Category Archives: fieldnotes

Médiathèque: yes or yes?

We were supposed to go to the médiathèque this afternoon. The children were seated in the car, but were very unruly. I threatened not to go if they didn’t calm down. They didn’t take my threat seriously, it seemed, so when I backed the car back into the garage and turned off the engine, both girls were devastated. Whitney cried hysterically. Pia just stomped up to her room without a word.

‘Play outside! Nicely!´The words tried, in vain, to latch onto the girls’ backs.

They did however manage to pull off my request for over an hour.

One daughter (8 yrs, 4m) wrote the following text, pretending that it had been written by her sister (though she adds her name in brackets):

Je jou jentillment avec (name of child deleted)  alors on va, à la mediatec?

(I’ve played nicely with ___, so are we going to the médiathèque?)

There then follows a series of reply boxes: 9 yes boxes and 1 no box. All the boxes have a blue cross in them. The no box has been crossed out and replaced by the word oui. Change of heart? Why give mum a choice when she won’t give us one. Pia dates the work herself, as she has seen me do with all her texts that are ‘data’ for my thesis.


She is not alone. Her older sister (9yrs, 11m) has written a note too. Her text reads:

J´ai jouée gentillement dehors avec (name of child deleted). Donc nous allons _____ le _____ à la mediathèque. Promis. Signature _____

(I’ve played outside nicely with ___. So we’ll be going to the médiathèque on  (day / date ). Promised. Signature _____ )

‘I can’t make such a promise! Future visits will depend upon good behaviour.’


This is one of many examples of how the children communicate with me other than by means of direct speech (see here). It shows that they are perfectly aware that literacy is a functional skill  – not just another form of abstract classroom gymnastics – and it has its secured placed in their everyday lives. What’s more, it gives them power. And can make them cunning!

I need to know: Did the younger daughter know about her sister´s note before starting her own? Only one way to find out. She said she did: j´ai regardé, j´ai regardé! (I looked! I looked!). But she didn’t want to use the date the same way as her sister did. And does the older sister know that her younger sister – and arch rival – took a peek at her text? I can hardly ask her, can I? They’ve been playing together nicely. Let’s keep it that way.

NB: the younger sister is influenced by her older  sister but she does not copy. I hate the word copy in the context of children’s writing. It is always so much more than that.

NB: We went to the médiathèque a few days later. Both were as good as gold.