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August 01, 2005

The Extensive Reading Foundation 2005 Language Learner Literature Award Winners

erf_award_winner.gifThe Extensive Reading Foundation (ERF), an unaffiliated, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support and promote extensive reading in language education, takes pleasure in announcing the four winners of the Second Annual Language Learner Literature Awards.

The Awards were for books published in 2004. The winning books were selected for their outstanding overall quality and likely enduring appeal. An international jury made the final choices, taking into account the Internet votes of students, teachers and others from around the world. The awards will be presented following the ELT News Think Tank Live event at the JALT National Conference in Shizuoka on Saturday, October 8. For more details on this event, see the ELT News Think Tank Live 2005 page.

Young Learners
Is It a Butterfly? by Claire Llewellyn and Ant Parker. Retold by Carol Read. Illustrated by Ant Parker (Macmillan Children's Readers, Primary, Level 1).

Adolescents and Adults
Love among the Haystacks by D. H. Lawrence. Retold by Jennifer Bassett. Illustrated by Bob Harvey (Oxford Bookworms Library Stage 2).

Dead Cold by Sue Leather (World Wide Readers Intermediate [eBook])

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Retold by Mary Tomalin. (Penguin Readers Level 5).

The Award Jury made the following comments about the winning books:

Is It a Butterfly? allows learners to gain information about interesting scientific facts as they learn to read. Even though it is a pop-up book, it will be enjoyed by learners of all ages, from children to adults. It is written from the viewpoints of a bee and a snail, which makes the story more interesting than just being simply narrated.

Love among the Haystacks is a simple but powerful tale about the loves of two brothers. The language is graded to make it easy to comprehend and enjoy. It is an exciting, well-rounded story.

Dead Cold is expertly done: clear writing, a sense of place, and the right number of well-drawn characters and amount of well-crafted plot for the length of the book. The fast-moving story line and the easy-to-understand English are the two winning features of this book.

Cold Mountain is storytelling at its best. This version intelligently pares down the characters and incidents of the original, yet vividly conveys its pastoral and anti-war themes, and depiction of humans at their cruelest and most generous. It is notable that, in spite of compression, the adaptation retains the leisurely, sometimes dreamlike mood of the original. Reteller Mary Tomalin inhabits this material as Charles Frazier did in the source book. Here is a masterwork of language learner literature. "I have watched the movie, but I prefer this book," commented one student. "You can't stop reading it." Used as a class reader, it is also sure to stimulate discussion and spark writing.

The judges in the advanced category would like to append a note on a problem with almost all the books nominated this year and last. We regret the lack of support given to learners in understanding the background and purpose of a book. Do editors suppose learners of all cultures are equally familiar with varieties of background, place and time, and literary techniques found in fiction of their culture, let alone of all other cultures? Do they think that all students are equally accustomed to reading fiction? We urge series editors to see their task as that of ensuring that learners understand as much as possible and enjoy all aspects of a story as they read it.

In addition to the winners, the following books were selected as the shortlisted "finalists" in each category:

Young Learners
Who's Stealing the Fish? by Gerald Rose. Illustrated by Gerald Rose. (Cambridge Storybooks Level 3, Elementary). The story is very interesting, with an element of a detective story that keeps us reading to the final page to find out who did the stealing. The art is humorous and attractive, and there is good repetition of words and phrases.

The Little Red Hen retold by Sue Arengo. Illustrated by Laurence Cleyet-Merle. (Oxford Classic Tales Beginner 1). The layout of pictures and text in the pages is excellent. The illustrations are self explanatory and very attractive. This classic story is made appropriate for young learners with minimal loss of meaning.

Adolescents and Adults

Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner. Retold by Joanna Strange. Illustrated by George Sharp. (Penguin Readers Level 2). This gripping 18th century story is about a boy who has to deal with some smugglers in his village. The story is well written and has good dialogue.

The Withered Arm by Thomas Hardy. Retold by Jennifer Bassett. Illustrated by Bob Harvey. (Oxford Bookworms Library Stage 1). This fascinating tale concerns a woman who one day finds her arm withering away for unexplained reasons. It is a good read for those who love the mysterious.

Tales of the Supernatural by Frank Brennan. (Cambridge English Readers Level 3). The six short stories take us to an entirely different world - a world that may well exist but is difficult to explain or comprehend. Adult intermediate learners of English will find the tales captivating.

Bamboo Girl by Anthony Kwamlah Johnson. (Macmillan Writer's Prize for Africa). Set in a bustling city in Africa, this simple yet powerful story will touch the hearts of readers. Though the language is not carefully graded, the story line is simple enough to allow informed guessing of some of the low frequency words used in the story.

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. Retold by Jennifer Bassett. (Oxford Bookworms Level 5). Adults will find this a delightful, compelling and well-written story with good dialogue. It is told at a pace that allows understanding and appreciation of the main characters.

A Tangled Web by Alan Maley (Cambridge English Readers Level 5). With a plot from today's headlines, this thriller is a real page-turner. The writing is crisp, and the subplots of love and fatherhood add welcome depth to the action. "Very exciting and thrilling," said one student. "I couldn't stop reading. Moreover, the story happens in France, Spain and England, so I could travel in the book."

The ERF thanks the publishers who nominated books, the members of the ERF's Award Jury, and all those who voted in this year's Award. The nomination and voting procedures for the 2006 Language Learner Literature Award will be posted on the ERF website in December 2005. For more information, please visit the ERF homepage.

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