An Interview with Holly Pike
Holly Pike is a primary teacher, in her sixth year of teaching and fifth year at École Oceanside Elementary School. She is currently teaching French Immersion at the grade 2/3 level. She currently resides in Parksville on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Holly loves to try new recipes, read and be a part of a book club, and enjoys painting and calligraphy!
What is a “French Immersion literary classroom and home”?
The difference between a literary and non-literary classroom and home is the value we place on literacy. If children see literacy being truly valued and appreciated as a not only a skill but as an enjoyable activity, they will be that much more likely to be a reader. Getting lost in a good book is something we do less and less frequently as we move through these very technology-focused times. Reading is not something that should have to compete with technology, after-school activities or family time. We never want reading to seem like a punishment or a job to do before moving along to something else. A true literary home or classroom celebrates reading as its own independent activity with its own benefits.
How do you create a French Immersion literary classroom suitable for your French Immersion students?
I focus on creating a safe space in my classroom for students where they feel like they can take risks. Speaking French with peers can be intimidating and students will feel reluctant to speak and read if they do not feel comfortable with their peers, their teacher and their environment. I love reading to my students so that they are given the opportunity to sit back and listen without the pressure of sounding out their own words. It reinforces the idea that reading can be fun as well as something that everyone can access.
Can you tell us a bit about how to create a French Immersion literary home suitable for French Immersion students?
One of the most important things is to have a learning spirit and an open attitude. Many parents say that they are unable to help because they cannot speak French. While this may be a barrier to helping in intermediate grades, there is a lot of support that a non-French speaking parent can offer to their child in the primary grades. Be open to learning with your children. Start with them in kindergarten. Kindergarteners acquire so much learning in the span of a year so rather than watching them learn, learn alongside them! Easy ways to do this include looking for patterns in books, finding the vowel combination sounds and learning what they say, looking up new words together as a team and asking comprehension questions. Additionally, let your child correct you as you learn with them. It can help boost their confidence in a big way and students love to see their parents getting involved and setting a good example by taking risks in French!
While there are obvious reasons for our children to be literate, what benefits do you think children get from having a literary home?
Being literate in one or more languages leads to so many benefits. There is a direct correlation between the amount we read and the amount of words in our vocabularies. A strong vocabulary enables students to be better communicators and form stronger relationships with others. In addition to allowing students to express themselves, literacy also builds self-confidence in children. It can help them develop a sense of pride in their learning. Literacy also prepares students for their future. No matter what path they choose in life, literacy will play a key role in their learning, leading to opportunities and opening up doors wherever life might take them.
What are some strategies you have found effective for kids who are reluctant to read anything?
Create a culture of readers in your home where every member of the family spends half an hour reading for fun. When children see their parents reading, they are more likely to pick up a book. Take turns between reading to them, reading with them, and having them read to you. Do not be afraid to use technology. It can be a great tool and there are some incredible apps to both teach and encourage students to read and read more frequently. It is also important not to push children outside of their comfort zone. There exists a certain reading readiness in students. Progress is built on a strong foundation. Ensure that reading is enjoyable and find that balance between books that children can read independently and books that present a bit of a challenge. Sometimes children just need to find that one right book that piques their interest and opens the door to reading. The literacy world has become an amazing place with limitless options. With so many options, it is easy to find something that speaks to your child.
Mme Holly’s favourite quote is: “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.” – Beverly Cleary
Thank you Mme Holly!
Founder of Mind Growth Education