Archive for category books

Sociolinguistics: language and cultures

I found this excellent set of definitions in the text Language and Literacy in the Early Years 0-7 by Marian Whitehead.  Thought it worth posting here.

My hope is that this post marks the start of a new category on this blog – ‘Lit_Review‘ – for posts that contain material of the kind you just know you’re going to want to find again later when you’re doing that review of research literature…

Language Variety – Summary

  • Language variety is reflected in the different language of the world but it is also a feature within apparently uniform language communities.
  • Two major aspects of variety within a language are accent and dialect.  Accent refers solely to differences in pronunciation – the sounds of a spoken language.  Dialect is a variety of a language with distinctive variations in syntax and vocabulary, as well as pronunciation.
  • Standard English is the high-status dialect of English that is used in the written form of the language.  It is also used widely in business and professional circles, the media, education and the teaching of English as a foreign language.  Standard English dialect may be spoken with any accent.
  • Received Pronunciation is a prestigious non-regional accent associated with higher education and, traditionally, the private school system in the UK and Oxford and Cambridge universities (Oxbridge).
  • Variety is also found within every individual’s linguistic repertoire because we all switch registers, changing the degrees of formality in our language, according to the social context.  Individuals use a variety of other forms, including other dialects, slang and jargon.  We all develop a unique idiolect that makes our voices and language styles instantly recognisable.

Whitehead, M. (2010) Language and Literacy in the Early Years 0-7 (4th Ed.) Sage Publication: London. p.25

Neat summary eh? Pass it on!


Leave a comment

Banned books

From a recent article at by Alison Flood:

From Suzanne Collins’s post-apocalyptic hit The Hunger Games to Stephenie Meyer’s vampire bestseller Twilight, American parents have been making it their mission to complain about some of the most popular books published in recent years.

So…how many of these have you read?

1. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

2. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

3. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley

4. “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins

5. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

6. “Lush” by Natasha Friend

7. “What My Mother Doesn’t Know” by Sonya Sones

8. “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America” by Barbara Ehrenreich

9. “Revolutionary Voices” edited by Amy Sonnie

10. “Twilight” by  Stephenie Meyer

For more information on book challenges and censorship, please visit the Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Banned Books Week Web site at


1 Comment

An Introduction to the CLDR Project

Children’s Literature Digital Resources.

Australian schools can now access the full texts in this online resource.

Others can access the Auslit resource through university and other library databases.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Alain de Botton’s University of Twitter

A delightful, insightful and helpful series of tweets on the 18th March from contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton.

I highly recommend his twitter feed, I find something helpful to me every time I visit.  If you like that, you may want to check out the DVD or book of his series on Status Anxiety, another favourite of mine.

, ,



I was very interested late last year to learn the term bookfuturism.

And I think I may be a bookfuturist.

It was a link from Kirsty Burow that first put me onto this.

Kirsty declares herself a ‘bookfuturist and book lover’ in her Twitter bio, and her pro-digital musings were refreshing coming from someone in the publishing industry (UQP), most of whom I have found to be die-hard bookservatives.

‘Bookservatives’ and ‘technofuturists’ are pitted against each other in Tim Carmondy’s Bookfuturist Manifesto, the post that had first influenced Burow.

In light of this weeks big news story about Australian book stores Borders and Angus and Robertson going into receivership and the simplistic ‘video killed the radio star’ style beat up about how iPads and Kindles are essentially to blame for putting Tim Winton out of business (anyone else notice the journos struggle to find another popular Aussie author to cite?) it’s worth remembering that radio is still around.  Why?  Because people still want it…the same is the case with books.  Books are not analogous to vinyl records, a technology made difficult to sustain as it requires a specific machine to play it.  As long as people have eyes, the paperback will be a difficult technology to eradicate.

(By the way, is anyone else having a Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail kind of moment?  When big book store chains take over the book buying market by using their size to buy big, slash prices, and force themselves right in front of our face in every major shopping mall, I do find it hard to muster sympathy when they are pushed right back out by that same market…)

This afternoon Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten has rejected calls for a review of Australia’s book importation regime, which is well and good for those arguing that this protects Australian authors.  But where does this leave book lovers…and book futurists?  For those who do delight in bookshop browsing, is it just a matter of time before the inability of industry to adapt to a BOOKS ARE ONLY THE BEGINNING climate of reading leads to more book store closures?

Publishers, readers, book sellers, authors, teachers, librarians…your thoughts?

1 Comment

Writers on writing

I’m just choosing some quotes about the writing process to put into an English course book chapter on identity and storytelling.  Some corkers out there!  Here are a few that struck a chord with me, but which I suspect are a bit too terrifying to introduce to 7th graders 😉

  • Writing is turning one’s worst moments into money. (J. P. Donleavy)
  • As for me, this is my story: I worked and was tortured. You know what it means to compose? No, thank God, you do not! I believe you have never written to order, by the yard, and have never experienced that hellish torture. (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
  • I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. (Douglas Adams)
  • Remarks are not literature. (Gertrude Stein)
  • The misuse of language induces evil in the soul. (Socrates)
  • There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write. (Terry Pratchett)
  • Any magazine-cover hack can splash paint around wildly and call it a nightmare, or a witches sabbath or a portrait of the devil; but only a great painter can make such a thing really scare or ring true. That’s because only a real artist knows the anatomy of the terrible, or the physiology of fear. (H. P. Lovecraft)
  • You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart.  You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names.  You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world.  Come to it any way but lightly.  Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page. (Stephen King)
  • Poetry is not a career, but a mug’s game.  No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written, he may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing. (T.S. Eliot)

So: ‘torture’, ‘evil’, ‘hack’, ‘nervousness’…’a mug’s game’.  Yep, that seems about right!



Australian Children’s Literature

I have recently joined a team of people at QUT who are starting to develop some English teaching resources for the digital Australian Children’s Literature resource on the Austlit website.

AustLit is currently available at “almost all universities and research libraries around Australia, many municipal libraries and at some universities and research libraries internationally.”

As I started to look into the area today, I became more and more interested in the idea of exploring Australian children’s literature.  I wonder how many old books are lying around out there, in Op shops or Trash and Treasure stalls, waiting to be found…and collected.

I found an interesting site with a bibliography of Australian childrens’ literature authors.  When you click on the names of the listed authors and illustrators, images of their work are often displayed, and these are fascinating.  They make me want to read some books like this one by Pixie O’Harris:

Next time I am at my Nan’s I’m going to raid her bookshelf – hopefully she hasn’t thrown away the picture books she used to read to me as a kid.  They will make an excellent start to my collection!



Top 10 Searches on Shmoop

The list recently released by Literature study site shows the Top 10 searches on Shmoop for the 2009-2010 school year.  It is an interesting read!  The website explains:

The list is based on number of searches conducted on the Shmoop website by teachers and students in the past school year.

While one might think that pop culture juggernauts like Twilight and Harry Potter might crack the list, we found that the classics still dominate students’ searches.

Out of this list, in the past three years of English teaching alone, I have taught Macbeth, To Kill a Mockingbird, Frankenstein and Brave New World.  Does this mean I’m on target?  (you betcha I will say it does!)

The full Top 10 list:

  1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
  3. Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
  4. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  6. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
  7. 1984, by George Orwell
  8. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
  9. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
  10. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley


I heart bookshops

Today I went for a lovely meander through Borders bookshop.  Mmmm…delightful!

There is nothing like the smell of a bookshop, and with the increasing popularity of e-readers, book covers seem more attractive than ever.  Publishers seem to not only be ramping up the quality of book cover artwork, but the range in textures is booming: there are books that feel fabric covered, books with pliable canvas-type wrapping, and reprints of classics like Wuthering Heights in black embossed moleskin-like covers, complete with elastic binding strap.

I love paper printed, holdable, page-turnable books.

But…I also love my Kindle.

One one hand this is not a new space to be in.  Remember when we all started getting iPods?  And getting all worried about the relevance/importance of our CD collections, complaining about how cover art would be lost along with a sense of ‘the album’ as people started buying more singles?  It turns out that for me, this hasn’t really been too troubling – I buy most music electronically now, but I do still tend to buy albums rather than singles, and many albums do come with their album artwork, albeit in an electronic file.  I don’t at all miss having a bazillion identical (breakable) plastic cases to house my music in, and when someone who I’m a real ‘fan’ of releases an album…well, I do still tend to buy the CD!  For a few, I even have bought a vinyl copy.

I wonder how long it will take for self-proclaimed bibliophiles to strike a similar level of comfort with the move to electronic readers?

Are they really that committed to filling vast walls of space in their houses with shelves of dusty once-read (and never-read) books?  (my inner cynic says: ‘but how else will they be able to show visitors how terribly well-read they are??)

Or are they just worried that using a Kindle is going to kill the book store?  I confess that being in the book store today did make me stop on this particular concern.

But CDs are still around, and books are WAY cooler as objets d’art than CDs ever were.  So perhaps it’s time to relax.


Sir Ken Robinson FTW!

The first TED talk I ever watched was by Ken Robinson, and I was enthralled and moved to reconsider my own practice by his explanation of how schools work to kill creativity.

He now has a book out called Element . Thanks to Raman for posting a link to this five minute interview with Sir Ken about the new book and his views on standardized testing:


Leave a comment