As a parent volunteer at an international school, I was helping with the reading lesson. It was a South African student’s turn and he read out the following passage:
A child’s voice came over the PA system. “Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance.” … [Marvin] put his hand over his heart and said it along with her.
I asked if any the children knew what the Pledge of Allegiance was, a ridiculous question as I knew that they did not. The boy reading did not know what it was. Neither did the Norwegian child who grew up in Kenya nor the Dutch child who lived for several years in Hong Kong. My own American daughter also did not know.
And so I explained what the Pledge of Allegiance is: When I was young, every day in school we all had to stand up, put our hands over our hearts like this, look at the American flag and say: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
They thought that sounded pretty weird.
The book we were reading, Marvin Redpost: Class President by Louis Sachar, was published by the big American educational publishing company, Scholastic. Scholastic publishes a wide assortment of reading books and they are often American-centric.
British publishers, also vie for domination of the international school book market and have a similarly myopic perspective. The popular Biff, Chip and Kipper reading series (by Oxford University Press) includes story lines about school fetes, terrace houses, red pillar boxes and English weather.
As far and I know, there is no major publishing house that creates learn to read type books specifically for the international school market.
Perhaps I will start my own international school publishing house. My learn to read series will feature the recurring characters Vinesh, Isabel, Pablo and Meǐhuì (美惠). Popular titles will include:
Pablo makes friends with body language and a smile
Didn’t we meet in the Singapore airport last year?
A farewell party to remember
Isabel’s food odyssey
A dog’s life in quarantine
Vinesh has never lived in India so please stop asking him about it
Your colour is my color
Wen is actually my last name, call me Meǐ
It’s time to pack again! and the companion book The hunt for the screws we need to reassemble my bed
A sample cover:
What titles would you add to the series?