Keynote Speakers

Francesca Sanna: On the relationship between pictures and text: a love letter to picture books

One of the most important elements of a picture book is its relationship between text and illustrations. But how is the interaction between these two elements usually structured during the creation process? What comes first, the written story or the storytelling through pictures? Why are picture books often labeled as children’s books? And are we sure that children’s books are only for children? Francesca Sanna reflects about the relationship between text and images in her books and about her love for illustrated stories.

Francesca Sanna is an illustrator and picture book author, whose books include Me and My Fear and Move Mr Mountain. She is a recipient of the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal, an Ezra Jack Keats New Writer and Illustrator Honor, the Parent’s Choice Awards Gold Medal and an Amnesty CILIP Kate Greenaway Honour, among others. Francesca grew up in Sardinia and is currently based in Zurich, Switzerland. Find out more about her at

Michael Byram: Teachers’ responsibilities in Intercultural Citizenship Education

After a brief statement of my understanding of intercultural citizenship education (ICit Ed) – which corresponds very much with that evident on the ICEPELL website – I will raise and attempt to address some ethical questions which arise for teachers who engage in such education.

ICit Ed often involves teachers encouraging, perhaps even requiring, their learners to engage in activities and social actions outside the walls of the classroom, and of the school. There are obvious safety issues here and the need for consent from learners or their caregivers, but there are also questions about the nature of the educational experience they create for their learners, and the responsibilities they accept, consciously or not, when doing so. These are ethical questions which are not unknown to teachers of other subjects and of citizenship education in particular, but they are much less familiar to language teachers. Furthermore, those questions take a particular form when learners are legally minors and even more so when they are very young, of the age which ICEPELL is concerned with. I will attempt to clarify these issues and discuss how teachers might address them.

Michael Byram is Professor Emeritus at Durham University (UK) and Guest Research Professor at Sofia University, Bulgaria. He studied Languages at King’s College, Cambridge, including a PhD in Danish literature, and then taught French and German in secondary and adult education. From 1980, at Durham University, he was involved in teacher training and research on languages and education. His monographs include From Foreign Language Education to Education for Intercultural Citizenship (2008). He was Adviser to the Council of Europe Language Policy Division and a member of the working group which produced the Council of Europe’s Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture.

Nicola Davies: Writing about big things for little people 

Parents and teachers are often reluctant to open conversations about the many challenges that human beings face, such as grief, disability, war and climate change. Publishers similarly are wary of publishing titles that deal with what they perceive to be difficult topics. But I would argue that this is very good territory for picture books  and that one of the primary roles of children’s literature is to provide children with information about everything and anything, and to offer opportunities to rehearse difficult emotional responses to life vicissitudes in a safe setting. 

Nicola Davies trained as a zoologist and studied whales and bats in the wild. She is the author of more than 80 books for children, in including poetry, fiction, non-fiction and many picture books. She lives near the sea in the west of Wales.

Barroux: A conversation about picturebooks

In this interactive question – answer session, Barroux will share some excerpts from his sketchbooks and some entertaining stories about the origins of his ideas and his creative process.

Barroux was born in Paris and raised in Morocco and has a passion for travel and exploring other cultures. It’s no surprise that he approaches each new book he is illustrating as if it’s the beginning of an adventure. Barroux publishes in French and English and has created over 40 picturebooks as author illustrator and illustrated many, many more. He strives to create unusual artwork and tries to surprise the child that’s inside him. Despite all of the countries and faraway lands he’s explored, Barroux still believes that life in books, where dogs can fly and trees are blue, is more extraordinary.

Warming the ICE: How reading picturebooks aloud  ‘incites the learning’

Over 2,000 years ago Greek philosopher Strabo wrote: the pleasure [of stories] acts as a charm to incite the learning – and he’s still right!  In this keynote from an enthusiastic storyteller who has worked in over thirty countries, Alec Williams reminds us why stories are so valuable, which ones to choose, and how to magnify their magic.  A long-time advocate of reading for pleasure, Alec will also show how learning can be both direct and ‘by stealth’, as children explore picturebooks with a teacher, and reflect on them afterwards.

This lively and entertaining session includes practical tips about using picturebooks; making them interactive; and holding children’s interest.  There’ll be examples throughout, from the ICEPELL booklist and Alec’s other favourites, for the 5-12 age range.  There’ll also be anecdotes, extracts – and humour, from a storyteller whose audience reactions range from ‘you put smiles on our faces’ to ‘he was epicness on a stick’!

Whatever the messages they contain, the magic of picturebooks as a medium is in their enjoyment, by children and teachers alike.  This final session will remind us of that, as well as recharging your batteries and building your confidence as picturebook storytellers!

Alec Williams is a speaker, trainer and storyteller.  An enthusiast for children’s reading, his UK libraries career has given him an extensive knowledge of children’s books, and the power of stories. He has spoken to conferences and appeared on radio and television.  His writing includes this recent free download, Get Everyone Reading!, and he gives talks and courses to teachers, librarians, and others on children’s reading, libraries and stories.

Alec tells stories to pre-school children up to adult audiences.  His repertoire includes traditional stories, poetry and contemporary books, and he’s worked in 30 countries, from Argentina to Vietnam.  Find out more at