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Matthew Bennet Young

Children's literature, Poetry, Fiction


Matthew Bennet Young

Over the last ten years, Matthew Bennett Young's children’s books have been used to develop educational workshops for children and youth involving storytelling and mindfulness in partnership with elementary and secondary schools, Montessori schools, museums and literary organizations in Canada, Sweden, the U.S. and the U.K.. He was initially invited to work in schools in Sweden, where his first book Maybe Colours became the basis for an educational curriculum on emotional intelligence. His subsequent books (Spaceball, 2009, and Snowman, 2010) have been used for workshops on translation, cross-cultural communication, genre, multisensory and critical thinking. He is trained in science, English and the humanities, with a Bachelor’s in biochemistry, TESOL certification and a Master’s degree in humanities education, for which he focused his research on citizenship education. He currently writes and teaches in Montréal, and lives in NDG.

Suggested reading*

Maybe Colours (Compton Press,UK)
Spaceball (Compton Press,UK)
Snowman (Compton Press, UK)

*These titles have been suggested by the author based on the activities that he/she proposes to students.
It is, however, up to teachers to verify whether the titles are appropriate for their groups (age and education level, specific context, etc.).
Teaching staff are invited to contact the author for clarification on this aspect and assistance in preparing their groups for his/her visit.

Proposed approach and type of activities

Matthew’s work focuses on perspective-taking to help children think “outside the box” and build critical thinking habits at an important time for the development of these skills during childhood. He believes the picture book is the perfect visual medium to teach children of this age to engage with more than one perspective through powerful combinations of words and images. His children’s stories can be recognized by their “naïve” style. They are written as much from a child’s view of the world as possible, but also to appeal to adults (teachers and parents). Matthew writes to disrupt associations and challenge assumptions that are commonly made around us.

Brief descriptions of workshops

- Telling musical stories: Pupils are invited to listen to a series of five songs on a CD, e.g., a violin sonata, a jazz improvisation, an Indian raga, dubstep and a choral song. The children are guided to write down a word they will later use as a descriptive trigger to develop a story involving characters, a plot and a conclusion. The workshop inspires young pupils’ creativity and storytelling skills. The musical stimulation injects spontaneity and allows for creative opportunities to develop character and mood. It also draws on multisensory processing and strengthens interpretation of feelings by encouraging children to identify their emotions and translate them into words for a story. This workshop was selected for the author to present at the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) convention that was held in Montréal in November 2013. It can be adapted for young children.

- Experience with colours and sounds: This is a group reading of Maybe Colours in English and French. The workshop involves older children comparing the sounds of the poetry in the two languages and discussing the importance of translation. Children are taught to identify the simple use of alliteration, rhyme, repetition and assonance. Younger children are given an exercise using a worksheet to think of—and illustrate—adjectives, feelings, objects and memories that they associate with different colours. They use these colour association drawings to write and draw a page for a new version of the book Maybe Colours that will be created by the whole class working together. The goal is to think about perceptions of colours in a simple but figurative way and to introduce metaphors through colour.

- Literary criticism: Together, the author and the class create a mindmap about genre and go on to read and discuss several picture books of various authors that deal with themes ranging from immigration (Shaun Tan, Armind Grinder) to history and identity (Matthew Bennett Young) to family issues (David McKee). This leads to an understanding of theme genres in storytelling. Children have the opportunity to share their own interpretations the stories and what meanings they ascribe to actions and characters in a plot. To conclude, they are given a worksheet with stimuli to write their own story of their favourite genre.

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