Children authoring storybooks: A narrative approach for children learning a new language— Amy Liu


For young people from non-Chinese speaking backgrounds who are attending schools in Hong Kong, acquiring Chinese language proficiency can be a significant and anxiety-provoking challenge. When students are not yet proficient in Chinese language, their low estimation of their Chinese language ability can create a vicious circle: feeling incompetent and worrying about language acquisition makes it more difficult to learn. Acquiring an additional language is not merely a linguistic and grammatical exercise, but an affective one. This article explores the use of narrative tools and perspectives for supporting culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) students in Hong Kong with their Chinese language learning. In particular, it shows how externalisation, therapeutic documents (in this case storybooks), Denborough’s (1995) ‘step by step’ process and a search for ‘wonderfulnesses’ (Marsten, Epston, & Markham, 2016) were used with individuals and groups. The article includes accounts of work with an individual and two groups of students. In the first story Alex, a 13-year-old student attending a mainstream secondary school, externalises negative emotions that adhered to the learning of Chinese, thus paving ways to see her abilities. In the second story, a group of three 14-yearold students from a mainstream secondary school externalise ‘strengths’ and ‘resources’ for learning Chinese so that the internal quality of a person was made apparent (M. White, 2007, p. 38). The third story involved a group of five students, eight to nine years of age, from a primary school attended mainly by CALD students. ‘Chinese’ was externalised and became an imaginary friend. This imaginary friend learned from the students, thus making the language less intimidating to approach. Recruited as a carrier and consolidator of the dominant knowledge associated with ethnic minorities, as a local Cantonese speaking person I attempted to maintain a position of being decentred but influential in these stories.