I'm quite excited. I have long wanted to do a book club at the school with kids. I mulled over doing it as a parent-child book club, and just doing it with kids. To keep away from adding more to our already crazy evenings I decided I'd offer to do it at lunch time, and if some parents can come, then great. And if not, that's okay too. I'll be partnering with a teacher to work on this. I'm really excited about it!
The principal sent an email asking how I'd respond to someone that might complain that we're doing English books rather than French - since it's a French Immersion program. I've thought about that a lot actually. Here's what I would respond. I told the principal to feel free to forward my email on to any parent that might be concerned.
One of the books we're going to give as a suggestion actually has quite a bit of French influence in it. It's set in Paris. The other two don't. We didn't pick The Invention of Hugo Cabret because of the French....it's just a great book that I think kids will love that happens to have some French influence in it. Really, that's neither here nor there...just interesting.
Here's the reasoning I've had go through my head:
1. This is an extra curricular activity. Participation is not required by anyone. While we'd like to think our kids all speak French out on the playground or in the lunchroom, I know they don't. And this will be a lunch time activity. The nice thing about this is that kids will volunteer to attend, they'll provide the meat of the discussions, and they'll choose the books. My experience has always been that learning is improved when it is more self-directed - and this will be a great opportunity for that.
2. The club was initiated by a parent. Since French Immersion is desiganed to accomodate families where the parents don't necessarily speak French.....them's the breaks. Simply due to the area we live in it's difficult to maintain a total French environment for Highwood. We have plenty of employees in the school that don't speak French. However, if a French-speaking parent wanted to participate I'd be happy to share the opportunity and work together. It would be fun actually!
I'm simply a parent that loves kids books, and enjoyes discussing them with kids, and really sees the value in helping kids love reading. Our world is quickly evolving and it's becoming more and more apparent that in order to keep up one must really have the ability to learn. Reading is key to learning about everything from new technology, health problems, consumer protection, science, or the arts, and on to research required to write dissertations....it all depends on the ability to read, digest the information and discuss it. A book club is a great opportunity to get experience climbing up Bloom's taxonomy to higher orders of thinking. And the more children read the better they will become at reading. It's just as simple as that.
3. English and French reading skills are very transferable. Kids benefit by reading in any language and doesn't everyone want their kid to love reading? We're just trying to foster a love of reading.
There's research to show that the skills are very transferable. Metalinguistic awareness (the general sensitivity to language and especially to its decoding) can be acquired regardless of which languages one is exposed to. Education in French gives children a greater metalinguistic awareness. A study by Dr Ellen Bialystok (a researcher at York University who studies bilingualism and the effect of cognitive development on children...see http://www.yorku.ca/coglab/) found that bilingual children demonstrated "the potential for transfer of reading principles across the languages." In other words, bilingual children are able to take methods or insights they have gained while learning one language and apply them directly to the other, without having to recreate the process from the beginning.
My own children have demonstrated this. Neither were taught to read in English yet somehow, by learning to read in French, they "magically" were able to read in English as well.
That's probably more than any parent will want/expect though. :0) But I appreciated the opportunity to reason it all through my mind. It's unlikely that a parent would argue the benefits of helping children learn to love reading. We'll see. The notice goes home this week!