Last summer, I "met" another Sarah who grew up in Denver, Colorado--not far from where we live--when she emailed me to say that as a longtime reader of my blog and now a permanent resident of Paris (complete with French husband and cute little boy), she would be happy to bring us some books from France during her upcoming trip to Colorado!!!
She even asked what we needed, which meant that we now have lots of nonfiction books in French--I had realized that as Griffin turned from a toddler into a preschooler, his incessant "why"s were getting harder and harder for me to answer in French. I mean, it's already a challenge to explain cavemen, cavities, and chemistry to a four-year-old in your native language--try doing it in your somewhat rusty French--especially when you've never before had to discuss such topics in French! (Yeah, for some reason, when I was living in France in my early twenties, it never occurred to me to remind my friends of the importance of brushing their teeth; nor when I was teaching first- and second-year French classes at the university did I ever have to explain why Pluto is no longer considered a planet.)
Note to self: You really need to do more recreational reading in French. Yes, you. You know that's the best way to acquire new vocabulary and structures!
Anyway, in September, Sarah brought me a whole suitcase of books for Griffin and Gwyneth, and I am so incredibly grateful.
|just a fraction of the bounty from France!
And oh, was that ever fun for me! I ruled out the classics like Goodnight Moon and Green Eggs and Ham, figuring that it was likely that they had a lot of those already, in favor of picture books that are perhaps less well known but still very, very good. I bought mostly paperbacks (since she'd have to schlep them all back to France in the suitcase she had emptied for me) storybooks (since her son is a toddler) in good condition (since I had first dibs at the ones for sale), plus some that dealt with elements of American culture (like Thanksgiving and Colorado).
I loved our book exchange, and ever since we met last year, I have continued to collect wonderful books for her little boy! Now that my son is in preschool, we do the Scholastic Book Club (you know, where you order inexpensive editions of good children's books which are delivered directly to the classroom), and each order we make has a book or two for our new friends in Paris. Those, plus the used books and CDs that I have been finding and setting aside for them, will hopefully mean that he'll always have a good story in English at his fingertips.
Thank you so very, very much, Sarah!
I heartily encourage the rest of you to set up similar book exchanges to supplement your family's minority language book collection--perhaps through discussion forums on well-established websites like Multilingual Living or newer ones like Non-native Speaking Parents, or via contacts you make on a listserv for parents or teachers? Please share your ideas here!
*Yes, this wondrous event took place in September 2012, and I'm just now getting around to writing about it in March 2013.