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Teachers' Resource Book

Using The European Picture Books
Cultural Comparisons
Introductory Discussion
The Importance of European Children's Literature
European Children's Literature Quiz
European Awareness Activities
European Contacts

This page is designed to give you a few ideas of how the EPBC might be used in primary classrooms. Further activities are suggested in EPBC books. Each page can be printed off, together with the following information about how to use the European picture books. This will become a 'working' resource book, to which you can add your own activities and other European books of your choice.

Using The European Picture Books

The stories included in this collection are from the 15 Member States of the European Union, plus Switzerland. All are written in the original languages of each country and are accompanied by 2CDs of the stories in those languages, plus translations and re-tellings which can be found in EPBC books.

The following pages conclude with a short quiz relating to some well known European stories whose countries of origin are often unknown. You might like to do this quiz with your class, indicating each country's position on a map of Europe.

Before using any of the EPBC books, you might find it helpful to set them within a European context by:

  • locating their countries of origin geographically, within the physical context of the other European members states, on a map of Europe;
  • discussing the language/s spoken, making reference to the influence that surrounding countries may have. For example, why Dutch is also spoken in the Flemish part of Belgium; or the influence that France, Germany and Italy have on the languages spoken in Luxembourg;
  • sharing any known characteristics relating to culture, literature, food, music etc.
  • discussing any previous or current interactions pupils may have with the country.

Cultural Comparisons

The following activity, using the Dutch book, suggests some possible ways of making cultural comparisons. Like all the EPBC books, Kees en Keetje has been chosen because:

  • It has a very clear visual narrative structure
  • It's setting, although universally recognised, makes a number of cultural references
  • The characterisation develops well, visually
  • The theme of the 'ups and downs' of friendship is universal
  • Many linguistic comparisons can be made.

The importance of the illustrations in this book cannot be overestimated. Through pictures, it is often possible to indicate things that are difficult to say in words and the universal power of illustrations can help children to appreciate a familiar story in a new way. In addition, pictures offer readers a position of power, so that they can observe a story from different viewpoints and, through interaction with the text, understand how both narrative and language work.

Introductory Discussion

Before 'reading' look at:

TITLE, together with pictures
Kees en Keetje: What is it in English?(Kees and Keetje)
Picture of two characters: knowledge that characters have names (proper nouns)
Knowledge that nouns are often joined with 'and' (a conjunction) in book titles
Are there any letter combinations that are different from English?(tje)

Discuss the name: Jantien Buisman
Guess the Nationality (Dutch)
Male or Female? (female)
Are there any letter combinations that are different from English? (tien; uis)

Name: Uitgeverij De Harmonie
Place Amsterdam
Year: 1986
Are these conventions the same in English books?~
In which country is Amsterdam?
Are there any letter combinations that are different from English? (uit; rij)
Are there any words that are similar to English?
Can you come to any conclusions about the Dutch language?eg the 'j' features significantly or there are some words that are similar to English (harmonie)
What is the story likely to be?

· the importance of discussion about the book: its title, author, publisher and possible story-line, particularly noting the similarities and differences between the Dutch and English languages
· the similarities with English: phrase structure; use of nouns; conjunctions; punctuation eg upper case 'K' - indicates proper noun.
· the differences eg letter combinations.
· name/possible pronunciation/ introduction to concept of different nationalities.
· possible clues to gender?
· Common letter strings.
· Similarities and differences.
· Knowledge of place names; use of upper case.
· Comparisons of technique.
· Geographical reference; locate on map.
· Linguistic comparisons.
· Linguistic reflection.
· Knowledge about: narrative structure; story conventions; universal themes; importance of titles and illustrations.


After the introductory discussion, ask small groups of children to 'read' the visual story; supplying a storyboard to which they can add their own written interpretation. Then read the story in English, from the translation or re-telling provided in EPBC Books, to see how much the text has actually added to the storyline. The children then listen to the CD in the original language, whilst following the visual story, to see if they can understand any of the new language. They then discuss the language differences and look for any similarities. Many of the words in the Swiss book, for example, written in German, sound very much like the English eg 'Pinguin' and 'Krokodil'.

The stories vary in length and presentation but all are accompanied by suggestions for further activities which can be found in EPBC Books. With the shorter books, eg Austria's contribution, you might like to listen to the story, on CD in German, showing each page to the children. With the longer books, eg Spain's contribution, you could listen to the first few pages of the story, just to get the 'feel' of the language.

The Importance of European Children's Literature

It is becoming increasingly important to include the European dimension in education and one of the most natural ways of doing this is through children's literature. Children should be encouraged to question European influences on literature - for example, how could being Norwegian have affected the stories of Road Dahl, or how might the Swiss environment have influenced Johanna Spyri when she was writing Heidi? Issues like these can lead children towards a greater cultural awareness. Few children may be aware of the many European stories which are part of our literary heritage. The quiz that follows would be a good way to begin to establish how much your class knows about the origins of some popular European fiction.

European Children's Literature Quiz

Below is a list of some well known European children's book titles, together with their authors and countries of origin. You can EITHER simply give the children the titles and ask them if they know the author and country of origin OR ask them to design a bookshelf with the blank spines of 16 books showing. On each of the spines they will need to write the titles of the books. Their task then is to add the author and country of origin. Alternatively, you might like to design a sheet for the children with the sixteen titles already on the spines of the books. You can then give them the authors and titles to stick on.

Once the task is completed, you might also encourage some children to locate the countries on a map of Europe and discuss which languages are spoken there.

Here are the titles, authors and countries of origin:

· The Ugly Duckling - Hans Christian Anderson - Denmark
· Pinocchio - Carlo Collodi - Italy
· Agaton Sax - Nils-Olof Franzen - Sweden
· Hansel & Gretel - Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm - Germany
· Tin Tin - Hergé - Belgium
· I am David - Anne Holm - Denmark
· Finn Family Moomintroll - Tove Jansson - Finland
· Emil and the Detectives - Erich Kästner - Germany
· Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren - Sweden
· Red Riding Hood - Charles Perrault - France
· The Robber Hotzenplotz - Otfried Preussler - Germany
· Fattypuffs and Thinifers - André Maurois - France
· Mrs Pepperpot - Alf Prøysen - Norway
· The Little Vampire - Angela Sommer-Bodenburg - Germany
· Heidi - Johanna Spyri - Switzerland
· The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - France

It is surprising how many of these stories we enjoy without thinking about the cultures from which they have come. Many are traditional tales which we have almost adopted as our own, others have been written more recently but are great favourites in school. Over the last twenty years, authors throughout Europe have been producing some very exciting literature, ranging from quite sophisticated narratives to ingenious picture books which, through interaction of picture and text, provide a rich resource for reflection upon cultural experiences.

Unfortunately, many of these are not translated into English which means that our children are missing out on much of the literary wealth available to other young Europeans. The U.K. lags way behind the rest of Europe in terms of books in translation. Here it is only about 1% of publications annually that are translated from the original language into English. In the Netherlands, on the other hand, it is about 35% and in Spain about 44%. This dearth of European children's literature in the U.K. means that we do not have a plethora of books in translation which could facilitate the European dimension in primary classrooms. It is for this reason that the European Picture Book Collection has been created, with funding from the European Commission. We hope you enjoy using it.

In conclusion, here some European awareness activities which you might like to use in your classroom:

European Awareness Activities

Section A:
1. How many countries are there in the EU (European Union)?
2. What are they?
3. Can you identify them on a map of Europe?

Section B:
In pairs, choose a European picture book and do the following:
1. Look at the pictures/cover the text/re-tell the story with your partner.
2. Write a sentence for each page of text, telling your story.
3. Look carefully at the text. In which language is it written?
4. See if there are any words you can understand. Are any similar to English?
5. Read the re-telling/translation. Is this very different from your story?
6. Share stories with another pair. What are the similarities and differences?
7. Together, make a few notes about what you have learned from this activity.
8. What have you learned about these countries?

Section C:
1. What have you learned about European children's stories?
2. What have you learned about Europe in this lesson?
3. How do you think these activities might help other children to learn more about Europe?
4. Can you highlight the EU member states?

  • Individual book activities can be found by clicking on the book covers set out in EPBC Books

  • Further literary and linguistic activities can be found in Picture Books sans Frontières from

European Contacts

A huge vote of thanks goes to all the European colleagues who have worked so hard in helping to put this collection together. However you choose to use it, we hope that the books will add an enjoyable and stimulating European dimension to your classroom. If you would like to make contact with teachers or teacher educators who have already used the books in school, a list of e.mail addresses is available under EPBC Contacts. Further linguistic and literary-based activities can be found in Picture Books sans Frontières, published by Trentham Press ( ).


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ncrcl April 2003