As your child starts school, French language learning can feel daunting if it’s not a language spoken regularly at home. The library has plenty of resources available for children under the age of four, and you can read about them here. But we have many resources to help support and encourage your child’s language learning as they move through school – remember that learning is much easier if it feels like fun!
Tumblebooks / Tumble Biblioenfants is a fantastic resource for both pre-literate children and independent readers. There are many picture book options as well as novels for older children. The page is displayed and read aloud by a reader and, crucially, the text lights up as it’s read. This is great for pre-literacy and helpful for French language learning as well. Just make sure you change the page settings to French!
Toutapprendre is a database that has tons of online courses — including things like yoga — in French. Some of it will be geared for adults or older children but there's is a "jeunesse" section as well as some other things for kids that are a bit buried (example: there's a subsection for kids in the music section).
Curio.ca has educational videos in both French and English. If you switch the language to French, you’ll see the French offerings. There are little animated math videos in French, for example.
Note: if you are watching videos with your child, use closed-captioning in French. This will help with literacy (for pre-literate children) and with comprehension for older children.
Magazines are a great way to encourage French reading. They can be read in small segments and they’re bright and shiny and glossy. We have magazines for the very young (for example, Pomme d’api Québec), for those slightly older (for example, les Explorateurs) as well as for tweens (for example, Les Debrouillards) and teens. Of particular note for younger children is Les Belles Histoires, which includes an audio CD of the magazine so that you and your child and follow along with the narrator.
Audiobooks can be difficult for second-language learners because they have no visual cues (via either the written or body language) but if you and your child are confident speakers then the library has both physical and digital audiobooks for your enjoyment.
- Cloud Library has a good assortment of digital audiobooks in French:
- You can also search the library catalogue for audiobooks in French. Choose the Advanced Search option and limit the language to French, the format to Audiobook CD and the audience to Children.
The Ottawa Public library has a fantastic French e-book collection through Cantook Station. With e-books you and your child can read French-language books in whatever font you like and you can use built-in dictionaries to look up words without interrupting the flow of reading. The offerings on Cantook include graphic novels, picture books and non-fiction (the Savais-tu series, for example, is a very appealing non-fiction option). You can also just search by your child’s age and you’ll be almost certain to find something that fits the bill.
Of course, we also have a huge collection of physical books in French. Motivation is key, so if you can follow your child’s interests that is best. Try to choose books that appeal to your child, whether those be fiction or non-fiction, standard novels or graphic novels / comics.
- For Kindergarteners, look for picture books that have simple, repeated refrains. The Pat le Chat series is a great example of this. You can also choose books that they have already read in English. The OPL catalogue has a ton of titles that are available in both languages. Finding them is as easy as searching for your child’s favourite author and then limiting your search results to French. Try to keep your selections fun and funny, if you can.
- For newer and less confident readers, we have Premières Lectures, which are leveled series.
- For older children, series are a great option as well – your child doesn’t have to spend time getting to know new characters each time and the books tend to be structured in a similar way every time. One of my favourite series is La Cabane Magique. The books are short, they’re action-packed and they’re educational – in a fun way.
- Don’t forget nonfiction! If your child has a particular interest in bugs, dinosaurs, machines, horses, dogs – try encouraging them to read about their favourite subject in French.
- For children whose interests outstrip their reading level, we have fantastic graphic novels available in French. Notably popular series are: Super chien, anything by Raina Telgemeier, Lucie et sa licorne, L’agent Jean, Les légendaires...
NOTE often the wait times are shorter for the French versions of things. This can be a motivating factor for your child if they are for the latest Raina Telegemaier or The Land of Stories.
Of course, the OPL also provides supports for younger children who are learning French as a Second Language -- as well as for adults who are working to maintain or improve their levels. You can check out a blog post about those resources here.