Starting in Reception, children begin our Early Reading program in French. Compared to “transparent” languages, like Spanish or Italian, both French and English are “opaque,” i.e. languages where the correspondence between sounds and signs can be confusing. Relatively speaking, however, reading in French is easier than in English since French has 130 graphemes for 37 phonemes, whereas English has over a thousand graphemes for 44 phonemes.
Experience shows that once they reach adequate reading fluency in French in Year 2, children transfer those skills to reading in English in a matter of weeks using a multimodal method developed by the School. Learning to read sequentially, first in French, then in English, prevents sound-sign confusion, which might result in language difficulties later on.
Reading is a School priority. In Year 7 and 8, for example, DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) sets aside a 45-minute period every day when students gather in a special classroom, comfortably furnished with Fatboys®, and read. A teacher is with them, partaking in this ritual. Students read for pleasure from a list of some 200 books proposed by teachers, enriched by students, and loosely connected to the English or French literature or History curriculum. DEAR provides students an opportunity to step back, slow down, and enjoy the pleasure of reading.
Developing strong writing skills is also a major ambition of Ecole Jeannine Manuel.
In Primary School, children write every day in French from Year 2 onwards and in English as well as soon as reading in French becomes a confirmed skill. In Secondary School, writing becomes the core of the French and the English literature programs. Our aim is for students to write analytical or creative papers with native proficiency in French and in English and to develop a strong base of connected references in the cultural capital of both languages.
Throughout their school years, students participate in literary events, such as the Readathon or World Book Day, as well as fairs and competitions (Young Authors Springfest, Poetry-by-Heart, National Theatre’s New Views playwriting competition…) involving reading and writing.