Skip to content

How to write inclusive materials: review

The cover of How to write inclusive materials by Tyson Seburn

It has been remiss of me not to write about this book since its publication last year. Tyson Seburn, the contributors and the ELT Teacher 2 Writer team have made what I believe is an essential book going forward in the ELT industry – and thank you for the shout out in the acknowledgements!

As well as the usual and much-needed practical advice and exercises (which I’ve come to expect and is a key point for the ELTT2W series), what stands out for me is the sheer volume of resources linked in the book. Each facet of representation mentioned in the book is accompanied by a good selection of external resources for the reader to choose at their own speed and leisure. The reader will be able to see resources listed at the end of each section, and then also at the end of the book with a collection of important resources to check. I think what is key here is the list of resources for image websites.

I think the other key strength of this book is the manner in which it is written – whether this was done automatically or encouraged, it is clearly something that draws the reader in. Tyson is extremely honest and open about his experiences growing up and what it felt like to be ‘outside the norm’. One section struck me particularly, when he is describing growing up gay without any real role models:

Even though I knew I wasn’t like those examples, there were no examples of who I was, how I felt, or examples of the kind of person I might become. No matter which way I went, the only choice appeared to be to act like someone I was not.

This is why it is so important for people from marginalised groups to speak up and speak out about their experiences, and this is something I aim to do in my blog posts. Tyson’s story, as well as those of Amanda Hawthorne and Zarina Subhan demonstrate how our students may feel about not being ‘seen’ or represented in the materials we produce. As he mentions, the lack of representation often happens when writers don’t acknowledge, or aren’t aware of, their own identity.

What I also like about the book (to be honest, I like everything about the book!) is that it doesn’t speak in a preachy way – it’s more like a journey of discovery, but it’s also clear that it is up to each of us to inform ourselves about marginalised groups we don’t belong to. As Tyson writes, it’s not the ‘job of people of different colours, people of ability differences, LGBTQIA people, or any marginalized group to teach us about themselves unless of course that is the profession they have chosen.’ He then goes on to showcase some ways in which we can inform ourselves. I think it’s very clear and simple to follow.

I also like the way the book approaches usualisation and disruption – I’m not going to go into detail here, you’ll have to get the book to find out – but I have to agree with Tyson on his points on these two approaches. These approaches are discussed towards the end of the book but the discussion is necessary.

We can’t stop at the end of this book – this is just a beginning.

Tyson’s paragraph on demands is probably the most powerful call to arms I’ve seen and if it doesn’t galvanise anyone, then there’s something wrong. A must-have book for any ELT professional who wants to help change the future of the industry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *