After a visit to Haiti to donate books, a French professor at a college in Ashton, Virginia started a program to create custom-made children’s books together with her French-language students. The professor and her students are aiming to provide an underprivileged school in Haiti with about 90 books, which were written by her elementary-level college French class students and drawn in bright colors by student illustrators. The entire French-language class joined hands to provide the young Haitian students with the resources to excel.
Creole is the language that many residents in Haiti speak at home. However, in school, the medium of instruction is French, which is also used in official documents. In order for the students to advance in school they are required to know French.
Led by Professor Jennifer Shotwell, the Little French Books project provided her students with the chance to use the French language that they are learning. It is an entirely new experience since both groups are learning the language. The college students learned to express themselves in another language by creating entertaining stories for the books. The books included stories about fun adventures, dinosaurs and princesses, which are subjects that are universally liked by children.
The project came about after Professor Shotwell and a group of French language students visited Haiti in 2013 to donate books and sponsor a Haitian student.
The professor had sent French books last year. But the books were not printed in high quality paper therefore they did not last long after repeated use. Now she started a Kickstarter campaign to gather the funds so that the books could be printed on quality paper with hard covers to make them last longer. She told the story of how the project came about and the difference it will make in the education, not only of her students, but also the young schoolchildren in Haiti in the fund-raising campaign. Donors responded positively and she exceeded her target by more than $1,000.
School in Haiti
The recipient of the finished children’s books that had been delivered last June, is the St. Gabriel’s School. It is located in Lascahobas, a commune in Haiti’s central plateau. There are 600 students in the school, and they were very excited to receive the books that were especially created for them. Before these books arrived, the shelves in the school library were almost empty of books.
The students were finding it difficult to learn the French language because they have very little access to books written in French considering that they have to learn the language to take the national examinations so that they could advance to a higher grade level, which is major problem because the exams are given in French.
Now the students at St. Gabriel’s are inspired and eager to read the stories that were especially written for them and thank the professor and her students at the end of each school day.
The Little French Books project is ongoing and donations are still accepted.