Marija Todorova, a peace studies and translation studies scholar, is currently pursuing a Postdoctoral Fellowship at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University on “Children’s Literature in English Language Teaching for Primary Students in Hong Kong”. We’re delighted she agreed to tell us about herself and her research.
I first became enthralled by the world of children’s literature when I was very young, listening my grandmother’s voice telling stories of magical kingdoms. As an adult that fascination has led me to become a translator and researcher of books for children and young adults. Over the years, I’ve translated more than 30 books from English to Macedonian mainly for children and young adults. Translations expose children to different cultures, helping them to develop an understanding for others. However, children also need to find themselves on the pages of the books they are reading, letting them know they are understood and valued in society, which is why in 2010, I published the first study on the representation of marginalized groups in contemporary Macedonian literature for children.
My passion for children’s literature and translation brought me to Hong Kong where I conducted my PhD research at Hong Kong Baptist University on the topic of “Western Balkan Images in Children’s Literature Translated into English”. Very often Western Balkan literature selected for translation reinforces the image of violence. Other times, it adapts cultural references to serve the expectations of the target readers, as shown in my articles “Children’s Voices from War Zones: Muted by Adult Mediation” published by Bookbird – A Journal of International Children’s Literature 55(2), 2017, pp. 20-27; and “Into the Dark Woods: A Cross-Cultural Re-Imagination of Home“, Bookbird 56(4), 2018, pp. 46-52.
For me, places are closely connected to stories. In Hong Kong, I ventured on a quest to find books that will help my daughter develop her literacy and make a connection with her new hometown. I was fascinated with the books I found and enjoyed reading them with her. There is an increasing number of English language books that portray the realities of everyday life for children in Hong Kong, written by authors who were either born in Hong Kong or have spent significant parts of their lives in Hong Kong. I was recently given the opportunity to pursue a Postdoctoral Fellowship at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University on “Children’s Literature in English Language Teaching for Primary Students in Hong Kong” (PI, Prof Kathleen Ahrens, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Co-I Dr Jackie Fung King Lee, The Education University of Hong Kong). This project aims to develop learning materials for books about Hong Kong so as to positively motivate young English Language learners to engage with stories in ways that are both meaningful and language rich. The books that will be the focus of our attention will be English language books for children and young adults that are either written by authors who have lived in Hong Kong, or were produced in Hong Kong, or follow a story set in Hong Kong. English language education in Hong Kong can greatly benefit from using this locally produced literature because it will 1) provide motivation for students, and 2) build students’ intercultural skills. Reading books is a way to enrich one’s vocabulary, expression, and also social skills. Stories connect with the young readers allowing them to identify themselves on the page. Furthermore, Hong Kong books offer the potential for providing cultural diversity in the classroom helping to increase intercultural awareness. By the end of the project in July 2020, we hope to be able to offer teaching materials for the use of select English language books in Hong Kong primary schools (P1-P6).
In addition, we hope these books will be a good addition to English language classrooms everywhere in the world, adding intercultural diversity in the literacy programmes not only of learners of English as a foreign language, but also native speakers of English. Stay with us and learn more about the books early next year.