A hundred years ago or more, I (almost literally) threw my mortar board into the air with glee as, coming out of a long theory exam for the Master’s degree which would lead to a doctorate which would lead to a life in academia, I realised that I would never in my life have to sit another formal written examination.

Ten years on, I began my accountancy studies.

A similar sense of life guffawing in my face comes to me when I find myself, scissors in hand, cutting small bits of paper out of larger bits of paper to make things that may or may not amuse or divert my child. I really thought that, on starting an Art “A” level, the craft side of things would fade like a bad dream, something I would one day laugh about. It was not to be. 

I have, I know, told you about my adventures with tiger masks. But worse, in some ways, is when you find yourself paying money to subscribe to a magazine which forces you into these scissor-based antics. 

Yes, my friends – we subscribe to Popi. This is what bilingualism can do to a family. 

I should say up front that I have nothing but praise for the magazine itself. Unlike stiff British nonsense such as Numberjacks (or, of course, Waybuloo magazine, this month including lots of stickers to allow your child to buy simple-minded friends learn about sharing) Popi does not explicitly “teach” anything and contains material which is attractive to children rather than just to parents. Which is not to say that it does not address the concerns of parents – in truly French style, there is a whole panel of professionals and experts on board (because God forbid that amateurs such as parents should run the show) – but their contribution is on a pull-out directly targeted at adults and which can then be covered up and forgotten about, as there is a nursery wall poster on the reverse, usually an illustrated nursery rhyme. 

The magazine is aimed at the 1-3-year-old market, which is quite a span if you think about it, so the sections get “older” as you go from front to back, with a big fold-out picture at the end which can be approached on a range of levels. It has a theme each month and we’ve been quite lucky with these – I mean, it’s obviously no coincidence that the photo story in the July edition featured a beach holiday, but it was a coincidence that August featured a slide, something Piaf was obsessed with at the time. 

Anyway, I’m trying to describe it, not sell you it. Piaf interacts with the magazine in a range of ways. I read her the photo story about the eponymous Popi, which she generally likes. The next bit is the most overtly educational, and is a set of six themed picture cards relating to a scene featuring Petit Ours Brun. Piaf likes to be told what words these pictures represent; occasionally she then likes to play a matching game with these cards and words; 100% of the time she then likes to play a throwing all over the floor game with these cards.

There is then the page involving scissors, folding and the like. She is so keen on this part (especially when it features Lili la Souris) that, given the chance, she will rip it beyond repair in an attempt to experience it to the max. After the first issue we received in June, Lili looked more like a war veteran mummified in Sellotape than a mouse. 

The rest of the magazine is a little bit too old for her – but I try her with it each month. When the next section (a comic strip about a little boy called Marcel) starts interesting her, I will, of course, be able to revisit the back copies with her, so I don’t see the money as wasted just because we’re only reading the first half at the moment. 

I initially subscribed because I thought it would plug a few of the many gaps in my knowledge, both in terms of language and of culture. But it also provides a “shared experience” – there are many children of Piaf’s age accessing this magazine in France at the same time as she reads it in England and when, later, she meets those children, they will have at least that one thing in common. “Look for the similarities, not the differences,” is an ASC mantra. I am hoping that, one day, Piaf’s French peers do just that – and, when they do, I will have helped provide a few similarities for them to look for. 

Like this? Try these. 

Je salue, tu salues, elle salue …  

J’analyse, tu analyses, elle analyse …

Je glisse, tu glisses, elle glisse …

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