Thursday, July 05, 2012

francais au bord des grands lacs*: 1e jour

Mme Ann Sunderland, President of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF), peering at my name badge at the exhibit hall opening reception: Have we met?  Your name sounds so familiar to me!
Me: No, I don't believe so, but I certainly recognize your name.  It's nice to meet you.
Mme Sunderland: Oh, I know!  You're from the library.  We sure don't get many librarians at this conference!
Me, to myself: And I bet that when you do, they haven't dragged their whole family along.  6:00 already? Oh, I'd better chug this wine--it's time to go feed Gwyneth!

Oui, here I am attending my first teachers' conference in a year and a half, the first national one since before Griffin was born (I'm not counting ACTFL in Denver in November, where I put in an appearance for an hour to give a last-minute presentation and then left without seeing anything else).

Since we spend Fourth of July with my extended family every year in Wisconsin, when I learned that the AATF convention would be in Chicago this year, I talked my husband into concluding our trip with a couple of days in the Windy City.  "You can take the kids to museums!  The hotel pool!  Chicago-style pizzerias!  Chicago-style, um, hot-dog-erias!  It would be sooooo helpful for my French and my efforts to teach it to our children if I could spend a few days speaking French with other grown-ups--and a whole lot easier and cheaper than taking the family to Europe!  Or even Quebec!"
After I promised not to fill up an entire suitcase with purchases from the exhibits hall, we decided to fly from Denver to Chicago, rent a car, drive to Green Bay, spend the week with my parents, and then return to Chicago, where we are now after a challenging day traveling with two little ones.

While I ended up missing the sessions this afternoon, I so enjoyed roaming the exhibits hall this evening, glass of wine in hand, looking at materials that I never even knew existed, like a board game reminiscent of Chutes and Ladders but set in Paris.  (Links to come later.)

And to my surprise (and perhaps Mme Sunderland's), I ended up meeting a man who works at a library in Queens (New York City) who is in charge of their programming for immigrants and acquisitions (purchases) in 30 languages!  Turns out that his library even offers a Reading Buddies program similar to the one I coordinate back home.

We're probably the only two library employees here, though.

I did like being able to tell people that I helped create and run our library's first French storytime!  The approval-from-strangers rate is quite high at a French teachers' conference.

I will also mention that it was a relief to be able to walk past the booths selling middle and high school textbooks or study abroad and class trips programs, things that I simply don't need to know about any more.

Vendor 1: Excuse me!  What level do you teach?
Moi: Preschoolers.  Do you have any materials for children who don't read yet?
Vendor 1: Quoi? Non!

Vendor 2: Excuse me!  Are you interested in taking your students to Morocco?
Moi: Oui!
Vendor 2: Fantastique!
Moi: Do you have programs for preschoolers?
Vendor 2: Quoi? Non!

I got a few funny looks, but it's more efficient not to have to engage in small talk and then walk away with brochures that I end up toting home from the conference since there's never a place to recyle paper at hotels.

Tomorrow morning: my presentation, Francais a la maison!

*The conference theme is "French on the shores of the Great Lakes": we're in Chicago on Lake Michigan.  I'll post about the second and third days when I get a chance to catch my breath and catch up on work now that we're back home.


  1. Looking forward to finding out how your presentation went!
    I wish your site had been here when I was homeschooling my youngest two in French before we came out here. It's such an inspriation.

    1. Thank you, Steph! I'm having fun reading your blog (meteorites in France--who knew?!).

      The presentation went well and I'll write about it when I recover from the trip and get caught up at work....

  2. I am working with preschoolers and primary school children in Haiti and would like to find sites (other than Amazon) offering bilingual books in French-English or French books identical to the English version--such as the French version paralleling The Cat in the Hat. Need to order in quantity so must be reasonably priced.

    1. Hi Sara--Scholastic is a company that distributes inexpensive children's books exclusively for schools and libraries; while I doubt that Scholastic in the US has French or bilingual books, I know that their Canadian branch does.

      Do the schools you're providing books to have computers with internet access? If so, there are quite a few free websites featuring books for kids in French, some with narration and/or interactive components:

      Bonne chance! The work you're doing is so important.

    2. Oh, and Barefoot Books has some cute, easy bilingual books about a Bear in various places. They might offer a bulk discount, especially your nonprofit educational organization.

  3. Sarah,

    I am in the process of publishing Bilingual Baby Books.
    The series of baby books will be available in French, Italian and Spainish. These books offer simple words and phrases in a 2nd language alongside vibrant illustrations for children 0-4 yrs old. It is a great way for parents to introduce a 2nd language to their child and learn the language as well. GREAT FOR PRESCHOOL!!!!

    I was wondering if you would be interested in doing a bilingual baby book review of my books on your blog?