Parallel Sessions – Speakers’ Biographies

Parallel Session A.

Rebecca R. Butler Like a bit… pale: how children respond to disability in stories

Rebecca Butler holds a BA in English Literature and an MA in Children’s Literature, both from the University of Roehampton. She has recently submitted her doctoral thesis in education. Her thesis examines the way children respond to characters who are wheelchair users in the stories they read.


Susanne Abou Ghaida: Disability in Arabic children’s literature: Inclusion, Participation and Belonging

Susanne Abou Ghaida graduated with an MA in Sociology from the American University of Beirut in 2002.  Since 1998, she has worked in a variety of fields, including youth, development, research, cultural heritage, Euro-Mediterranean cultural cooperation, education, culture and most recently children’s literature.  From 2010 to 2011, she was the coordinator of the Arab Regional Children’s Literature Programme implemented in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.  The project was managed by the Anna Lindh Foundation and funded by Swedish International Cooperation and Development Agency.  From 2012-2013, she was Planning and Development Manager of the United Arab Emirates National Section of the International Board on Books from Young People.  She is currently doing an MA in Children’s Literature at the University of Roehampton, UK.




Parallel Session B.

Flora Kisby. To what extent do picture book representations of the family mirror the diverse reality of this social structure?

Flora Kisby is a senior lecturer in English Education at the University of Roehampton. She worked for twelve years as a primary school teacher in Lambeth and Southwark schools.  Her interest in picture book depictions of family diversity developed after the birth of her eldest daughter when she began to seek out texts that included families with two mothers. She was frustrated by what she found. This prompted her to widen her search to include representations of any family that challenged convention, and to consider the experiences of children who are not reflected in the literature they read. She has recently completed research exploring the responses of five year old children who live both in traditional and non-traditional families, to picturebooks which challenge convention.   Flora lives in a non-traditional family composed of two mums, two daughters, three cats and a dog in Crystal Palace, South East London.

Mark McGlashan. Representation of non-traditional families in children’s literature.

Mark McGlashan is a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science at Lancaster University where he researches issues relating to online misogyny and forms of hate crime including homophobia and racism. Mark is also studying for a PhD in Applied Linguistics in which his thesis focuses on the multimodal representations of same-sex parent families in children’s picturebooks.




Parallel Session C.

Anne Harding. Looked-after children: finding a reading fit.

Anne Harding is an independent trainer. She specialises in children’s and young people’s reading, with a particular focus on developing reading engagement and enjoyment. She provides courses and inset throughout the UK and beyond. For more information, please see her website:

Sarah Stokes. Tied Up with String: An Adoptive Mother’s Search for an Authentic Voice in Adoption Picture Books for Children.

Sarah Stokes began her career in education over 20 years ago, teaching predominantly in London. She returned to full time teaching two years ago, following a prolonged period at home to raise her four adopted children. Earlier this year, she took up a new post as substantive Head Teacher at a primary school in Surrey.

Sarah’s research interests include the narrative dynamic of children’s picturebooks, young readers’ negotiation of controversial subject matter, wordless texts and reader response theory to metafictive texts. She received her MA in Children’s Literature from Roehampton University, London in 2011.


Parallel Session D.

Alexandra Scherer: “The Burqa is good for you. It’s good for you to do in your religion”: children’s meaning making of race, faith and belonging in multicultural picturebooks.

Alexandra Scherer: Having worked as a Primary School teacher in an inner London school for two years, Alexandra became interested in children reading, in particular the processes involved for the many children with EAL she taught. She was awarded an ESRC Studentship in the department of Sociology at the University of Surrey for a Masters and PhD, to study this in more depth. Her doctoral research focused on children’s meaning making of picture books at school. Having completed her PhD she now works as a Lecturer in Childhood Studies in the School of Education at the University of Portsmouth.

Pat Pinsent: Nothing to do with real life? ‘Belonging’ in a fantasy world

Pat Pinsent is a Senior Research Fellow at Roehampton University, specialising in Children’s Literature, the subject matter of most of her fifteen books. Her main research interests lie in the diverse ways in which children’s literature is currently developing, and the relationship between it and spirituality/religion. She also edits a Christian feminist journal.



Parallel Session E.

Michele Gill: ‘Out, but not so proud?’ The representation of gay boyhoods in contemporary British YA fictions

Michele Gill works for The Open University in London, teaching Children’s Literature and Childhood. She is currently researching the representations of boyhood in popular culture in the UK since the beginning of the new millennium, which develops and expands on her PhD thesis. Other research interests include the mediation of teenage prostitution in Western cultures and the changing nature of the boy band as social commentary. Michele was one of the three co-founders of ‘The Child and the Book’, now an annual, international conference, intended to act as a platform for PhD children’s literature students to share their research and build academic networks.

Jennifer Smith: The Ultimate Outsider. The Misfit Persona of Protagonists in Popular Young Adult Fiction


Jennifer Smith is a PhD student at Aberystwyth University, researching the information behaviour of authors of children’s and young adult literature. She graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a B.S in Management Information Systems, followed later by an MBA. In 2012, she completed her MScEcon in Information Studies at Aberystwyth University.





Parallel Session G.

Marian Devons: Do modern Gypsy children find a place where they ‘belong’ in children’s literature?

Marian Devons is a primary school class teacher with more than 20 years’ experience, and 12 years’ experience of running the school library. In many of her schools, there has been a significant minority of children with Gypsy Traveller background. Whilst studying for her MA in Children’s Literature at Roehampton (2000-2004) she wrote her dissertation on the Representation of Gypsies in Children’s Literature. Copies of her dissertation have since been requested and read by members of Traveller Education Services across the UK, in the search for books with positive images of Gypsies and other Travellers, outside the valuable but not easily accessible area of the Services’ own books.

Anne Malewski: Tove Jansson. Age & belonging

Anne Malewski is working towards a PhD on shifting age boundaries in children’s literature. She received her MA in British Studies from the University of Leipzig, Germany, in 2012. From 2006 to 2012, she studied at the University of Leipzig, Södertörn University in Stockholm, Sweden, and the University of Roehampton, London. She is curious about children’s culture, identity constructions, Antarctica, illustration and creative writing.



Parallel Session H.

Anthony Robinson: Belonging: how can we reconcile the human need to belong with the responsibility of including others? Can books affect children’s perceptions of the ‘other’?

Anthony Robinson is a full-time writer of books for children, and a former teacher. He was born in Australia, but now lives in Cambridge, UK, when not travelling for his writing.

The main focus of his attention at the moment is writing that gives a voice to the voiceless, particularly children. This was the driver for the Refugee Diaries series (2008-2010, Frances Lincoln publishers) and Street Children (June, 2014, Frances Lincoln). Gervelie’s Journey was one of USBBY’s International Books of 2009, and Scholastic Best Books 2008, and Street Children has a five star review in the current issue of Books for Keeps. Challenging stereotypes is also the aim behind his next joint project, Young Palestinians Speak (forthcoming, 2015, Interlink publishers).

Karen Argent: Families of prisoners in children’s literature

Karen Argent has been a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education and Care (BA Hons.) at Newman University since 2001. As part of her teaching, she is module leader for Children’s Literature modules on two different undergraduate programmes. Prior to this, she taught in a wide range of educational settings including special, nursery and primary schools. She has also worked in the voluntary sector as an Inclusion Worker on one of the first Sure Start Programmes.  Her doctoral research relates to how practitioners choose picture books with a disability related theme to use in nursery schools. Other related research interests include: the importance of children’s literature; exploring constructions of childhood; socially excluded groups; disability awareness; children’s rights and working with families of prisoners.



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