Author, researcher and international trainer, Sabira Stahlberg, PhD, has written over twenty Easy to Read books and dozens of academic, popular science and fiction works.
In 2001, Sabira’s first Easy to Read book Miranda was published, followed by many innovative and pedagogical Easy books on various topics, from climate change to artificial intelligence. What inspires an academic and fiction author to write Easy to Read books?
Sabira: In the beginning I was intrigued how an Easy language book is created, what processes happen in my brain and how readers perceive what I have written. Easy to Read texts can be understood in various ways, depending on the reader.
Then I became interested in the challenge to write about complex and difficult matters comprehensibly. In my scientific texts I explain with many and difficult words. When I write Easy texts, I have to compress and process the information in another way.
This requires that I have to go deep and really understand what I write about. Often the subject is far from my own cultural and language research topics. For instance physics, chemistry, ecology and technology can take many months of reading, experiments and research, before I feel I have gained enough knowledge and understanding.
How does creating an Easy book differ from other books?
Sabira: The writing process is fairly similar. I read, think and write for days, weeks, months. The difference is that I use shorter lines and easier words in Easy to Read texts. My first books needed more editing, but now I can write directly in Easy language.
For Easy books I do not need to think so much about describing places or persons. I can concentrate on the story and events. They must be exciting and at the same time provide information. Descriptions are concise and clear. Everything in an Easy text should give just as much explanation as is needed to awaken the reader’s thoughts and imagination.
Important is that the book encourages to read. It should always be readable and appealing for different kinds of readers of all age groups. Therefore I work a lot on creating texts that have several story levels, to make the book more exciting.
How do readers react?
Sabira: Every book goes through quite a long process after I have written the manuscript. The study technique teacherand illustrator Maria Viitasalo and other teachers check the pedagogical aspects. The text is also read by test groups, consisting of readers from various age groups and with different needs. They comment and give their views, which I take into account.
After that I edit the text several times and often rewrite parts of it until it feels right. Before going to print, the translator Marianne Stahlberg and I translate the book from Swedish to English. Translation has proved to be an effective way to find errors in the text.
I receive regular feedback from readers and teachers. My main observation is that each reader or group experiences the books in their individual way. The same book can cause very different reactions and meet various demands and interests. My goal is to write books which can be read by all, or at least by most people.
Pedagogical Easy to Read books: Villa Bokpil
Materials and tasks: Edu Bokpil
The project LäsLätt (‘ReadEasy’) 2020 for increasing and distributing information about Easy to Read is realised by Bokpil and Colorit ry.rf. and supported by The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland.