We had the pleasure to meet Sophie Coffinières, who has developed and managed a French school in Seattle, the EFGS. She now runs “Les Petits Livres“. We wanted to know more about this project which allows children in Seattle and around to have access to French books.

Could you please introduce yourself? What brought you to Seattle?

I moved from France to the US (Milwaukee) in 2000 with my husband. In 2008, we moved to Seattle with two pre-schoolers.

We started looking at the various educational options available in the area but realized that they were not the right fit for our family. That’s when I found out about a grant from the French government that was called FLAM (which stands for Francais LAngue Maternelle) and would allow us to start a new French afterschool program for children of French or Francophone families. With other families, we created Education Française Greater Seattle (EFGS) in 2009. Our vision was to provide an affordable yet effective and high quality afterschool program

In September 2009, EFGS opened in Redmond with 32 students and we expanded to offer classes in Seattle in 2010. By 2019, more than 170 students were enrolled on both sites.

Through EFGS, I came in contact with Anne-Marie Brest, who founded Les Petits Livres in California in 2007. I loved the concept of a french language library for children right from the beginning: I loved its simplicity and convenience, as well as its economical and environmental values. In 2017, when she was considering selling her business as she was changing career to become a coach, I took this opportunity moving the business from California to Seattle, while keeping the services to all subscribers.

What does “Les Petits Livres” offer and how does it work?

The mission of Les Petits Livres is to make children’s books in French easily accessible in the US, as they can be hard to find and expensive to ship from France or Canada. With the different rental plans, families have a very easy access to over 4,000 books (from classical to newly released titles), at a very affordable cost.

Getting started is very easy: from our website (www.lespetitslivres.com), families register and choose the rental plan that best fits their needs. Options range from 2 to 6 books per month.  And then the fun part: they then receive the books directly at home in their mail box. When books are read and ready to be returned, families use the pre-paid return envelope that is included and new books will be mailed. During the stay-at-home period, with schools and libraries being closed and the difficulties in getting French books, many families have subscribed and enjoyed the convenience of our services.

Typical subscribers are families or schools/ educational programs that do not have their own library or want to supplement their collection.

We also have a partnership with Storyplayr, a digital children’s library, that comes as a complement to our collecion.

How do you get all the books?

Most of the purchased books are brand new, as I value a high quality collection. To find new titles, I stay up to date with any youth literature prizes, book fairs, and newly released books, and read daily blogs specializing in youth literature. French children’s literature is very prolific, with very good and not so good books, so making a choice requires knowing the “industry” well. While choosing new titles, I always keep in mind the bilinguism of our subscribers and the books’ themes. This is pretty similar to being a librarian and a bookseller at the same time.

I also receive donations of books, which is a great way to complete series or have duplicates in the collection. While it is nice to have duplicates, I would always prefer to add new titles and expand the selection and variety of books.

What is the added value of Les Petits Livres?

I like to think that Les Petits Livres is providing an easy, convenient and economical solution to Francophone families, who want to make sure that their children have a regular access to French books. I also like the environmental benefits as it saves families from having to buy many books that might only be read once and would clutter their bookshelves.

Thanks to my experience as a French mom who is raising bilingual children and my growing knowledge of the French children’s literature. I also enjoy providing advice and recommendations to other families. I understand the needs and challenges faced by a bilingual child, while taking into account the specific journey of each family.

I have had requests to offer a similar service in other languages but the literature I know  and love best. best is French — I am learning to know more about francophone authors. I know what is good, what is at the right reading level and can vary styles. I enjoy being a “partner” to other families in this linguistic adventure!

 For more information contact: info@LesPetitsLivres.com

Interviewed by Claire and Emmanuelle