientations manifested in the chapter contributions. The book calls into question a single and unified approach to language, culture, and identity, dismantling monolingual and prescriptivist discourses of pedagogy that have long dominated language education. Instead, it proposes new ways of understanding language and language education that move beyond rationalist and instrumental perspectives and emphasise locally situated meaning-making practices, messiness, and unpredictability.

These new ways liberate our understanding of language to encompass the full range of semiotic repertoires, aesthetic resources, and multimodal practices. They reimagine language education from a translingual and transcultural orientation, showcasing multiple, alternative visions of how language education might be enacted. The translingual, transcultural and transformative approach to pedagogy that underpins the book rests on the following principles:

  • an integrated and inclusive view of language and language learning
  • challenging binaries and fixed positions between formal/informal learning, school/home literacies, schools/other sites of learning
  • attention to language hierarchies and linguistic and social inequalities
  • a synergetic relationship between language and culture
  • the transformative process of language learning as reconfiguring our existing communicative resources and nurturing new ways of being, seeing, feeling and expressing in the world
  • foregrounding embodied, material and aesthetic perspectives to pedagogy
  • emphasis on learner and teacher agency and making their voices heard
  • supporting multiple ways of knowing and a decolonising stance to knowledge building
  • creating trusting, respectful and collaborative relations in research and shared ownership of knowledge

This critical and creative translingual and transcultural orientation repositions teachers, learners and researchers as active language policy creators in the remaking of language education today.

Vally Lytra, Cristina Ros i Solé, Jim Anderson and Vicky Macleroy

For more information about this book please see the Multilingual Matters website.

You can access this podcast where Vally Lytra discusses Liberating Language Education and what vision underpins this collective project:

You can also access Vicky Macleroy talking about Liberating Language Education for the Multilingual Matters Spring Conference 2022:


Our Planet Festival 2021

Critical Connections Project (2012-ongoing) 

Figure 1: Our Planet Festival Languages by Yu-Chiao Chung

In these uncertain times the theme of ‘Our Planet’ is a crucial topic for young people to engage with, research, and think about how to change their environments. In the online festival in June 2021, as well as the digital stories on the theme of ‘Our Planet’, students produced artwork and multilingual poetry to express their views.

Aims of ‘Our Planet Festival 2021’

  1. Connect children and young people with their environment, cultural heritage, and languages through taking action and telling stories on issues that matter to them (cosmopolitan citizenship).
  2. Connect children and young people with each other locally and globally.
  3. Develop children’s imagination, creativity, and multilingual repertories.
  4. Improve children’s communication skills and ability to make meaning through narrative and still/moving images and gain understanding of multimodal literacy and intertextual relationships.
  5. Gain understanding of issues and strategies in translation activities and subtitling (metalinguistic awareness).
  6. Enable creative and critical use of digital technology to transform stories.
  7. Encourage critical thinking, activist citizenship, and international partnerships.
  8. Develop children’s understanding of aesthetics and narration through creating artwork and poetry.

Our Planet Festival 2021 celebrated the multilingual lives of children and young people through their artwork, multilingual poetry, and the bi- and multi- lingual digital stories they created during the pandemic. Educators worked with young participants (6 – 17 years old) across 16 educational institutions (primary, secondary, community-based complementary, pupil referral unit, NGO), 7 countries (England, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Germany, Taiwan, Turkey) and a range of 20 languages. The young people exhibited their striking and original artwork and poetry on the project website and their 3–5-minute films were shown at an online screening event supported by Deptford Cinema.

Online Our Planet Festival – Friday 11 June 2021

Michael Rosen opened the festival with a multilingual poetry performance including some of his latest poems from his book On the Move: Poems About Migration (2020). Michael Rosen commented on the theme of the festival.

‘We’re talking about ‘Our Planet’ so this is one of the things that we share. We share the fact that we are multilingual … one of the reasons why we are multilingual is because we migrate, we move … we don’t stay still … that’s why languages mix and change and we speak many languages’.

Project schools joined from different countries and students were thrilled to participate in a Q & A with Michael Rosen.

Children asked Michael about becoming a poet, writing poetry, his poems, his preferred language, and being an educator as well as a poet.

Artwork and multilingual poetry

Michael Rosen’s poetry performance was followed by a short online tour of the artwork and multilingual poetry children and young people created for the festival.

    Figure 2

   لما لا يسود السلام في العالم

   ‘Why not a peaceful world?’

   Sobhia Anfal Boularas

 Peace School, North London



This work can be accessed from the different schools on the project website here:

Multilingual Poetry Workshop

Michaël Vidon, spoken word educator, poet and French teacher (at Seaford Head School) led an hour’s online multilingual poetry workshop for all participants. Michaël Vidon engaged participants in thinking about words, about obstacles, about places where humans and nature are side by side fighting, about messiness, about danger and comfort. He talked about editing and when and how to move between languages in multilingual poetry and about rhyme and rhythm. Project participants experimented writing across languages.

Online screening event supported by Deptford Cinema

Figure 3: Congratulations, you have won a sheep! (Tawasol Community School, Cairo, Egypt)

There were 20 short films including 20 languages and short, pre-recorded introductions to each film. Participants watched the films together across the different countries and the screening was accessible on the Deptford Cinema @ Home platform for 6 weeks (Deptford Cinema). The films can now be accessed on Critical Connections website.

Deptford Cinema is a volunteer run, not-for-profit, community cinema in Deptford (close to Goldsmiths). Deptford Cinema volunteers, Lucy Rogers and Louis Holder, supported the online screening producing a film booklet and editing the overall screening. The Our Planet Digital Storytelling Booklet contains a listing of all the films and more detailed descriptions of the 20 films and project participants.

Our Planet Festival Booklet

The individual films can be viewed here.


The film festival was on national news in Taiwan (12 June 2021).

Figure 4: Revealing the Secrets of Joss Paper (Changsing Elementary School, Taiwan)

Children and young people shared their multilingual poetry, artwork and digital stories at local school and community events across countries in the project.

Children/young people reflected on the ‘Our Planet Festival 2021’

‘Some languages are very difficult to talk in. I knew some of the words. I wish I can read Greek and Mandarin’.

‘It was great to see children from around the world’.

‘We, the children, have to save our planet’.

‘We can all start from our homes and schools, influence a group’s opinion and hope they will influence others’.

‘I was very excited to see our film showcased. I loved watching other films’.

‘There were a variety of different films that intrigued me in many different ways, each one was unique, yet powerful’.

‘There are so many languages spoken in different countries.  I didn’t know that.  It was fascinating to see many films in different languages’.

‘People in different part of the world do different things and have their own ways of living and thought’.

Educators reflected on the ‘Our Planet Festival 2021’

‘Tainan Municipal Changsing Elementary School, Revealing the Secrets of Joss Paper. For most of us, this is a totally unknown world.  Even if one is not part of the culture, one could easily follow and understand the importance of the matter to local people, and that, after all, they are facing similar difficulties we have here, with big industries endangering local crafts’.

‘I had no idea about joss paper and I was wondering if there are any other traditions that potentially put our environment in danger. That is a topic I would like to research with children, starting from our little country, and try to find some solutions to either make the effect less damaging for the planet or completely change it with something nature-friendly’.

‘In my class, children have proved they can complete a range of tasks, technology wise, and achieve much more than what we expect of them. They were able to use a range of multimedia programmes to put a clip together, add subtitles and use other features’.

‘I am very surprised and impressed that my students can finish their films during lockdown.  I thought they would lose their motivation but the fact was that they were very engaged and responsible to work on their film.  It has proved that if they are given some tasks which mean a lot to them, they would enjoy working on them’.

Critical Connections project (2021-22)

As the Critical Connections project moves into its tenth year, we are in the process of planning next year’s festival and waiting to hear about further funding for our work in the field of multilingual learning, environmental activism and the arts. Please get in contact if you are interested in participating in future projects.

Project Directors: Dr Vicky Macleroy, Dr Yu-Chiao Chung and Dr Jim Anderson

Centre for Language, Culture and Learning, Goldsmiths, University of London

Our Planet Festival 2021 was supported by Goldsmiths Public Engagement Fund (2020-21) and Deptford Cinema.

Blog by Vicky Macleroy



Flying Over the Boundary: Working with Teachers at Fengshan Senior High School in Taiwan

She (Yu-chiao) asked me if I would like to join this project of making digital stories.

Little did I know that from the moment I said yes to her, an interesting and rewarding journey had begun.

(Peggy, EFL teacher, FSHS)

I was invited to present the Critical Connections Multilingual Digital Storytelling Project (2012-present) at a webinar held by Tohoku University, Japan in March 2021. It was a special webinar for Japanese-Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) Heritage Language Education. Most of the participants were teachers of Japanese in mainstream or complementary schools outside Japan. While preparing for this webinar and looking through the data, once again, I was touched by the feedback from the teachers working with us on this project. In addition to benefiting the young participants, observing transformative pedagogy has been another important aspect in the multilingual digital storytelling (MDST) project. I would like to share a couple of examples from Fengshan Senior High School in Taiwan here.

Peggy, an English teacher at Fengshan Senior High School in Taiwan, was the first Taiwanese teacher we worked with on the MDST project in 2012. She was my classmate at Normal University in Taiwan. At one of our gatherings, she mentioned her frustration with the repetitive teaching materials she had to cover, the low motivation her students had towards learning English as a practical, live language but their obligation to take taking English as a subject which would be tested in their entrance examination to universities. I proposed she join our multilingual digital storytelling project. She decided to take the opportunity, which might be risky, for herself and for her students. Peggy started to learn about digital stories, mind mapping, filming, editing so that she could teacher her students. She was very pleased with her own professional development through working on the project. She was also amazed to see how her students’ engagement and motivation was raised by returning the ownership of learning to them.

Peter, another English teacher at Peggy’s school, acted as the lead teacher for the project in the following years. Peter commented that the MDST project was not just an opportunity for his students to learn but also for himself: ‘This process has overturned my attitude towards teaching’. He recalled a conflict he had with his students while working on the MDST project.  After their weekly presentation, he provided some ideas. The students took his suggestions badly. One of them shouted angrily: ‘What do you want Our story to be like?’

Peter commented:

As a teacher, I tended to give the students suggestions which I thought would be the most efficient way for them to tell the story and complete the project. Sometimes, I got worried because I could see them going around in circles, taking a long time. However, not all of them would accept my suggestions.

(Peter, EFL Teacher, FSHS)

Peter turned to me for suggestions. I proposed he allowed the students to express their voice in their own way and see what would happen. His feedback to me was:

I suddenly realised that this was something I had to learn. I always gave feedback and expected them to accept my comments. I should have respected their ownership of their story and raised questions when I had doubts. I should have allowed them time and space to review their story and consider whether any improvements were needed; just as I expected they would do with their classmates. I had forgotten I should have done the same.

(Peter, EFL Teacher, FSHS)

In the MDST project, the young digital storytellers are beginning to understand their own sense of agency and teachers are learning to trust their students and give them time to move through their stories. As Peter said to me: ‘It is like you have planted seeds in our heart and they keep growing’.

The MDST project continues to benefit and bring changes to young people as well as their teachers.

Peggy’s introduction and feedback

Peggy edited new.wmv from Critical Connections on Vimeo.

Peter’s introduction and feedback

Film 7: How Weird is Weird? by Fengshan Senior High School Introduction from Critical Connections on Vimeo.

Blog by Yu-Chiao Chung


‘We get to read our favourite stories in new ways.’

A remark made by a Year 3 pupil in response to a unit of work based on Wir gehen auf Bärenjagd! (We’re going on a Bear Hunt), during which pupils had created their own class story, entitled Wir gehen auf Drachenjagd (We’re going on a Dragon Hunt). The collaborative research undertaken and detailed below investigates the embedding of languages using stories to teach and digital storytelling to motivate both teachers and children to engage with German in the primary classroom.

Since June 2018, we, the authors of this blog (Susi Sahmland, Senior Lecturer in Educational Studies and Claire Hackney, Languages Lead and Year 4 class teacher at a Primary School in Brockley), have worked together in what has proved to be a successful collaboration and partnership between a London Primary School and Goldsmiths, University of London.

Beginning by analysing the strong foundations already established in language teaching, in this case focusing on German, the headteacher and language lead (Claire Hackney) wanted to raise the profile of German at the school further and were looking to develop a curriculum bespoke to the school itself. The National Curriculum states that language teaching should ‘enable pupils to express their ideas and thoughts’ (DfE, 2013: 1), recognising that pupil creativity as well as engagement is at the heart of language learning and must be promoted in a primary languages classroom.

Through discussions together (lecturer and teacher), team teaching, and presenting our ideas at conferences and workshops, we have been able to continually evaluate our experiences.

Our collaboration has sought to create a curriculum that would develop not only pupils’ confidence when using language, but also their creativity and curiosity. The new languages curriculum builds on an already established literature unit incorporated during the autumn term which uses texts as foundations to underpin the rest of each year group’s curriculum.

Our focus class was a Year 3 class and the story book was Wir gehen auf Bärenjagd (We’re Going on a Bear Hunt) (Rosen & Oxenbury, 2013), which was the central focus for the spring and summer term. The initial autumn term was spent working on vocabulary and themes connected with the stories; the spring term spent closely working on the text itself; and the final summer term on writing a digital story based on the text.

The texts in lower key stages were chosen for their familiarity to the children, as well as the repetitive phrasal structure of the language used, providing context and a connection with their own experiences. The theme and plot of the story allowed pupils to use existing knowledge of adjectives and animal vocabulary and build on this. When the story writing unit was introduced, the majority of pupils were immediately engaged and enthusiastic.

By presenting pupils with a creative outcome to work towards, children were also able to see a wider purpose to language learning. Reaction to using stories throughout the unit’s work and the new structure and content of the curriculum was positive from both pupils and the teachers involved alike. Staff were enthusiastic about using stories to develop children’s language skills and pupils eager to create their own variations on the story too. Teachers and pupils were able to focus on content, as well as context.

Since our initial meetings and collaboration, we have presented our approach to curriculum design at conferences, network meetings and in workshops in the UK and in Germany and we are sharing our ideas on the Future Learn MOOC, which will be live from the 10th May 2021.

You can access our recorded online event entitled ‘Collaboration – Creativity – Curriculum’ which was hosted by the Centre for Language, Culture and Learning in April 2021.

Blog by Susi Sahmland and Claire Hackney