A Missouri librarian developed a program that introduces her favorite language to children and their parents.
Amy Jo Vorwark’s passion for the French language started with a trip to her local library when she was very young.
“There was this book at the library called 'Fun with French,' and I’d take it home and look at it,” said Vorwark, who eventually studied French at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. “I just found it fascinating.”
So it was only natural that Vorwark, who works at the Mid-Continent Public Library’s Blue Springs South Branch, would create Bonjour! Let's Learn French, a program that introduces her favorite language to children and their parents.
“I want to inspire that love of French like I had,” said Vorwark, who has taught French at a local community college and through adult education classes, as well worked as an English as a second language (ESL) instructor. “I really think if kids get the chance they will really get interested.”
Vorwark introduced the four-session program for the first time last spring. Each hour-long session taught kids, ranging in ages from 6 to 12, some French language basics such as their numbers from 1 to 20, colors, animal names, how to pronounce their names and introduce themselves in French, as well as a few simple everyday sentences and statements.
“It’s really important to get them talking,” said Vorwark, who has also studied German and Japanese. “Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s OK.”
No one knows that better than Vorwark, who admits she struggled with her grades in her first French classes. The key, she said, was sticking with it and learning from her mistakes.
During the spring, Vorwark kept the sessions interactive and gave her students a say in what they would learn. They were the ones who came up with the idea of learning the names of animals. Vorwark brought in stuffed animals and combined the lesson on animal names with colors.
Giving kids words and phrases they can share right away with their family and friends, as well as giving them some choice in what they learn, is important to Vorwark.
“What I want more than anything is for them to have fun,” she said.
In the program description, Vorwark welcomed parents to sit in and participate in the sessions along with their children. The parents who sat in took notes and joined in the lessons. Having that extra set of ears is not only a great way for them to help their children learn the language, but it’s a nice way for families to spend time together, Vorwark said.
Vorwark will teach another edition of Bonjour! Let's Learn French this fall. She isn’t sure how many of her students will return from the spring or if she’ll have a whole new group. Either way, she said she’ll work with some of the same material, as well as introduce some new concepts. She also plans on letting her student have some input again.
Along with developing an affinity for French, Vorwark said she hopes the sessions inspire kids and their parents to learn about other languages, cultures and people.
“I think the important thing is to try,” she said. “If you have a love of language, other cultures and people, it’s very important. It’s really an act of kindness.”