In this series of interviews we talk to teachers, ELT writers, visual artists and researchers about the importance of using literature in the language classroom. Together they have hundreds of years of experience in teaching and writing so they can definitely give us plenty of advice and insight into the best practices. We talk about the importance and transformation of literary texts in education, we ask for genre and title recommendations as well as personal stories.
This month we talk to Lindsay Clandfield and Robert Campbell, two renowned ELT authors, teachers and teacher-trainers. They are also co-authors (along with Rob Metcalf, Philip Kerr and Rebecca Robb Benne) of the Helbling 6-level course for young adults, Studio. We wanted to find out about their reading experiences both in their personal and professional lives. How did their love of reading begin? What did they read as children? How do they see reading in English language teaching today? Read on to find out their answers.
- Visit the website of Lindsay Clandfield. Did you know that he grew up in Canada and started teaching in Mexico?
- Visit the website of Robert Campbell. Did you know that he is also a musician and has written music for stage shows?
Are you interested in their work?
- Check out the Studio website here.
- Check out the Helbling readers written by Robert here:
How did your love of reading begin?
Robert: Our house was full of books while I was growing up. I was the youngest of three children, so I had access to a lot of my sister’s and brother’s books. But if I’m being honest, it was reading comics and Tintin books that started my love of reading. I used to enjoy the stories that continued from one week to the next. Those comics and graphic novels are probably the reason why I still love books that combine text with images.
Lindsay: I also grew up in a house full of books. My parents were constantly finding new nooks and crannies to put up bookshelves. And my mother would often take me to the library as a kid. I think my love of reading really began when I first read The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein by myself. I just remember sinking into a good book. There’s nothing quite like it.
What was your favourite book as a child?
Lindsay: It depends what you mean by ‘a child’! As a very young child I remember the book Goodnight Moon as a favourite that my parents read to me. When I was maybe a pre-teenager The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were right up there as my favourites. I also remember being completely blown away by Animal Farm when I read that and understood that stories could be used to communicate many things. Science fiction and fantasy were the two big genres that I read a lot when I was younger.
Robert: I don’t remember having a ‘favourite’ book. I loved the Tintin books (see above) and would read them over and over again. I remember enjoying books that were set in the past especially collections of old myths and legends. There were a lot of Enid Blyton books in the house. Her writing style and attitudes seem very old-fashioned now, but at the time when I was growing up in the 60s, her books were extremely popular, following the adventures of the Secret Seven and the Famous Five. As I got into my teens, I started reading a lot of science fiction. That was definitely my favourite genre at that time.
What was the first book you read in a foreign language?
Lindsay: I think it was Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) in French. Definitely remember reading and enjoying that at school (growing up in Canada, I went for many years to a French immersion school).
Robert: I think I must’ve deleted it from my memory. My education was very traditional and while I’m sure we read books in other languages at school – in French or German, I would have associated them with study. School was not my favourite place! It was only when I came to Spain in my late 20s that I started reading in other languages. Having said that, I’ve always loved listening to songs in other languages, watching subtitled movies, and going to the theatre to see plays in languages I don’t understand!
How do you see the relationship between language learning and reading today? What sort of texts work for teens and young adults?
Robert: It’s important that students come across a wide variety of text types when they’re learning a language. It’s one of the joys of being a coursebook author. You can be writing a fictional blog entry one moment, and a factual article the next. Storytelling is one of the key features of Studio. There’s a video and audio strand in the intermediate levels in which people recount stories about their lives. Stories are so important in our day-to-day lives. Every time we meet up with friends or work colleagues, we tell each other stories, so storytelling is a valuable skill for students, especially teenagers, to focus on. We also wanted to include extra reading in the workbook, so we’ve included extracts from stories in different genres. In lower levels we have stories that continue from unit to unit – rather like the comic stories I loved as a child.
Lindsay: I think that Robert has said it best here about how texts and reading can be used in a coursebook. I’d just like to add that I do believe that reading more in a foreign language is almost like an invisible way of improving your vocabulary, your grammar, your writing and of course your reading skills. In fact, it helps with everything. And today it’s really so much easier to find texts in another language.
Teachers often need to follow a tight course schedule. What are the best ways of integrating reading into a course like your recent publication, Studio?
Robert: As we’ve already said, there’s a lot of reading material in the actual coursebook and workbook, including fiction. Hopefully, teachers can use these texts as a starting point to encourage students to read additional material such as graded readers. We also deal with a huge variety of topics over the course and students can extend their knowledge by finding related material online. The most important thing is to arouse the student’s interest and then encourage them to explore in another language.
Lindsay: There’s a distinction we can make between intensive reading (the short texts in a coursebook) and extensive reading (longer texts, books). I know that lots of teachers like to assign a reader as part of a course, that is read outside of class. Personally, I have a collection of lots of different readers, and I set up a class library at the beginning of a course and ask my students to each take a book home to read. This means making a tiny bit of time at the beginning of the course, and then some time to check in on what they thought of the book they read. I’m not a huge fan of forcing students to read lots of books and checking they have by giving them tests.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that people are listening to audiobooks more and more now. The good thing is that lots of readers come with an audio version now. I think that reading and listening to a text at the same time can be a great way of improving reading, and it’s something I recommend to lower-level learners a lot.
Helbling English Webinar with Lindsay Clandfield
On Thursday 25th March, author Lindsay Clandfield will focus on pairwork and feature activities from our new course Studio and its App. Register on our website! Each one-hour talk will take place twice on the same day - please select the most convenient time for you before you register.