• The Difficulty with French Books

    Our blog post today is from Twice Upon a Time volunteer Stéphanie Plante. Enjoy!

    Anyone who knows me knows I love books. Fiction, non-fiction, audiobooks, textbooks and even cookbooks adorn practically every shelf, side-table and cupboard in my house and at work. I have lost my voice reading aloud and my Instagram feed has an alert for #bookaddict. I love books so much that my son and I did a project in 2017 where we took books out at every single Ottawa Public Library (OPL) in 2017 and we would then tweet to our City counsellor as to what we liked, disliked and any special features or characteristics about each branch. Needless to say, we had a blast!

    That being said, as a francophone, it has been an uphill battle to show my son that you can access just as many great books in French as in English. The following is just a few realizations that we’ve encountered while being nomadic bookworms:

    • At Chapters, French Harry Potter books are over twice as expensive as English Harry Potter books.
    • The French audiobook selection for both kids and adults at both the OPL and Audible is 1/3 of that you find for Anglophones.
    • There are currently 4 libraries in Ottawa that do not carry French books for children (Carp, Constance Bay, Vernon and Metcalf) and many branches had old, tattered books to choose from. It was a struggle to explain to my then 7-year old why kids at the Beaverbrook branch can have the full Geronimo Stilton series in English and not in French.
    • If you want a good selection of French books in a French environment, you have only two stores in all of Ottawa that can accommodate both adults and kids. There are over 20 English book stores, which include big box chains, used and independent in Ottawa.
    • Ever browse the book selection at Costco and wonder where the French books are? Yea, me too.

    This is why I decided to join Twice Upon a Time and work to increase the French books offerings for kids. French children’s books have a rich history, especially in comic book format. TinTin, Boule et Bill, Astérix, Zig et Puce, Titeuf, Agent Jean, Super Chien, and Nouvelle Partie are all part of a great ‘Bande Dessiné’ tradition and it is a thrill to watch a my son’s generation enjoy them as much as I did. Given the realities and constraints faced by francophones living in a ‘bilingual’ (* cough *) City, and given the scary childhood poverty statistics in Canada’s capital, ensuring that our most vulnerable and linguistically marginalized can have access to free books in French was a cause I care deeply about and will promote to anyone who will listen (sorry, coworkers).

    Do you have some barely read French books you want to pass on? Is your class brimming with books that your students don’t read anymore? Get in touch! I will personally come over and pick them up, make sure they meet Twice Upon a Time’s criteria, and then lovingly passed along on to some deserving and happy kids at one of our many pop up locations across Ottawa. If you, like me, love seeing kids in front of pages instead of screens, than please go forth and donate. Every little bit helps and for the francophones, it will be appreciated more than you’ll ever realise.

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