En­riched English stu­dents “Ben”efit from car­toon­ist’s visit

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL NEWS - By Gor­don Lam­bie

The École de la Passerelle in Water­ville wel­comed Que­bec car­toon­ist and il­lus­tra­tor Daniel Shel­ton as a guest speaker on Tues­day morn­ing. Best known as the cre­ator of the “Ben” comic strip that has ap­peared in pa­pers around the world, in­clud­ing The Record, for the last 22 years, Shel­ton met with the stu­dents en­rolled in the school’s En­riched English pro­gram to talk about his work.

“The stu­dents in grades five and six; it is dif­fi­cult to get them read­ing, but they love comic strips,” said Édith Lapeyrie, the teacher over­see­ing the pro­gram, ex­plain­ing that she has been build­ing a li­brary of English books and comics in her class­room, but has also asked the town of Water­ville to ex­pand the avail­abil­ity of English books in its mu­nic­i­pal li­brary as well. Shel­ton’s visit, she said, is a cul­tural ac­tiv­ity co­or­di­nated as a part of that ef­fort.

Although the stu­dents haven’t been ex­plic­itly study­ing “Ben”, the comic strip’s per­fectly bilin­gual car­toon­ist was, in some ways, the ideal guest for the group. He de­scribed to the stu­dents the de­tails of his work and process, which in­volves not only draw­ing 300 in­di­vid­ual strips a year, but also writ­ing and then trans­lat­ing all of the sto­ries and di­a­logue for pub­li­ca­tion in both French and English.

“I am al­ways happy to do this kind of thing,” Shel­ton said, not­ing that it is a very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence to get feed­back from read­ers face-to-face. “I have a fairly soli­tary job, and it is al­ways nice to have any oc­ca­sion to meet read­ers,” he added.

Ben was in­tro­duced to Record read­ers on Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 4, 1996 in the lead-up to the strip’s launch on the fol­low­ing Mon­day, and has been run­ning on page two of the pa­per ever since. Shel­ton, who grew up in the Town­ships, re­called work­ing with the pa­per even ear­lier in his ca­reer.

“My first deal­ings with The Record were when I was 16 or 18,” the artist said. “I pub­lished a comic strip for a sum­mer. I think it was Charles Bury who gave me my start.”

He told the stu­dents that his first love and true love has al­ways been comics and comic strips.

“I am very priv­i­leged in the sense that I get to reach an au­di­ence on a daily ba­sis, and tell them the sto­ries I want to,” Shel­ton said. “I’m very happy to do that.”

The artist spoke, sketched the char­ac­ter of Ben Hatley, and an­swered ques­tions first in English and then in French for those stu­dents who didn’t feel con­fi­dent ask­ing their in their sec­ond lan­guage.

Sixth Grade Stu­dent Léonie Hazel­bros said that she liked see­ing Shel­ton’s draw­ings and hear­ing about his pas­sion for the work of a car­toon­ist.

“I think it is cool,” she said, mak­ing the ef­fort to an­swer ques­tions in English.

Hazel­bros said that she is ex­cited about the op­por­tu­ni­ties that the en­riched English pro­gram af­fords her as she looks ahead to high school.

“Be­ing in this pro­gram means I will be able to learn more things,” she said, ex­plain­ing that the stu­dents en­gage with their sec­ond lan­guage through dif­fer­ent kinds of games and ac­tiv­i­ties.

“This is a new pro­gram we im­ple­mented last year,” Lapeyrie said, ex­pand­ing on her stu­dent’s thoughts. “This is a small coun­try school and we re­ally wanted to do some­thing to at­tract stu­dents.”

The teacher ex­plained that, by con­trast to the English pro­grams in other lo­cal French schools, the en­rich­ment pro­gram at la Passerelle be­gins in grade five and of­fers more time in English to its stu­dents.

“They start younger and they spend five and a half hours per week in English,” Lapeyrie said. “It is a full day and it makes a real dif­fer­ence.”

Added onto the “Anglais pour tous” pro­gram that sets up ad­di­tional English lan­guage in­struc­tion across all lev­els of the school from kinder­garten up, the teacher said that the pro­gram is prov­ing to be a real draw for the school, and one that is get­ting sup­port from the com­mu­nity and all lo­cal lev­els of govern­ment.

In this year’s grade six class, 90 per cent of stu­dents are en­rolled in En­riched English, and nearly 70 per cent will be go­ing on to the In­ter­na­tional bac­calau­re­ate pro­gram at the Ecole In­ter­na­tionale du Phare or other sim­i­lar pro­grams next year.

Out­side of aca­demics, how­ever, Lapeyrie pointed out that learn­ing English has an­other im­por­tant so­cial ben­e­fit.

“Half of the town is An­glo­phone,” the teacher said, ar­gu­ing that stu­dents be­ing able to ex­press them­selves in two lan­guages is ul­ti­mately a ben­e­fit for the whole com­mu­nity. (The Hut) 300 St. Fran­cis, Lennoxville Ad­mis­sion $10.


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