Blog posts

Mascha Kaléko wird am 7. Juni 1907 im heutigen Polen, damals Österreich-Ungarn, als Kind jüdischer Eltern geboren. 1975 stirbt sie in der Schweiz. Für ihr Leben sind, wie für viele Jüdinnen und Juden dieser Zeit, Flucht, Exil, Tod und Verlust, Heimat und Heimatlosigkeit prägende Wirklichkeit. Vieles davon findet sich verarbeitet in ihren Gedichten, manches direkt, anderes nur angedeutet.

In knapper, einfacher Form etwas sagen, das ist ihre Sache. Die Gedichtsammlung, mit der sie 1933 für literarisches Aufsehen sorgt, heißt nicht von ungefähr Das lyrische Stenogrammheft. – Ein ungewöhnlicher Titel. Einer, der fehl am Platz wirkt. Gehen wir ihm wörtlich nach, landen wir bei ‚Stenographie‘. Das Wort setzt es sich aus den griechischen Ausdrücken für ‚eng‘ und ‚ritzen/schreiben‘ zusammen. Anfänglich befremdet, können wir uns nun sagen: Wie passend für die Dichtkunst! Wie natürlich der Transfer aus dem Büro auf das Cover eines Gedichtbändchens!

Es verwundert nicht, wenn Mascha Kalékos Gedichte dieser Schaffensperiode der Neuen Sachlichkeit zugeordnet werden, einer, wenn nicht gar der prägendsten Kunstrichtung der Weimarer Republik. Sowohl in der bildenden Kunst als auch in der Literatur vollzieht sich eine Hinwendung zur nüchternen Darstellung dessen, was (sichtbar) ist. Beobachtung der sie umgebenden Wirklichkeit ist die Grundvoraussetzung auch für Mascha Kalékos Gedichte, Mitteilung der Beobachtungen ihr Ziel. Mascha Kaléko selbst schreibt in einem Gedicht mit dem Titel Kein Neutöner gewissermaßen das poetische Programm dazu. In der letzten Strophe heißt es dort: Weiß Gott, ich bin ganz unmodern, / Ich schäme mich zuschanden: / Zwar liest man meine Verse gern, / Doch werden sie – verstanden! – Bei diesem, ganz unmodernen Verstehen könnte eine Beschäftigung mit ihren Gedichten im Deutschunterricht ansetzen. Nahezu jede*r findet in ihren Gedichten Greifbares, Situationen, die auch der eigenen Erfahrung entnommen sein könnten, Gedanken, von denen Leser*innen meinen, es seien eigene, für die bisher nur die Worte fehlten. Indem Leser*innen etwas von Mascha Kalékos Gedichten verstehen, lernen sie die Zeit zwischen den Weltkriegen, vor allem die Großstadt der Weimarer Republik und ihre Menschen mit den Augen Mascha Kalékos sehen. So eröffnet sie, gleichberechtigt neben Erich Kästner, Kurt Tucholsky und anderen, meist männlichen Autoren, neue Blickfelder auf eine Zeit und ihre Gesellschaft, die uns bis heute zu denken geben sollte.  

Auch wenn Mascha Kalékos Gedichte schon allein genug Gelegenheiten des Nachdenkens und Innehaltens bieten, wagen wir noch einen Blick über den Tellerrand, oder vielmehr: wir wagen zu hören. Dota Kehr, man könnte sie wohl am ehesten als Liedermacherin bezeichnen, nimmt sich einiger der Gedichte Mascha Kalékos an und vertont sie. Herausgekommen ist dabei ein 2020 veröffentlichtes Album mit dem schlichten Titel Mascha Kaléko. Großstadtlyrik: karg, analytisch – und dennoch lyrisch-musikalisch.

Wenn Hörer*innen Mascha Kalékos Gedichte lesen, wenn Leser*innen Dota Kehrs Lieder hören – dann findet Aneignung von Lyrik geradezu in ursprünglicher Form statt. Dota Kehr tritt den Beweis an, dass Mascha Kaléko in ihren Gedichten lebt, dass ihre Gedichte bis heute berühren, dass ihre Gedichte nicht zeitlos sind, sondern gerade heute an der Zeit sind.

–Frieder Stange


Happy World Environment Day! This year’s theme is Ecosystem Restoration. Not only does it focus on restoring our destroyed ecosystems, but conserving the intact ones as well.

Reading about climate change and nature in general can give us a better understanding of just how much our environment influences our lives. Whether it be natural disasters or climate change, in the end we’re all at the mercy of our planet. This becomes apparent in the novel Salvage the Bones, which follows a family living in poverty in the midst of Hurricane Katrina. In contrast to this very real event, the dystopian novel The Wall paints a picture of a future that could await us. In a world broken by climate change, a wall is all that separates an island of safety from the “Others” desperately trying to find a way in.

Speaking of sea levels rising…In honor of World Oceans Day on June 8th, let’s not forget the impact our oceans have on the environment! The documentary Seaspiracy sheds light on the many factors that play a role in the destruction of the marine ecosystem. The beautifully illustrated children’s book We Are Water Protectors tells the story of a young girl protecting her home from the “black snake”, which represents the oil pipelines threatening to poison her people’s water.

Stay safe and have an extra sunny weekend!

Sarah


International Children’s Day is about cherishing and protecting children all around the world. Though celebrated on different dates throughout the world, the main purpose stays the same. This day aims to advocate for children’s rights; and raise awareness for global issues affecting children, from child labor to war, hunger and lack of education. Having access to a variety of literature is a luxury many children around the world don’t have. Reading can help children’s imaginations flourish, letting them discover whole new worlds outside of their own reality. And although not every child is destined to be a bookworm, anyone can benefit from a magical story or two.

For our future scientists: The Magic School Bus series is the perfect introduction to dozens of topics, ranging from the mechanics of the human body to computers. Kids can feel like they’re along for the ride in a magic school bus that can transform for every occasion, whether it’s shrinking to the size of an ant or shapeshifting into different animals. The occasional fun fact will be sure to surprise adults as well! In a different vein, cooking can be just as much of an exact science as working in a lab. But, even more fun, as you can taste-test your end product! The picture book Fry Bread combines beautiful illustrations with a touching story about the meaning of food in Native American culture – with your very own Fry Bread recipe at the end!

For our art enthusiasts: Beautiful illustrations can make a world of difference in a child’s reading experience. Illustrations can convey emotions, like in Up and Down, Grumpy Monkey or Buford the Little Bighorn. They can bring magical worlds to life, as can be seen in The Gruffalo or The Cat in the Hat. Not to mention all the fun that can be found in an activity book full of illustrations like Where’s Wally!

For those looking for a laugh: Comics can infuse some humor and ease into a potentially daunting task like reading. Calvin & Hobbes tells the story of an unusual 6-year-old boy full of imagination and wit – perfect to be enjoyed with your favorite stuffed animal by your side. Zits Comics bring a more “teenage perspective” to the table, relatable to both children and parents!

Take the day to snuggle up with a snack and revisit your favorite nostalgic children’s books! And, of course we’d love for you to share them with us! Stay safe,

Sarah


Ending a novel is almost like putting a child to sleep – it can’t be done abruptly.” – Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín is one of the great contemporary Irish writers and explores Irish society and topic clusters, such as loss, living abroad and identity construction. He lives openly gay and dedicates his writings to minorities in different cultures, capturing diverse voices and discourses. As a journalist and essayist, Tóibín also published critical studies on historical and contemporary subjects. His meticulous and journalistic style of writing does not involve storytelling techniques but features deep and detailed investigations of cultural complexities and phenomena. Before writing this blog post, I didn’t know much about his life and writings except for his novel Brooklyn and its movie adaptation, which follows a young woman from Ireland to New York, full of hope to find her American Dream. So, I was surprised by how incredibly diverse his writings are. Apart from the novels, his non-fictional works are definitely worth looking into. Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodóva, for example, provides the reader with a collection of essays exploring various writers’ lives and the obstacles they had to face because of their sexuality. I do hope that my blog post gives an impulse to read some Tóibín in your EFL classrooms to encourage discussions and paradigm shifts. 

Today, Colm Tóibín clebrates his 66th birthday: CHEERS and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Colm!

Sarah-Sophia


“[…] a painter of rainbows is now travelling across the night sky […]” – Family statement, 27th of May 2021

Eric Carle, illustrator and award-winning author of children’s books, died today aged 91. Carle illustrated more than 70 books that are used in primary education up to the present day – among them everlasting tales such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1967), The Grouchy Ladybug (1977) and Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me (1986). His popular picture book The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969) became a great success and was translated into more than 60 languages.

In silent mourning,

The Editors


I can’t breath!” – Georg Floyd, dying in the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, on May 25th 2020

One year ago today, George Perry Floyd Jr., a black American, was murdered by a white police officer, who knelt on Floyd’s back for more than 9 minutes after he was arrest on suspicion of using a counterfeit banknote. While facing the street, George Floyd himself, paramedics and people standing by repeatedly informed the officers that Floyd was not able to breathe, which the officers seemingly ignored. His outcry “I can’t breath!” became a slogan of global protests against police violence in general and racial motivated cruelties in particular, which demanded criminal justice reform and a trial against the responsible police officers. The brutal murder of George Floyd turned the spotlight on the international phenomenon of excessive, unregulated and inappropriate use of force by law enforcement, which is frequently motivated by racism, prejudice and stereotypes. On our platform, you will find relevant literature and media that you can use to discuss similar cases with your pupils under the topic clusters Black Lives Matter and Rassismus. We also recommend using the short film “Two Distant Strangers” (2020) in higher grades. 

Today, we commemorate George Floyd, brother of four siblings, father of five children, victim of police violence.

The Editors


“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”
– Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four

Sir Ignatius Arthur Conan Doyle was an outstanding and very successful author, physician and gentleman. Born in 1859 from wealthy family background, he studied medicine and was the assistant of the surgeon and lecturer Joseph Bell. Indeed, he is best known for the Sherlock Holmes stories. Doyle was also well acquainted with Harry Houdini. However, they went separate ways when Doyles’s belief in the supernatural grew too dominant (he saw Houdini as a magician with actual powers). As a great sportsman, Doyle got involved in playing football, cricket, and golf quite skillfully. In fact, he was the first British man to complete a day trip in Alpine skiing, an achievement that made the polar explorer name a Glacier in Antarctica after him. Arthur was married twice as his first wife Louise died in 1906, but his next wedding was barely a year after the death. I think, all in all, this can be seen as a satisfying life. Sherlock Holmes certainly is one of the best-known and most celebrated fictional characters and inspiration for numerous adaptations. As Doyle had difficulties finding a publisher for his Study in Scarlet, he published the first Sherlock Holmes story in a magazine, which sold out after just a few weeks. Holmes and his deductive methods are based on Joseph Bell, who was a pioneer in the field. Fun fact: Robert Louis Stevenson, who was a friend of Bell, even recognised the surgeon: “My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. … can this be my old friend Joe Bell?” Doyle let his protagonist die at the Reichenbachfälle because he wanted to dedicate his time to other literary projects but Doyle used him for The Hound of Baskerville, which is set before Holmes’ demise. And eventually, he brought him back for good, solving cases in a collection of short stories. By the way, the character of Dr Watson is most probably based on Doyle himself.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ARTHUR!!

Sarah-Sophia


Culture is the flower of the human being – the fruit of our minds, the product of our traditions, the expression of our yearnings. Its diversity is wondrous, part of the rich tapestry of civilization.” – António Gutierres, UN Secretary General 

The UNESCO World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development raises consciousness for cultural diversity, fosters mutual understanding and respect and stands up against intolerance and hatred. Since 2001, the day celebrates and encourages intercultural and interreligious dialogue, which eventually brings people with different backgrounds and identities together. On Lit4School, we aim to recognise cultural plurality and diversity with topic clusters – such as native perspectivesdiversityintercultural contact and multiculturalism for literature and media in the EFL classroom and DiversitätInterkulturalität and Migration for literature and media in the German classroom.

Kind regards and stay safe,

Simon


On May 17th 1990, the World Health Organization officially removed homosexuality from being classified as a mental disorder. 15 years later, the first International Day Against Homophobia was celebrated on that same date to commemorate said decision. IDAHO aims to raise awareness of the violence, discrimination and hate directed towards the LGBTQ+ community on a daily basis.

Many of us grew up reading and falling in love with our favorite characters that we related to. Sadly, not everyone has the privilege of finding representation in literature so easily. Having those characters that just “get” you is incredibly important for people of all ages to feel seen and represented. Here is a selection of LGBTQ+ books we feature on our platform:

  • Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin: A classic that tackles themes of gender roles, sexual identity and self-hatred… David is an American living in Paris trying to find himself. When he meets a young bartender called Giovanni, his attraction is instant. He is consumed by his feelings, yet unwilling to accept that they are for another man.
  • Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender: Felix has never been in love. He worries that being a black transgender young man could make him a target. This fear is confirmed when he receives transphobic messages by a classmate. The novel navigates themes like bullying, gender identity and feelings of insecurity, all important to discuss in the classroom.
  • Neither by Airlie Anderson: This illustrated book spreads a message of positivity and embracing diversity, no matter your age. In a world of blue bunnies and yellow birds, a green little creature called “Neither” struggles to fit in. Suitable for young readers, this story can help start a conversation about the importance of inclusion and the beauty of diversity.

To find more LGBTQ+ books, take a look at award lists! The Stonewall Book Awards as well as the Lambda Literary Awards have made it their mission to celebrate the very best of LGBTQ+ literature. Do you already have a favorite book featuring LGBTQ+ characters? We’d love for you to share it with us! Today is the perfect day to spread love and acceptance to those around you, just don’t forget to leave some for yourself!

Sarah


Poetry is often a rather neglected genre in the EFL classroom. However, Limericks are usually appreciated by younger peoples because they are brief, provide humorous topics and a fixed structure. Lines one, two and five share the same rhyme, and lines three and four rhyme with each other:

There was a platform called Lit4School, a resource for teachers, a useful tool, literature and media teachers could find, materials of any kind, and all for free, how cool!

Take this annual opportunity to let your students come up with the familiar five-line verse, which is constructed to put a smile on your face. By the way, National Limerick Day is set on May 12th to mark the birthday of Edward Lear, an author and poet, who is still remembered for his nonsense limericks.

Happy Limerick Day, kind regards and stay safe everyone,

Simon


Vergiß / die Härte / Verzeih / das Übel – Die Dichterin dieser Worte heißt Rose Ausländer. In einer jüdischen Familie wurde sie vor 120 Jahren, am 11. Mai 1901, als Rosalie Beatrice Scherzer geboren. Ihr Geburtsort Czernowitz, Hauptstadt der Bukowina, war sprachlich und kulturell plural, geprägt und belebt von Menschen verschiedener Ethnizitäten. Rund ein Drittel der Bewohner*innen zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts waren jüdisch. Die meisten von ihnen sprachen Deutsch. Heute in der Ukraine gelegen, gehörte Czernowitz bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg zu Österreich-Ungarn, bis 1940 zu Rumänien, nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg zur Sowjetunion. Bekannt ist Czernowitz als Herkunftsort bedeutender Dichter*innen und Denker*innen: Paul Celan, Rose Ausländer, Ariadne Löwendal, Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger. Weil sie Vertriebene, Flüchtende und gezwungen waren, sich immer wieder neu zurechtzufinden, wurden sie, wie die Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaftlerin Amy-Diana Colin schreibt, „geistige Mittler zwischen den Kulturen“. 

Rose Ausländers Lebensweg ist kein geradliniger, sondern einer der Sprünge, Gefahren, Wirrnisse und der Krankheit. Geradezu beispielhaft vereint ihre Familie Ostjüdisches (väterlicherseits) und Westjüdisches (mütterlicherseits) miteinander, treffen orthodoxe Traditionen mit der bildungsbürgerlichen Moderne zusammen. Früh beginnt Rose Ausländer, sich mit Philosophie und Literatur zu beschäftigen, setzt dies auch im Rahmen ihres Studiums fort. 1921 wandert sie in die USA aus, kehrt 1931 aber, um ihre kranke Mutter zu pflegen, nach Czernowitz zurück. Hier überlebt sie die NS-Zeit im Ghetto und in ständiger Angst vor Deportation. Nach dem Krieg verlässt sie Czernowitz, kehrt wieder in die USA zurück. Doch auch dort bleibt sie nicht für immer. Düsseldorf wird schließlich ihre letzte Station. Nach langer Krankheit stirbt sie 1988. Unzählige Gedichte bleiben der Nachwelt erhalten. Zeugnisse einer nur noch in Worten existierenden Welt.     

Der schmale Gedichtband Brief aus Rosen trägt auf dem Titel ein Gemälde von Alexej von Jawlensky: Brauntöne, Ocker, etwas Weiß und wenige schwarze Linien lassen ein Gesicht entstehen, bei dem der Bildtitel Stummer Schmerz sofort einleuchtet.

Frage

Wind mischt Farben

Ich suche mein

Gesterngrün

Im verwandelten Wald

Rose Ausländers Gedichte, vor allem ihre späten, erscheinen oft wie die sprachliche Fassung von Bildern. Besonders Assoziationen zu Gemälden von Alexej von Jawlensky und Marc Chagall drängen sich auf. Neben der Recherche über Czernowitz und seine kulturelle Vielfalt bietet sich auch der Dialog von Bild und Text als Ausgangspunkt für eine Unterrichtseinheit zu Rose Ausländer an.

Wir empfehlen:

— Frieder Stange


Dear readers,

I dare you to ask your EFL learners “What comes with great power?” Chances are they will know the missing bit to one of the most famous quotes from the world of comics and superheroes. Do read on if you need to dust off your superhero knowledge!

With recent superhero movies taking over where comics started, a new canon has been years in the making, a canon which teachers would be wise to consider. When students struggle to find personal value in the ‘classic’ canon – that is important literary works, agreed on by people who are usually far older than the average EFL student in school – it might be time to utilise the canon students already bring to class. Numerous heroes nowadays follow archetypical stories of love, loss and self-sacrifice. And the best bit for teachers and learners alike: The original versions broadcast into the world are widely available in English. This is authentic language material waiting to be used, created already with a young audience in mind. Let me introduce you to two examples:

“With great power comes great responsibility” is the catchphrase from any story about Spiderman, a young man transformed after he was bitten by a radioactive spider. Yes, this transformation serves as an obvious symbol for puberty and its challenges, superpowers or not, but at the same time, it can be so much more. One of the latest instalments, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, passes the torch from well-known white protagonist Peter Parker to Miles, a young black boy, who in turn is trying hard to fill the shoes of his idol. The film’s message is as fresh as it is classic: Having superpowers surely help, yep, but for someone to be of service, to become a hero to their community, there is no alternative to facing the challenges posed to them. (For another example revolving around a heroine look no further than 2019’s Captain Marvel.) Isn’t this a message about responsibility for oneself and for others which we should be teaching to our students?

Another example of a brilliant start down your superhero-fuelled rabbit hole is Black Panther, the 2018 movie which shone a bright light on late actor Chadwick Boseman and fictional Wakanda. After decades of watching heroes the stereotypical white middle-class male could identify with, it is about time to look for diverse role models. Enter Black Panther, a black man who has to convince both his fellow citizens and the world that there is a future of peaceful co-existence for all of them. Stemming from a Peter-Parker generation myself, I cannot possibly put into words what it might mean to a child to see a person who looks like them succeed on the big screen. I do know, however, that we all profit from having a range of role models, and I will gladly suggest that superheroes like Miles or T’Challa (Black Panther’s real name) become role models for my students.

There are several advantages of working with cross-media material: Go back to the original comics and have their pictures trigger a discussion in class. Maybe edit out the speech from the speech bubbles and have your students write their version of the dialogues? Have them track down differences between the movies and the comics and how that influences a story – media literacy, anyone? These movies usually include speeches of manageable length addressing core values of human life: honesty, dedication, courage. And of course, superhero stories being movies, lend themselves nicely to the myriad of teaching sequences you can find when dealing with films. For some inspiration, why not start with these ideas covering Black Panther in the Classroom?

If you have a superhero story you would like to recommend to the EFL world, do share it with us, please. Growing up, your students will need all the super-charged, super-fast and super-reliable help they can get to navigate a challenging period. So let me double-dare you, fellow EFL teacher: Use your great power, and responsibly lead your students along the way towards a new canon: their canon.

Thank you for your time and feel free to get in touch!

Rico, on behalf of the Lit4School team


A picture is worth a thousand words… But does that also ring true in the EFL classroom? Whether it be a funny comic strip in the daily paper or a thought-provoking graphic novel, they all represent authentic parts of modern media that can help fuel that spark of interest in students.

Comic strips gained massive popularity in the early 20th century, adding a bit of humor to everyone’s daily newspaper. A century later, comic strips continue to occupy a permanent spot in most newspapers, with themes ranging from light humor and puns to political commentary. A prime example of this success can be found in Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterson, a comic strip series featured in over 2400 newspapers from 1985 to 1995. The story of 6-year-old Calvin and his stuffed tiger Hobbes enchanted readers left and right. But of course, fans of comic strips couldn’t be expected to hoard newspaper cutouts to reread their favorite parts, right? And so, the 1930s marked the start of ‘the Golden Age of the Comic Book’. Marvel Comics flooded the market with superheroes we still know and love today, shaping the comics industry as we know it. Comic books can also be collections of periodical comic strips, as is the case with Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. Making its debut in 1997, Zits comics narrate the everyday life of 15-year-old Jeremy; a teenager living in Ohio. But suburban life and high school come with their own set of problems, along with a healthy dose of Mom, Dad, you’re embarrassing me! 

Following the raging success of comic books, the 1970s made way for a new sub-genre of comics: the graphic novel. Also described as a “visual novel”, the graphic novel doesn’t have a clear definition per se. In general, this genre includes a standalone story accompanied by or consisting completely of illustrations. Young readers can find a lot of joy and beauty in graphic novels. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy offers beautiful illustrations along with a heartwarming story about an unusual friendship. Though not quite as wholesome, Diary of a Wimpy Kid tells the story of a preteen’s desperate yet humorous attempts to become “popular” at his school. A wonderful example of a graphic novel with no need for words at all is The Arrival, a multifaceted story about migration, multicultural societies, and hope.

What are your favorite comics? Take the day to bask in the nostalgia, have a laugh and share them with us!

Sarah


Freedom of the press is probably one of the highest public goods we have. It grants us access to a diverse variety of information and thus the opportunity to form a critical and comprehensive opinion and to engage freely with more controversial topics. I think that’s a good reason to talk about press freedom.

Although we are used to the freedom of the press in Germany, it wasn’t that long ago that it was implemented. While other Western countries like Great Britain, Sweden, France, and Belgium acted much more progressively after the end of the totalitarian period, Germany, still divided into smaller states, restricted press freedom. After the March Revolution in Germany in 1848, more liberal press laws were introduced. However, when the German empire was founded 23 years later, regulations were implemented again. So it was only with the founding of the Weimar Republic that a censor-free press law was adopted just to be abolished again in the Third Reich, of course. The GDR never allowed any journalistic freedom unlike the Federal Republic of Germany at the time. In the end, you might say that Germany as a whole has enjoyed these high-held privileges since the reunification.

The World Press Freedom Day promotes the belief that freedom of the press and freedom of expression provides a basis for mutual understanding and sustainable peace. “It serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom – a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended, and closed down, while journalists, editors, and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.”(unesco.org) And we don’t have to travel to the other side of the earth to experience the oppression of journalism. In Turkey, for example, journalists are imprisoned for publishing dissident opinions. Many have to leave their country to be safe. Can Dündar is one of them and wrote about his life and experiences before and in prison. Lebenslang für die Wahrheit is just one of the books he wrote about the political circumstances in Turkey. And even though it might not be school literature, Dündar and his story are definitely worth integrating into German/English/Politics/etc. classes when discussing the press and its rights.

In dystopian literature, the freedom of the press and expression are amongst the first rights that are taken away as control over the distribution of information equals control over the distribution of knowledge equals the control over society. At least, that’s the causal structure described in many dystopian texts from Huxley, over Orwell to Atwood. Of course, most of these are quite extreme examples, which, however, makes them so great for engaging with the subject critically. George Orwell even wrote a preface to Animal Farm that describes the process of the book’s publication which was difficult because he so harshly criticizes the Russian regime.

I think history and literature show that press freedom should not be taken for granted. Today is the perfect day for a little impetus for thought, be it with a dystopian novel, newspaper articles, or some TV. It’s important to talk about the freedom of the press and actively appreciate the opportunity of a differentiated discourse!

Stay positive and tolerant and have a great day!

Sarah-Sophia


“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Tom Schulman, screenwriter of Dead Poets Society (1989)

Every one of us knows at least one teacher, who shaped our future by motivating and encouraging us. Indeed, we celebrate World Teacher’s Day on October 5th to acknowledge the sustainable endeavours of teachers in education all around the globe. However, since there are various national teaching days but no national day that recognises the efforts of teachers in Germany, we thought to take the opportunity of a US-American tradition to celebrate your impact in schools during the pandemic. Teacher Appreciation Week is an annual opportunity to honour hard-working, dedicated and enthusiastic teachers and their commitment to leave no one behind. The current situation has been a tough one for all of us – especially for teachers, who had a great effort in ensuring that #LearningNeverStops.

On behalf of the Lit4School-team: Happy Teachers Appreciation Week to all of you, and thank you for your impact!

Kind regards and stay safe,

Simon


April 30th: John Boyne

English · 30 April 2021

Happy Birthday, John Boyne!

One of Ireland’s most successful contemporary authors turns 50!

John Boyne is a brilliant writer who never judges what is wrong or right. But what he does is to invite readers to follow his characters through their everyday lives – wherever, whenever the setting is – and let the reader judge themselves. When the characters get confronted with unbelievable, terrible occasions, John Boyne tells in an unexcited and sensitive manner what is going on. He avoids being loud and flashy, avoids pointing at mistakes and faults his protagonists might do. And because the texts’ moods are very calm, the reader is shaken up and shocked when he or she reveals the dark side of the presumed banalities John Boyne presents in his stories.

Surely, most readers will connect John Boyne to “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas”, which explores nationalism and the cruelty of concentration camps through children’s eyes. Another novel named “Stay Where You Are and Then Leave” tells the story of Alfie, whose father serves in World War I and writes letters to his son. Suddenly, the letters stop, and Alfie tries to find out where his father is. It is a novel about war and traumas, the shellshock, and the deep love between father and son. Finally, the book was rightly awarded the Gustav-Heinemann-Friedenspreis in 2015.

But John Boyne is not tired of telling new stories about other subjects, apart from war. His latest novel, “My Brother’s Name is Jessica” for young readers, was published in 2019 and tells how protagonist Sam Waver experiences the transitioning of his older brother into a woman.

Happy Birthday, John Boyne! We are looking forward to more brilliantly told stories, sharply analysed social criticism and brave protagonists.

Melanie


April 28th: Harper Lee

English · 28 April 2021

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this novelist has long been recognized for her incredible contribution to the discussion around racial inequality. In honor of Harper Lee’s birthday, I’d like to highlight her famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird which we feature on this platform! Her first and only publication until 2015, To Kill a Mockingbird won a Pulitzer Prize and continues to captivate its readers with its insight and warmth. Set in the American South, the story is told from the perspective of six-year-old girl ‘Scout’. When Tim Robinson, an African American resident, is falsely accused of raping a white woman, Scout’s father Atticus agrees to defend Mr Robison in court – but the community turns against him and his client. Most definitely still relevant 60 years post-publication, this thought-provoking novel is a must-read for teachers and students alike!

Sarah


“From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him.”
– William Shakespeare, Sonnet 98

Because it’s unknown on what date Shakespeare was born, Shakespeare Day is celebrated on his death day. He was christened on the 26th of April 1564 and died almost exactly 52 years later. Shakespeare was loved in his time already and his popularity only grew, I would say. Today he is still one of the most celebrated and widely read British authors. I don’t think reading Shakespeare is a very effective way to access the great bard as much of the feelings, wit, and atmosphere is lost. Shakespeare has to be experienced, has to be acted out, and/or watched to get a full grasp of his plays.

Usually, every year a Shakespeare festival takes place in Mühlheim an der Ruhr with open-air performances of one of his plays delivered by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The members are traditionally only male actors which might seem strange at first. A few years ago, I sat in the audience enjoying Romeo and Juliet, and despite even Juliet looking slightly brawny and having a teeny-tiny five o’clock shadow, I cried my eyes out when they parted and in the end died.
For is it not Shakespeare where the most lovely, most sorrowful, ghastly, and witty words are to be found?

Shakespeare’s Globe is of course a gigantic tourist attraction but definitely worth a visit (provided that it’s possible again), not only for a live performance but also for a tour through the museum which is huge. At the moment they still have online shows but plan to make in-person performances possible again in mid-May. Today and tomorrow, they host an event in collaboration with the University of California exploring the relationship between Shakespeare’s works and climate issues – you can still register for it.

Lit4School features some of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, adaptations, and related literature as they provide superb insights into the Elizabethan era, especially when looking at them in a more analytic and critical way comparing the plays with the period itself. Apart from the originals, the occasional easy-reading edition is available as well, making Shakespeare more accessible for a younger audience as well, I, Shakespeare and Mr. William Shakespeare’s Plays being two examples.

The cornucopia of Shakespeare literature and media all around the world shows that the playwright has not lost his relevance, still inspiring fruitful ideas.

On that note: “Fair thought and happy hours attend you!” (Merchant of Venice)
Cheers to Shakespeare and his spectacular legacy!

Sarah-Sophia