Friday, March 11, 2011

storytime: ah, l'amour

French storytime at the Lafayette Public Library continues to be great fun to attend as well as to organize! I was out of town during the bug-themed storytime (our seventh one so far), so I can't tell you much about that one, but native-speaker maman Brigitte and I co-led the session around Valentine's Day. In honor of the holiday, we picked books and songs about love.

We started with a puppet show about the nature of love--yes, that may sound very philosophical and very French, but the text came straight out of a children's magazine called Pomme d'api which always has a comic-strip-inspired discussion among animals about an abstract topic. This one wasn't too intense, since the animals were debating whether or not you could say you "love" your favorite cheese (yes, very French!) the way you love your parents or other people. Brigitte and I used the library's animal puppets and little puppet theatre to act out the conversation, and we also asked the kids whom they loved.

The books we featured included this gorgeously illustrated tome about fathers and their children all over the world, J'aime mon papa by Marie-Pierre Emorine and Karine Quesada:

"I love my daddy when all of a sudden he becomes a musician. Cradled by the notes, I am so comfortable." (The text rhymes in French--it's lovely!)

"I love my daddy when I snuggle up beside him, I'm not afraid of the night."

We also looked at friendship via the very short paperback Petit Ours Brun se fait un copain, starring the popular "Little Brown Bear" from the children's magazines Popi and Pomme d'api, in which he makes a new friend at the lake when they share their toys.

"Little Brown Bear asks him, 'Do you want to be my pal?'"

Our third storybook is a translation of I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rosetti-Shustak, which is rendered Je t'aime de la tete aux pieds in French. Here the original rhyming text also rhymes in French, which always appeals to young listeners. Told in the voice of a parent and illustrated with whimsical drawings, the story shows us what is so loveable about toddlers. (My translations that follow are of the French text, which does not always follow exactly the original English, perhaps to make the French text rhyme and rhythm work.)

"I love the crazy little things you do and your angry moments."

"I love you when you're teasing and when you're sad."

We alternated the stories with the following songs:
We wrote the lyrics for the first two, plus our traditional opening and closing songs, on the white board in the storytime room. But we had figured that the last song, about losing one's lover, had too many verses to expect the little kids to actually sing this one (the Francophone moms we had consulted confessed to not knowing all the verses themselves).

So instead of doing it as a sing-along, we played the song on a CD and invited the children to dance along. We gave different directions for each verse. For example, with the line "Sur la plus haute branche un rossignol chantait" (on the highest branch a nightingale sang), we told them to flap their arms and fly around the room like a bird. (Thank you to Griffin's French teacher Veronique for this idea!) An added benefit of this activity is it provided the kids with a chance to get their wiggles out halfway through the storytime.

Griffin, as usual, seemed to enjoy the storytime, and of course I love that he hears me and some native speakers of French reading to a group of kids who react and interact in French!

New to this blog? Read about our French storytime history here:

And see my annotated list of other children's books about family and friends in French here!


  1. Another great story time! Those books seemed like great choices and the songs, too! (Our second language is spanish, but I taught my almost 2yr old to say, Bonjour, the other is sooo cute!)

  2. I just stumbled on to your blog, and from what I see, I'll be coming back a lot!
    I love this idea of a story hour. I was thinking about trying to start something similar in German (my 2nd language), but wasn't quite sure how to go about it. The library is an obvious place to go, but it hadn't occurred to me :) I let go of the idea, but after reading your blog, I'm inspired! I'm going to have to pursue it further. Thanks!! (Merci? I'll just say "danke" :)

  3. Sarah, I too, like Kate, am inspired by the idea of starting a German story-time at our local library. Thank you for sharing this! Do you have a overview of your plan that you go by each week? (# of books, songs, puppet shows, etc). Do you think I could just start with reading and then increase it over time to include puppet shows and the like? Actually, I suppose it would be a lot better and pull a bigger draw if we had songs in there, too...hmmm. I think I'll call right now to inquire...

  4. @Medina family--Thanks! Griffin has been learning a tiny bit of Spanish, too.

    @Kate--Welcome! I hope your library is receptive to the idea of a German storytime. Try to find a helper--it is a lot of work otherwise (or maybe it just feels that way to me as a non-native speaker of the storytime language).

    @Tamara--Good luck! Any chance you and Kate live close enough to plan a German storytime together?

    Our general structure for storytime is something like this:

    --The same song to open each time
    --Four books or so
    --Alternate each book with a song, nursery rhyme, or fingerplay
    --Try to include one song that has actions or dance moves so that the children have to get up and move around
    --End with the same closing song each time

    We've only done puppet shows twice; once we also had coloring pages, and once we had crepes for the kids (last week when we did a "food" theme--I haven't blogged about that one yet).

    I do recommend doing songs, both because they're a great language learning tool and because not many young children can sit still in a group and listen to one story after another.

    Good luck!