News from the editorial team

Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.” – Toni Morrison

Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison, aka Toni Morrison, was a well-established American essayist, novelist, book editor, and college professor. In the late 1960s, she became the first black female book editor at Random House in New York. She was also the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and is best known for her unique critical views and accounts on slavery, race and racism in the US. In total, she was given 40 awards amongst which a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 for her much-celebrated novel Beloved, historical fiction with supernatural elements inspired by the life of Margaret Garner, an escaped slave and mother from Kentucky. Her short story Sweetness also concerns itself with the difficulties of motherhood in a world where ethnic differences matter.

Let’s clink our glasses to Toni Morrison – Happy Birthday!

Sarah-Sophia


When in doubt go to the library.” – J. K. Rowling

Founded once in Australia, the #LibraryLoversDay and #LibraryLoversMonth celebrate reading, book enthusiasm and the rich tradition of libraries all around the world: The first libraries, a word derived from Ancient Greek originally meaning ‘bookcase’, date bake to 2600 BC. Today, their collection also includes video games, newspapers, films, prints, CDs and many other forms of media. This year’s theme for the Library Lover’s Day was ‘Make a date with your library‘ – which reminds us that library services were and are available even during a pandemic situation via digital resources and distant loans.

On Lit4School we do feature quite a variety of texts that explore libraries and the passion for reading. These texts are suitable for a cross-curricular teaching project in cooperation with your local library or book store: The New LiBEARianLittle Red Reading HoodLibrary LionThe Incredible Book Eating BoyIt’s a Book and I Will Judge You By Your Bookshelf.

Share your love and passion for reading with your pupils, stay safe and have a beautiful Library Lover’s Day!

Simon


February 9th: Alice Walker

English · 9 February 2021

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker 

We would like to wish a happy birthday to Alice Walker today! Not only has she shaped the world with her literary accomplishments, but her social activism as well. Winner of the National Literary Award and the Pulitzer Prize, her novel The Color Purple tells a story of abuse, oppression, and love. Teenager Celie is raped and abused by her father but finds love through the women in her life. She manages to find happiness, moving out with her girlfriend and starting a tailoring business. And while this character regains power and control over her life, many cannot say the same. Alice Walker has dedicated her voice to multiple causes throughout her life, including the Women’s Rights and Civil Right’s Movement. Thank you and Happy Birthday!

Stay safe (and warm)!

Sarah


Created in 2000, World Cancer Day aims to raise awareness for and improve education surrounding this devastating disease that affects so many people’s lives. True to this year’s motto I Am and I Will!, the Union for International Cancer Control offers educational resources as well as suggestions on how to take action and make a difference. The following media suggestions offer representation by showing authentic, complex characters that aren’t defined by their illness.

The tragic love story The Fault in our Stars follows 16-year-old cancer-patient Hazel on her journey of love, fun, pain and ultimately loss. Of course, cancer doesn’t solely affect those diagnosed, but their loved ones as well. My Sister’s Keeper tells the story of teenager Anna, who was conceived to act as a donor for her sister Kate, who struggles with leukemia. Anna is torn between wanting to help her sister and longing to be a normal teenager.

Check out the resources listed above and have a wonderful day!

Sarah


Let America be America again, let it be the dream it used to be.” – Langston Hughes

These first lines taken from Hughes’ poem “Let America be America again” (1935) seem now more topical than ever: In 2020 police violence, institutional racism and discrimination remained a current issue in the United States and beyond. Never has the ‘pursuit of happiness‘ seemed so far off. Recently, the land ‘where every man is free‘ has witnessed a change in government and the hope to overcome the inequalities – also expressed by the poem’s speaker – and to make this dream the reality of tomorrow, remains a vision and task for the Biden-Harris administration.

Today, we celebrate Hughes’ poetics and his 120th birthday, which marks the beginning of the ‘Black History Month’ – an annual observance for African-diasporan- and African-American history and heritage all around the world. As an award-winning poet, novelist, playwright, political activist and leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes reflected the joys, needs and frustration of black working-class life and brought African-American identity, racial inequalities and stereotyping on the literary agenda. His works offer colourful insights into African-American life in the 1920s and herald the recognition of black literature and arts.

On Lit4School, we feature the illustrated version That Is My Dream (2017) of Hughes’ “Dream Variations”, which is suitable for younger learners of English, and two works for intermediate learners – the short story Early Autumn and the poem mentioned earlier.

Kind regards and stay safe,

Simon


The 27th of January marks the date of the liberation of the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops in 1945. The International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorates the genocide that resulted in the deaths of 6 million Jews, two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population.

Here are some examples of literature to help approach this difficult and important chapter in history in the classroom.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne explores loss, nationalism, anti-Semitism and the power of friendship across borders and fences. The readers follow nine-year-old Bruno, who lives with his parents and sister Gretel in Berlin in 1943. As Bruno’s father, who works as a commanding officer, gets promoted, his family moves to a new house in the middle of nowhere. His parents forbid Bruno to explore the nearby forest, but he does and discovers a fence he walks along. On the other side, he spots people in striped pyjamas and finally meets a boy, called Shmuel. Bruno struggles to understand what life is like on the other side, but the two become friends. One day, Bruno dresses up in striped pyjamas to explore Shmuel’s side of the fence and to help him search for his father, whom Shmuel has not seen for several days…

The novel The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen features a young girl who feels disconnected from her culture and family. She’s bored and frustrated by her relatives’ constant storytelling regarding the Holocaust. But when she gets transported back into the year 1942 to Poland, she realizes the horrors that are ahead.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak navigates themes such as mortality, love and the importance of language in a coming of age story. Set in Germany during World War II, this historical novel follows a young girl by the name of Liesel Meminger. Her foster parents take in a Jewish man, Hans, hiding him from the authorities. Hans teaches Liesel to read, and she goes on to not only save books from being destroyed by the Nazi Party but also writing herself. There is also a 2013 film adaptation of this award-winning novel.

If you’re looking for additional media forms to approach this subject, consider the following videos. This interview features a Holocaust survivor talking to kids and teens about his experiences and memories. For a more in-depth video on a survivor’s perspective, this interview tells Lydia’s story, who was held captive in various concentration camps for nearly three years. While the first is a good introduction to the subject for younger viewers, the second is best suited for older students.

Stay kind and safe in this time of uncertainty,

Sarah


On January 20, 2021, the world tuned in to watch US-President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony but viewers around the globe were also rewarded with a brilliant display of the power of words: 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in US history, recited her poem The Hill We Climb to a stunned audience everywhere. Both painfully honest and reassuringly optimistic, this 5-minute delivery of her poem sends chills down your spine because it bravely addresses the challenges of our times head-on. It will be hard making a stronger claim this year that poetry is powerful and that bright young people should change the shape of our world – a message your students will need to hear!

NB: While the transcript of the poem is linked to our entry for The Hill We Climb, a print version is scheduled for spring this year.

Keep reading, and keep rocking.

Rico


You have to take care of democracy. As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it’s no longer democracy, is it? It’s something else. It may be an inch away from totalitarianism.” – Sam Shepard in The Village Voice, November 17, 2004

Donald Trump has officially left the White House, and President-elect Joseph Robinette Biden and the first female, first African-American, and first Asian-American, vice President-elect Kamala Harris are about to be inaugurated. Breaking tradition, former president and first lady Melania will not be attending the ceremony at the US Capitol, refusing to welcome the 46th president of the United States and his incoming first lady, Jill Biden. To minimize the spread of the coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of American flags, representing the people of America, were placed on the National Mall. Security Measures are high: approximately 25,000 troops of the National Guard, police officers and Feebs firmly confront terrorist threats of the last few days.

The change of government hopefully marks a paradigm shift in US politics: Lies and hateful messages have been spread by the 45th president. America faces challenges from coronavirus to racial inequalities, unemployment, environmental pollution and climate change, healthcare and educational issues, tensions in the transatlantic relations and international alliances that Harrison and Biden need to tackle and aim to overcome. US democracy has been challenged as well and must be restored, renovated and rebuilt by the new administration. What do your pupils think about the current situation in the US? This powerful poetry slam by Prince Ea might fuel your classroom discussion on key issues and future perspectives of the US presidency and politics.

Kind regards and stay safe,

Simon


One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.” – George Orwell, 1984

On Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, a crowd of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump attempted to overturn his defeat in the presidential election by violently occupying a joint session of Congress, which was about to confirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. While the rioters violently gained access to the building just after 2:00 pm, the senators and representatives were evacuated. It was about 5:40 pm when the police declared that the Capitol was safe again. In the meantime, the mob had entered the Senate chamber, vandalised and damaged offices, looted belongings of the senators and fought security officers. Shots were fired inside the Capitol, dozens were injured, five people died, including an officer of the Capitol Police. During his speech at the ‘Save America’ rally, which took place beforehand, Trump once again declared that he had won the election and demanded the protesters “[…] to take back our country […]” and to “[…] fight like Hell and if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Before breaking into the Capitol, Trump-supporters marched through the streets chanting ‘Hang Mike Pence’ and ‘Fight For Trump’. In response to the riots and Trump’s rather inglorious role in inciting the masses, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump a second time. To prevent Trump from causing further damage, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and other social media platforms permanently suspended his accounts – but a community of alternative social networks already exists. However, June 6th, 2021 marks an assault on US American democracy, an act of domestic terrorism and manipulation, which foregrounds a rather dystopian future: the remaining danger of Trumpist ideology even after the presidency of the man who fostered far-right-wing authoritarian populism and divided the US even more. Two weeks later, the Capitol is getting ready for the Inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday, January 20th. Security measures are high: non-scalable fences have been set around the Capitol, security checkpoints and different safety areas installed. FBI, Secret Service, National Guard and Homeland Security are working hand in hand – but they fear an insider threat…

If you are looking for literature and media that cover power abuse, manipulation and ideology, the following works will be useful:

  • T.C. Boyle’s novel The Harder They Come (2015) explores paranoia, ideological obsession and the Sovereign citizen movement – a militant group of people who regard US laws and law enforcement as illegitimate.
  • His novel The Tortilla Curtain (1995) foregrounds the social split in US American society, offering the perspective of Mexican immigrants and the fear, hate and racism against them. 
  • Noughts and Crosses (2001) by Malorie Blackman is a dystopian series of five novels that were adapted into a TV series, which offers perspectives on racism, oppression and the abuse of power.
  • Dave Egger’s The Circle (2013) is a dystopian novel that was adapted into a movie. It explores the danger of a social media company: manipulation, surveillance, data privacy, totalitarianism and indoctrination. 
  • The Wave (1981) by Morton Rhue and Todd Strasser explores the corruption of power, violence and a social experiment that gets out of control.
  • William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954) follows a group of teenage boys who, after a plane crash, establish a government on a remote island, which results in a civil war.
  • The film The Hunger Games (2012) by Gary Ross and the novel (2008) of the same name by Suzanne Collins, show the danger and manipulative tendencies of autocratic governments.

Even though we are in distance learning at the moment, I do hope that you find reasons and time to talk with your pupils about these current affairs. Let’s hope for a safe and secure Inauguration Day.

Simon


January 17th: Anne Brontë

English · 17 January 2021

Reading is my favourite occupation, when I have leisure for it and books to read.” – Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey (1847)

Anne Brontë was born as the youngest of six children. Her health was fragile, so she was mostly schooled at home. Her siblings and she started writing at a young age inventing the fantasy worlds of Gondal and Angria – the former being the creation of Emily and Anne. No prose has survived about Gondal, but 23 of Anne’s poems are set there and a few diary entries as well. Anne published a collection of poems with her two sisters and also wrote two novels: Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), that sold quite well, however not as well as her sisters’ novels Jane Eyre (1847) and Wuthering Heights (1847. Anne worked as a governess for two families and had issues with controlling the children at her first employment, which she processed in Agnes Grey where the governess life is described very detailedly. Anne Brontë’s second novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall can be seen as one of the first feministic writings to be published. Her protagonist is a woman who leaves her abusive man and goes into hiding with her son making her living. Since women didn’t have the right to leave their husbands and taking their children with them was considered kidnapping, the book was heavily criticised but remains an Ode to freedom and women rights. Although Anne is probably the least well-known writer of the three sisters, her books and poems are beautifully written and it’s worth taking a look.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANNE!

Saran-Sophia


2021 is a special year in many senses, at least one of which concerns literature: Some great literary works enter the so-called public domain in the USA, among them F. Scott Fitzgerald’s widely popular work The Great Gatsby from 1925. A vivid display of the Golden Twenties in New York City, this story still is short enough to consider it for the TEFL classroom with intermediate students. Its timeless themes of love, devotion and creating a life for oneself may just be the right thing to inspire Gatsby’s boundless optimism in your students, too.

Being in the public domain means that now everybody is legally allowed to re-publish and/or adapt these works previously protected by copyright. So while we still highly recommend enjoying Jay Gatsby’s illustrious life and times in the original version – who knows what future creators will entertain us with by building upon the original’s legacy? For now, though don that dress and grab that drink because no one knows where the next (literary) party might lead you.

Rico


American writer Jerome David Salinger’s 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye was a great success and certainly his best-known work that also made him so famous. Probably a result of the book being immediately so intensely controversial as it talks about casual sex and prostitution and includes a debatable high amount of coarse language (for instance, you may count the expression “goddam” 237 times). But the novel was so popular that a “Catcher Cult” developed around it, celebrated by the many adolescent readers who could sympathise with protagonist Holden Caulfield. So it was banned in some countries and American schools even leading to several teachers discussing The Catcher in the Rye being fired. However, it still remained one of the most taught books in high schools despite being so frequently censored. And it still is very widely read all over the world with more than 10 million books have sold worldwide. Salinger wrote all his life and published several collections of short stories and novellas like Nine Stories including A Perfect Day for Bananafish and Teddy, and Franny and Zooey, two stories about two sisters and the perception of society.

Today, Salinger would be 122 years old and we celebrate this most celebrated author’s birthday – and wish you all a Happy New Year!

CHEERS!

Sarah-Sophia


Migration is an ongoing process around the world, constantly changing and being influenced by different factors. Whether it be due to persecution or climate change, people are forced to flee their homes every day in hopes of a better life. International Migrants Day aims to show the importance of building a world of peace and opportunity for all by allowing for safe migration everywhere.

If you’re interested in the numbers surrounding migration, take a look at the migration data portal! Today is also the last day you can watch documentaries telling the stories of migrants around the world on the IOM website free of charge!

For visual representation of the topic of migration, the graphic novel The Arrival tells the story of a man in search of a home for his family. This book doesn’t need words to convey the emotions that accompany this complex topic. The Paper Menagerie offers an in-depth view of a character’s inner tug-of-war between her ‘old’ and new identity surrounding her migrant background. The fantasy short story explores how struggling with intercultural identities can make you distance yourself from those closest to you.

Sarah


December 16th: Jane Austen

English · 16 December 2020

Jane Austen is certainly one of the best known and most popular female writers of all time. Her works have always been in print even when not as celebrated as they are today. Her realistic narrations didn’t go along with the ideas of Romanticism and Victorianism so well but, her satirical critique of the popular sensational novels of the Romantic period are beloved again and often adapted especially by movies. It is, however, not only the social criticism in Austen’s novels (especially regarding women); but also, and maybe even more so, the beautiful love stories which make her narrations, up and foremost Pride and Prejudice of course, so exceptionally popular. Surely, Lovers of Romance all over the world root for enchanting Miss Elizabeth Bennet and aloof Mr Darcy. Not surprising, I must admit, declarations of love like “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” have great power and I imagine many readers (or other audiences) melt away with sighs of longing. Apart from stirring up feelings, Austen’s works are also quite useful in an educational context for exploring the historical background of the times, especially regarding the social status of women who were depending on their husbands and therefore, of course, on marrying first. Thus, she criticises opportunistic relationships and also the prejudices accompanying class relations and social backgrounds.

So now here we are, happily celebrating her 245th birthday – Cheers!

Sarah-Sophia


Every year, the staff of the Department of British Studies at the University of Leipzig arranges a Christmas Reading. This year we will read Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost” (1887) – a tale of terror and delight. You are welcome to join our digital Christmas Read on Wednesday, 16 December 2020 from 6–8 pm via Zoom (Zoom: 825 2832 7080 Passcode: 882307).

Happy Christmas and stay safe everybody,

The editors


Hans und Chris sind zwei angehende Lehrer aus Leipzig, die auf ihrem YouTube Kanal E-Learning by Doing verschiedene E-Learning Tools für die Schule vorstellen, ihre Funktionsweise in Tutorials erklären und in Livestreams über ihre Erfahrungswerte reflektieren. Die interessantesten, nützlichsten und spannendsten Angebote für Lehrer:innen tragen sie in ihrer Reihe 3 Tools für Lehrkräfte in 3 Minuten zusammen. Im Dezember 2020 wurde Lit4School neben zwei anderen Tools von Chris un Hans vorgestellt – das Video finden Sie unter folgendem Link: Medien für den Unterricht finden mit Lit4School. Wenn Sie Themen wie E-Learning, EdTech und Tools für das Lehren und Lernen begeistern, dann schauen Sie doch mal bei Hans und Chris vorbei und folgen Sie den beiden auf Twitter.

Wir bedanken uns für die positive Resonanz und wünschen eine besinnliche Vorweihnachtszeit.

Ihr Lit4School Team


In 1895, Alfred Nobel stated in his will that those will be awarded “who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind“. However, the famous and most prestigious Nobel Prize is not a single award but consists of five separate prizes in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Peace, and also Literature which is, of course, very important in the context of Lit4School. Since 1901, it is given to the laureates annually on this very day and is usually part of a big ceremony and banquet. The laureates receive a golden medal, a diploma from the King of Sweden and a certain amount of money.

It is safe to say that the Nobel Prize in Literature is a highly controversial award. All of us probably remember being dependent on the mercy, mood and opinion of the English or German teacher for good grades. Of course, the field of writing is very subjective and the Nobel committee in Sweden doesn’t represent the whole world so that many choices were cause for huge discussions about the writer’s nationalities and therefore languages (can translations be judged the same way as the original) and about the issue, if the writer really deserved the award. Also, the prize was given to 117 individuals and it’s striking that only 16 of them were women, half of them laureates since 1991. The increasing number of female writers being awarded the Nobel Prize, however, can be seen as a positive development as they gain more and more recognition. Here are some laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature on Lit4School English:

While it is the most renowned award in literature, we all know that one doesn’t need an award to have an impact on the world.

Kind regards and stay safe everyone,

Sarah-Sophia


Christmas Read 2020

English · 6 December 2020

He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares, long, long, forgotten.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

When the dark is lit with fairy lights and candles, the air filled with smells one more tempting than another, when warm colours and sparkling decorations make homes and houses cosier, Christmas time has come. And what could be a better way to relish the joys and thoughts and hopes than diving into a jolly good Christmas read. Here are some of our Yule favourites:

  • Sarah-Sophia’s picks:

A favourite and lovely Christmas read of mine
is a heart-warming story written in rhyme.
Who doesn’t know the creature in green
who hated the cheering, the hustle, the presents,
and everything else in between?!

So Christmas he stole, or at least so he thought,
but it was the real spirit of Christmas that he instead brought.
Little Cindy-Lou Who climbed his home high above,
and although he wanted to fight it,
she showed him the great power of love.

In the end all were cheerful and the mischievous deed with no doubt,
made everyone see what Christmas is really about.
Dr Seuss created the creature and so ever since
no Christmas goes by without a thought of the Grinch!

To keep this consistent, I’m continuing on,
‘cause with a few rhymes before Christmas
surely can’t be anything wrong.
My next Christmas pick, lovely as well, I am sure,
is a beauteous little poem by Clement Clarke Moore.

It’s about the excitement when on Christmas eve
St. Nick comes to visit with presents to leave.
He’s as always imagined: round belly, white beard and happy and kind,
A man who can secretly visit and no one will mind.


When reading the poem one can gleefully feel all the joy and great bliss
of the wondrous and magical things in Moore’s “Night Before Christmas.”

  • Sarah’s picks:

The hustle and bustle of Christmas season is at it once again. When everyone is scrambling to find that ever-elusive perfect present for every relative, friend or acquaintance, who doesn’t need some holiday serenity? My favourite way to get in the holiday spirit: listening to Christmas sing-alongs while eating half the batch of Christmas cookies I just made. And though baking reindeer-shaped cookies in the classroom isn’t really an option, who’s to say some Jingle Bells can’t bring Joy to the World in this otherwise Silent Night? The Real Mother Goose Book of Christmas Carols offers a wide range of tunes accompanied by festive illustrations. Haven’t you always wanted the perfect selection of songs that are well-known but still earn a chuckle when everyone stumbles over that 4th verse no one knew existed?

If you’re sick of sappy Christmas songs and want an amusing spin on an old tale, take a look at The Twelve Days of Christmas. I promise it’s not the jingle that gets put on repeat at the grocery store. This collection of letters tells the story of the twelve days of Christmas but from the perspective of the receiving end of those elaborate gifts. I’m sure no one would mind 5 gold rings, but what about 10 strange men dancing in your yard? The hilarious illustrations are the cherry on top of this story laced with satire.

  • Simon’s picks:

The sweet and spicy smells of gingerbread, speculoos, roasted almonds, mulled wine and eggnog herald the time before Christmas. And since we haven’t had a white Christmas for years our children and pupils long for the first snowflakes to catch, the first Snowman to build and the first sledge run to slide. Snow where art thou? As younger learners do enjoy picture books a snowy Christmas story from the perspective of a Stick Man might catch their attention. For intermediate and advanced students and teachers A New Christmas Story by Jeanette Winterson, the poem “Amazing Peace” by Maya Angelou or the movie adaptation (2005 with Johnny Depp) of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory offer an entrence in peaceful and wonderous winter worlds…

In these often stressful and unpredictable days of the pandemic, we want to bring some rest and bliss in your classrooms and offices: So, lean back in your favourite armchair, take a glass of tea or a strong sip of the Scotch next to you and enjoy your Christmas read.

Happy Saint Nicholas Day, have a wonderful pre-Christmas time and stay safe everybody,

The editors