In BBC The Reading Group, we bring together listeners, students of English, literature teachers and other contributors from the world of books to share their enthusiasm for reading.
In this, the last programme in the series, we learn about a scheme to bring books to Africa, we discover a learner’s favourite book and Martin Parrott discusses how to find English language magazines.
Listen to the BBC The Reading Group Part 10 programme:
ANNOUNCER: You’re listening to The Reading Group from the BBC World Service. In this series we bring together listeners, students of English, literature teachers and other contributors from the world of books to share their enthusiasm for reading. We hope that following this series will encourage your own interest in reading books in English as a foreign language.
Gary: Hello. Today: books for Africa … a favourite book of a reading group member …and magazines and how they can help you to read in English.
But first, I’m joined in the studio by Nicola Cadbury who works for an organisation called Book Aid International. Nicola, welcome to The Reading Group.
Gary: Well tell us about the work of Book Aid International – what do you aim to do?
Nicola: Well essentially we’re working to support education and reading in the developing world. We work in about 40 countries but much of our support is focussed on Africa where there are very extreme levels of poverty and there’s also a very small local publishing industry and a very small number of people who can afford books of their own so essentially we’re bringing books to young readers and old readers alike to make sure that they really get the most form their education and lifelong learning experiences that libraries can offer.
Gary: It’s based very much on a belief in the value of books and reading, is that right?
Nicola: Yes, we’re definitely all book lovers at Book Aid International, it has to be said. We really think that books are the vital key really to educational prospects. In many African countries classes are very large and there’s a tendency for teachers to have to teach by rote. So reading is really vital not just to learn basic literacy skills and to build on them but so that children read around the subject and learn more than theyt can do in an often very crowded classroom situation.
Gary: So how does this work in practice – tell us about a project that’s happening at the moment
Nicola One of our major projects is in Ethiopia actually which is one of Africa’s poorest countries. There’s very high levels of poverty in Ethiopia. There’s a very small almost tiny almost non-existent local publishing industry so we’re actually working with a variety of partner organisations over there and they ensure that books we supply can get out to readers in lots of areas all around the country.
Gary: So books are getting to schools and reaching people in rural communities and colleges and libraries. And how is reading going to help people in a country like Ethiopia?
Nicola: The main thing here is that reading is the key to literacy. People must learn to read and also have the habit of reading in order to have well embedded literacy skills and to maintain those literacy skills throughout life and there’s employment prospects – there’s the basic level of participating in society.
Gary: Another project the organisation is working on is in Sierra Leone working with libraries. Tell us about that one.
Nicola: In Sierra Leone we’re actually, our main partner there is the Sierra Leone library board. Recent conflict meant that virtually their entire library network was destroyed but there’re very very proactive staff out there. So they’be been building up small community libraries in areas of particular need.
Gary: What’s going on in those libraries in Sierra Leone?
Nicola: Well what they’ve done is they’ve actually got really very colourful picture books, very exciting story-lines, many of which were donated by Book Aid International and they’ve just run sort of special reading groups trying to enthuse children about books, getting them to read these lovely illustrated books and then to talk back with the group, share what they found enjoyable about it and just to get kids talking about reading and finally reading all the time and I think that’s been really exciting.
Gary: Well finally, Nicola, you’ve brought along a book with you, “A Life Like Mine”, it’s called. It’s a beautifully colourful book. Published by Dorling Kindersley and UNICEF and it describes the daily lives of nineteen children from around the world. I’d like you to choose a story and introduce us to one of these children.
Nicola: OK, well the story I’ve chosen is the story of Isa, a young boy who actually during the war in Sierra Leone some fighters came along to his house and took him away. But after two years he was released and along with other children caught up in the war he’s now back home. It’s a really sweet story. They’ve talked about Isa’s aspirations and what he wants to do now. It’s very positive.
He says that “I like football. If I don’t become a doctor I might want to become a professional footballer”. And he tells us also about how he lost three years of school because of the fighting but says, “I’m now ten years old and really happy at the school I go to. My favourite subject is English.” And he wants to be a doctor. There’s some lovely details about how he plays with his friends.
His favourite game is balancing ball and it does say that Isa has no toys of his own but there are always children around to play with.
Gary:: Well that’s the story of Isa from Sierra Leone. Nicola Cadbury, thank you very much for joining us.
Now Reading Group member Rodica Mager introduces a book that means a lot to her and which she recommends to all learners of English.
Rodica: With so many books being published how do you choose which one to read?
It either has good reviews, is recommended, or the cover just catches your eye in a bookshop.
In my case the cover – a black and white photograph of two sisters posing side by side on their best behaviour, below a kind of postcard version of New York with skyscrapers – and, in the middle, dividing these two images the title – “Lost In Translation – Life in a New Language” by Eva Hoffman.
I read her dedication – “to my family, which has given me my first world, and to my friends, who have taughtme how to appreciate the NewWorld after all.” Clear and simple, from the heart – I thought, so, I decided to buy the book and read it.
“Lost In Translation” is Eva Hoffman’s autobiography. When she was thirteen her family decided to emigrate from Poland. The author’s journey begins by ship to Canada in April 1959.
At the time her Jewish family decided to emigrate – for the teenage Eva leaving their three room “apartment in Cracow” was like being pushed out of Paradise.
Things changed radically for the family when they emigrated. Among other challenges, the “newcomers” had to do something about the language barrier.
Eva’s father … tried to improve his English by reading a thick novel by William Faulkner with the help of a dictionary, but for mother it was far easier – simply because, as Eva says, she “absorbed languages by quick osmosis” On the other hand Eva, started by picking up rhythms and intonation patterns – while listening to those who spoke “that foreign tongue, English”
“As I listen to people speaking that foreign tongue, English, I can hear when they stumble or repeat the same phrases too many times, when their sentences trail off aimlessly – or, on the contrary, when their phrases have vigor and roundness, when they have the space and the breath to give a flourish at the end of a sentence, or make just the right pause before coming to a dramatic point. I can tell, in other words, the degree of their ease or dis-ease, the extent of authority that shapes the rhythms of their speech.”
Rodica: Eighteen years later Eva had turned into a real American woman.
At this time in her life she feels that her ambition to be a “New York intellectual”…. Is fully justified because she went through the process of assimilation to the degree that the English language was flowing “in her bloodstream” – it was accompanying not only her dreams but also her most intimate moments in life.
“Now the language has entered my body, has incorporated itself in the softest tissue of my being. “Darling,” I say to my lover, “my dear,” and the words are filled and brimming with the motions of my desire; they curve themselves within my mouth to complex music of tenderness…..”
Rodica: Reading the book I could not but flow together with the author through her journey.
I think this is a very powerful and suggestive book –because it speaks for every person who has for one reason or another gone through a similar experience.
Gary: Now teacher and author Martin Parrott shares his thoughts on magazines as a valuable source of reading material.
Martin: Do you have a specialist interest? Is it 18th Century European military history?
1970’s pop music, photography, paper manufacturer, Manchester United football club. Well, whatever it is it’s worth betting there’s a magazine which is devoted to that topic.
And if you don’t have a specialist interest then there are hundreds of magazines dealing with general current affairs all published in English. I know people, many of them teachers, who still think that serious reading means reading a book. They turn up there noses at magazines as if this kind of reading was in some way inferior. And the result is that a lot of people who don’t like books or who simply don’t have the time to read a book and up reading nothing at all.
Well I think this is a shame. The advantages of magazines are too many to count. They’re light, they’re portable, they’re divided into manageably short articles. They have contents page which helps you to go straight to the topics and articles which most interest you. There’s usually and editorial which gives you a general introduction to the various articles and a letters page where you can exchange information and ideas with other enthusiasts of the topic.
Increasingly these days there’s also a website where you can read some or all of the articles and where, often, you can interact with other readers and sometimes with some of the writers.
Of course, English language magazines can be expensive or difficult to obtain but there are various way of tackling this problem. If you have access to a British Council library they will have a range of magazines for reference and sometimes for borrowing. If you know people who travel English language magazines are available at almost every airport. Or at the end of any flight you will almost certainly find the plane full of abandoned magazines of every description. And I often take a few of these home with me and give them to my friends.
Embassies, foreign companies will have promotional magazines as well, often in English. They’re usually only too happy to give them away.
Airlines may also be able to give you copies of their in-flight magazine and these in-flight magazines are particularly useful because many national airlines produce their magazines bilingually. You can find the same text in English and in your own language. Often they’re laid out in matching columns on the same page or maybe they’re on opposite pages.
And it can be fascinating to read about your own country in texts which have been written to make your country seem attractive most of all to foreign business people or tourists.
I could say more about magazines but time’s running out and besides I can’t wait to get my hands on Portuguese language gardening magazine that a friend of mine in Brazil just sent to me. It’s a shame I can’t grow any of the plants here in London, of course. But then I don’t want to be too active, I don’t want hard work to cut into my precious reading time.
Gary: Martin Parrott. And that brings us to the end of this series. Happy reading!
Source: BBC Learning EnglishMore Series for You: