Back to School: French immersion reading recommendations

The Ottawa Public Library is back to share some of their favourite French immersion books for children with us. This month’s post is by Catherine Malboeuf Children Librarian, at the Ottawa Public Library.

Back to School: French immersion reading recommendations

September is back to school month, and for many kids across Ottawa this means the start or continuation of French immersion classes. To help ease everyone ease in, here are some great French books that would make a good read for immersion students of all ages. 

Histoires de lire, Éditions FonFon

This attractive collection is geared toward kids just learning to read and will also be perfect for early immersion students. Written by veterans’ children authors from Quebec, each book contains about 140 words, short sentences and a repetitive narrative. The stories are funny and well written, and complemented by Jimmy Beaulieu’s mischievous illustrations.  

J’aime lire (periodical)
Mes premiers j’aime lire (periodical)

The magazine « J’aime lire », geared toward children 7-10 years old has been around since 1977. Each issue of the magazine contains a short novel divided in chapters, with  comics,, games, and more. For younger kids, “Mes premiers j’aime lire” offers “a novel to read like a big kid”, plus  games, comics and a code to download an audio version of the story as a read-along.

Mini-Syros Soon

This collection from French editor Syros offers an introduction to science fiction for kids ages 8 and up. Although they are not necessarily geared toward immersion students, these short novels (around 100 pages, in a small format) offer interesting stories from some well-liked French science fiction and fantasy writers and  can be used well into into high school. 

Oser lire : Scène de crime/cœur de perdrix/5 cadavres

A new collection from publisher Bayard Canada, « Oser lire » offers two versions of the same story in one book. The first is short, light on description, and goes straight  to the heart of the plot, but leaves much unsaid. The second is longer, offering more detail to understand the intricacies of the story. This collection is geared toward reluctant teen readers, with the intent that the shorter version of the story will make them curious enough to read the longer one. They can also be quite useful for older immersion students, including teens and adults.

Family Travel: Escape to the Chateau Montebello

If you’re looking for an idyllic escape for your family or as a couple, check out the Chateau Montebello in Montebello, Quebec. Located only 90 kms from South Ottawa, simply stated, it is very close to being an all-inclusive resort – and you don’t have to travel very far to experience everything it has to offer.

Chateau Montebello entrance.jpg

As soon as you walk in to the reception area you will feel at ease and welcomed. The warm colours, magnificent multi-story stone fireplace and multiple couches, tables and chairs make you want to immediately sit down and crack open your favourite book.

Fireplace at the Chateau Montebello

The rooms are just as comfortable and I love the fact that the windows open, so when the weather is just right, you can open them and enjoy the fresh air and sounds of the Ottawa River. During the summer you can also smell the evening campfires that take place just outside the building.

Chateau Montebello has everything a person looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life needs to relax and have fun. In addition to seasonal programming for children including crafts, cookie decorating, movie nights, and bingo, they also offer programming for adults including a kayak clinic, a chance to meet the chef, and aqua Zumba.

Included in the resort fee ($27+ tax per room) for Chateau Montebello are countless seasonal activities. During the summer you have access to their beautiful outdoor pool as well as their indoor pool, which is the largest indoor hotel pool in Canada!

Indoor pool at Chateau Montebello

There are also bikes that you can sign out and a 5 km trail along the Ottawa River to explore, as well as mini golf, outdoor tennis, horseshoes, canoeing, kayaking and (my daughter’s favourite) stand up paddle boarding. They even have bike helmets and life jackets - everything you need to safely participate in their fun activities.

Paddle boarding at Chateau Montebello

In the winter there are cross country trails, two outdoor ice rinks, curling, and snowshoes. The best part is that all of this is included in the resort fee and you can participate at any time and multiple times throughout your stay.

For additional fees, guests also have the option to rent a boat or participate in a fishing clinic. In the winter, guests can pay to go tubing or dogsledding! And if you forget your snowsuit – they have some to rent!

We only stayed at the Chateau Montebello one night but could have easily spent several days taking advantage of all the programming and activities available. Next time, I am booking some much-needed “me time” at their spa!

I loved being able to go for a scenic walk along the Ottawa River and then sitting on a park bench admiring the sunset.

The gardens were in full bloom while we were there, making for some incredible photos. We also indulged in their seasonal outdoor BBQ on the Outside Terrace, which meant we spoiled ourselves with the best in gourmet BBQed meats and corn on the cob as well as local Montebello brewed beer.

BBQ patio at Chateau Montebello

The Chateau Montebello is known for its Sunday brunch, and regardless of where you eat while onsite, your taste buds are in for a royal treat! Everything served up is delicious.

Relaxing at the Chateau Montebello

We can hardly wait for our next visit to the Chateau Montebello. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a visit to Parc Omega and completes a family road trip like no other place can!

Have you stayed at the Chateau Montebello? Share your favourite moments with us!

Gardens at the Chateau Montebello

Disclaimer: Part of our stay at the Chateau Montebello was compensated for the purposes of this review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own... and we will be back!

Family Travel: A Trip to Parc Omega

My family ended the summer with a trip to Parc Omega in Montebello, Quebec. My daughter, who is now ten, had never been before, and it had been on our to-do list for way too long! I have only ever heard good things about Parc Omega, so honestly, I don’t know what took us so long to visit!

What to expect when you arrive at Parc Omega

Parc Omega.jpg

You know you have arrived at Parc Omega because of the impressive arched sign at the entrance. Upon arrival you receive a warm welcome as well as a map explaining where everything in the park is and what you can expect. You can then drive up to the park house for refreshments and a bathroom break or head right onto the Car Trail. We were immediately greeted by elk and red deer. They were standing in the middle of the road just waiting to be handed carrots! It was suggested to us to snap the carrots in half for the larger elk and deer and snap them into quarters for the white-tailed deer and fallow deer, since they have smaller mouths and teeth. This also prolongs your carrot supply. My daughter took it upon herself to adjust the size of the carrot based on the size of the animal in question.

First Nations Trail

Our first stop was the First Nations Trail. All year long, the First Nations trail makes for a great family walk. Throughout the walk you can learn the history of 11 of the First Nations of Quebec through beautiful totem poles made by a Native American artist. My daughter loved learning about the creatures on each totem pole and what they stood for. Each totem illustrates the intimate relationship between aboriginal peoples, nature and their culture.

 First Nations Trail, Parc Omega

First Nations Trail, Parc Omega

The First Nations Trail is about 1km (about a ten-minute family and stroller friendly walk, in the summer) and is surrounded not only by the totem poles representing the 11 First Nations, but also beautiful forest and of course, wild deer anxious to be fed. There are also picnic tables, tipi-shaped shelters (a great picnic spot on a rainy or sunny day!) as well as a picturesque waterfall, which makes for a memorable social media moment!

At the end of the trail is the Thunderbird. As noted on the Parc Omega website, the Thunderbird is a symbolic emblem often represented in first nation groups, marks the end of the trail, when passing under his wings you will benefit from its powerful protection. My daughter thought this was pretty cool and made sure all of us did it.

First Nations Trail picnic table Parc Omega

The Car Trail

After visiting the First Nations Trail we slowly made our way past Beaver Lake and the meadows. We fed many elk, deer, wild boars, as well as admired the buffalo and even a couple of raccoons we saw trying to steal some leftover carrots from deer. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed having animals of all sizes try to stick their heads through our half-opened car windows in an attempt to get as many carrots as possible. She made sure each of them got a piece of carrot and patted the nose of some of them too. There is more than 15 km of car trail covering animals representative of much Canada’s wilderness including meadows, hills, and lakes.

Car Trail Parc Omega.jpg

Colonization Trail

The Grey Wolves

The wolves observation area has two levels that allow you to observe the wolves in their natural habitat. Three times a day there is a show in which a guide shares facts about the wolves as well as feeds them. He explains the hierarchy of the pack as well as answers any questions members of the audience may have.

We watched the wolves walk around their area for nearly an hour. There were three cubs present and we found it very fascinating to watch them try to exert their strength with the older wolves in the pack. If you have never seen wolves up close and want to learn more about them, Parc Omega is the place to go!

Grey Wolves at Parc Omega

Kids Shows

During the summer, there are also kids shows taking place at various times. There was a wild birds show as well as a skit that took place while we were there. The little ones found the skit very funny – and the older kids loved the wild birds show.

KIDS SHOW.jpg

The Enchanted House

This original and unforgettable wood sculpture is created by artist M. Therrien. It is a must see! The detail in the house is unbelievable and whether you are 2 or 102 you will appreciate it as well as the many other wood sculptures that are located within the Colonization Area.

Enchanted house Parc Omega.jpg

Playground and Aerial Park

Take a break and enjoy this unique playground and aerial course for older kids and adults alike!

Aerial Park at Parc Omega

The Old Farm

Whether you take the five-minute wagon ride or take the ten-minute walk to the Old Farm, it is a must see. There are sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, pony rides and more waiting at the farm. There is also a small coffee shop and a playground. When we were there, the farm’s garden was in full bloom and was simply stunning!

Bunnies at old farm.jpg
Old Farm Parc Omega

Tips & Suggestions


Buy carrots

  • You can purchase carrots in the park house for $3 a bag. We easily went through four bags in the course of the day, but one bag of carrots per child would do (us adults were having fun too).

Don’t forget the wild boars!

  • The wild boars are friendly too and they will take carrots, but we were told by a friend to bring apples, and when we rolled an apple their way – they devoured them. Just be gentle and don’t throw them at them – we gently tossed them near them and they would work their way over. It was very cute watching the younger ones play-eat with the apples.

Other tips

  • Plan to spend an entire day at Parc Omega. The First Nations trail area took us about an hour to walk, take pictures, read and savour. It is a beautiful and serene area.

  • Take your time driving through the park. Remember, everyone is there to enjoy the animals and the scenery, so be patient with other drivers and feed as many of the hungry wild deer, elk and caribou as you can.

  • The Colonization Area is a popular stop. We spent nearly three hours here! We brought a picnic lunch, which intrigued the deer in this area, but we also splurged on soft serve ice cream and poutine -yum!
  • Arrive early. The Parc is definitely a full day experience, so plan to come when the doors open and spend the day exploring, taking pictures of the many animals including the adorable arctic foxes, cinnamon bears, and arctic wolves.
  • Parc Omega is open year round. We very much look forward to returning in the winter to see the changes in landscape, snowshoeing as well as visiting the “Cabane à sucre!”
  • Stay overnight. Parc Omega has cabins and lodging available for an overnight visit – this is something we will be looking at for future visits! Imagine being able to feed deer right outside your door!
 Arctic wolves

Arctic wolves

 Cinnamon bears

Cinnamon bears

There is so much to see and do at Parc Omega. It is a fun way to get to know the animals of Canada’s vast and varied landscape, as well as learn more about the First Nations and their culture. The park is clean and the animals look well cared for. I look forward to our next trip to Parc Omega.

Have you been to Parc Omega? If so, share your favourite memories and moments with us!

Feeding Deer at Parc Omega

Disclaimer: We received free admission to Parc Omega for the purposes of this review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own... and we will be back!

Things You Didn’t Know a Physiotherapist Could Do for Your Kids

Things You Didn’t Know a Physiotherapist Could Do for Your KidsAdd subheading.png

Marie is my physiotherapist and I've learned so much from her about what doesn't need to be painful and what I need to pay attention to, both for myself and for my kids. I asked her to share some advice to parents when it comes to some of the things that we don't think of physio for when it comes to our kids, but that can be SO helpful. Both my twins have REALLY benefitted from physio for their growing pains. Read on!  ~Lara

I have been a physiotherapist for too many years than I care to mention.  I have worked with everyone from premature newborns who fit in the palm of your hand to the elderly facing end of life issues.  I must admit though, school aged children hold a very special place in my heart.  Don’t they just say the darndest things sometimes?  I love their absolute candor and their ability to call you on your you-know-what.  When you are working with them you had better be prepared to answer questions honestly or you will pay. 

When people find out I am a physiotherapist they often ask me questions about things like their kids’ sports injuries or maybe their own back pain.  However, there are some things people never ask me that I wish they would.  There are a number of things a physiotherapist can help your kids with that no one knows about, so I would like to share a couple of them with you. 

Growing Pains

Let me tell you about a stellar parenting moment of my own.  When my daughter was about four years old she started complaining about pain in her legs.  She would be walking just fine and then suddenly stop and say she couldn’t go any further, or she would complain at bedtime.  I just wrote it off as drama queen behaviour and ignored it.  Then one night she was really crying so I gave in and checked out her legs.  The moment I got hold of her muscles I felt horrible.  They were incredibly tight through the entire length of both legs.  My heart sank because I knew that all this time she was having growing pains and I could have stopped them. 

What?  You can treat growing pains you say?  Despite everything you will read on the internet that says no one knows what causes growing pains and the only thing you can do for them is give pain medication like Tylenol, yes growing pains can be treated and here’s why.

I believe growing pains are caused when the long bones like the ones in the legs, which is primarily where growing pains occur, grow rapidly.  The problem is the muscles lag behind and this is what causes the pain.  These growth spurts are not just your imagination.  They are indeed very real.  Studies in which kids were measured daily have shown that kids don’t grow about 90 – 95% of the time, so all of their growth occurs within a very small timeframe. 

The bones have specialized areas from which growth occurs.  These are called growth plates and they are found at each end of a long bone.  When growth occurs the bones sprout new cells to either side of each growth plate so lengthening can occur rapidly.  Muscles do not have these specific growth areas so they take longer to lengthen. 

The obvious result when a growth spurt occurs then, is the muscles get tight since they can’t keep pace with the lengthening of the bones.  It is the tightness in the muscles that causes the pain, particularly when kids are active.  They are running around trying to use their muscles but the muscles aren’t happy because they are too short. 

This begs the question, well why can’t we just have them do stretches to make these pains go away?  The problem with stretching is that it indiscriminately pulls the ends of the muscle in opposite directions.  This applies a stretch along the entire length of the muscle.  That’s good right? 

The reason this isn’t terribly effective is that tightness in a muscle never occurs evenly throughout the entire length.  It is localized in small bunches of tight fibres, so you have very tight parts interspersed with loose parts.  When we stretch the entire muscle the loose parts happily give while the tight parts huddle together giggling and saying “why should I lengthen when my neighbour is willing?” 

To release the tight parts and relieve the growing pains you have to get your hands in there, find the tight bits of muscle, and manually release them.  This stops the growing pains every time, usually with one or two treatments.  I knew this and I still let it happen for a while before I did something about it, so don’t feel bad if you didn’t know. 

Preventing Knee Injuries in Girls in Early Puberty

Did you know that girls who play sports requiring quick changes in direction such as soccer or rugby are far more likely to sustain knee injuries when they hit puberty than boys?  In fact, girls who play sports are four to six times more likely to injure the anterior cruciate ligament (one of the main ligaments of the knee) than boys. 

Dr. Google will tell you that this is due to things like lack of strength in the hamstrings and gluteals (buttock muscles).  But why would muscles that have been working perfectly fine suddenly quit in puberty?  And why just in girls and not boys?  The reason is alignment. 

When girls hit puberty one of the biggest changes in the skeletal structure that occurs is a change in the shape of the pelvis.  They go from stick figures to curvy figures.  The pelvis widens and they suddenly have hips.  This changes the angle of the long bone in the upper leg called the femur.  As the pelvis widens it pushes out the top end of the femur farther to the outside.  This then changes the angle at the other end of the bone where it forms the upper part of the knee joint. 

When this significant change in alignment occurs the muscles get discombobulated.  The angle at which they are used to pulling is all wrong suddenly and they don’t quite know what to do with themselves so they just up and quit.  This leaves your daughter with instability through the hips, pelvis, and down into the knees and ankles, which sets the stage for a catastrophic knee injury.  This is so prevalent now that physiotherapists are seeing girls as young as 20 who have had two or three knee surgeries and are having to quit their sport of choice.

These injuries are preventable.  All that is needed is to manually realign the muscles in their new slightly different-angled environment.  They need a little guidance to settle into their new angle of pull.  Once this is accomplished stability is restored and the risk of injury is greatly reduced. 

While many people seek physiotherapy treatment when they are injured, no one ever thinks to seek help to avoid injury.  I would love to see this change.  We tune up our cars to avoid a breakdown, why don’t we do the same for our bodies?

If you are wondering if your daughter is having issues with stability, here are a couple of simple things you can check out.  Have her try a single leg squat making sure that she stays aligned square to the front.  If she can’t do this with solid balance then there is likely a problem of stability. 

Hopping on one foot with both arms in the air is another good test.  By raising the arms we take away one major balance cheating strategy and we can better evaluate the stability in the core.  If she can hop several times in one spot without travelling all over the place, losing her balance, and remaining square to the front then things are good.  If not, she may need some help to restore balance and alignment.

Physiotherapy Can Help

Sometimes when kids fall or have an accident we make the assumption that they are fine.  After all kids, seem to bounce like rubber and carry on.  While they may do so, they often need treatment after an incident just like we do.  If your child is complaining of pain don’t ignore it.  Even if it does go away, their movement patterns are likely off as they compensate around the affected area and this will have consequences down the road. 

Get your kids treated when something happens to them and don’t forget to consider physiotherapy for injury prevention.  Let’s keep them all active and healthy!

Marie has been practicing physiotherapy for almost 30 years.  She has extensive paediatric experience having worked the first decade of her career at CHEO.  She has two kids who suffer growing pains periodically and is the owner of M.A.P. Physiotherapy.  

Kids Rock Broadway at the NAC!

Sometimes, being a kid can be tough. Between balancing school and home life and trying to navigate their way through childhood into adolescence, there isn’t much time to just sit and enjoy being a kid.

Now imagine on top of all those things; having to learn a script, memorize a song list, and play a set in front of a live audience night after night….

Well, the kids of SCHOOL OF ROCK’s North American touring cast make it look easy. The process of finding the perfect kids for the cast, on the other hand, is anything but. For the initial production of SCHOOL OF ROCK, which opened on Broadway in 2015, the casting team looked at a total of 22,000 kids around the US.

School of Rock at the NAC

Challenge 1: Making sure the kids are between 9-12 years old; any younger and the physical demands of the show could be too much, any older and their bodies and voices are subject to the many changes of teenage development.

Challenge 2: Putting acting and singing on the back burner at first, and making sure the level of “musicianship” of the individual is strong. Can they carry a tune? Once that is established, the production team will help to work on the additional aspects.

School of Rock Tour (15)_preview.jpeg

More than anything, casting directors are looking at the personality of the child as that’s as important to them than being a “quadruple threat”. Do they love music? Are they enthusiastic and friendly with others? And more importantly, are they willing to work hard? In addition to regular rehearsals for the touring actors, cast members must also attend separate band rehearsals and tutoring lessons while on the road.

Making their way to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa from September 25-30th, the SCHOOL OF ROCK cast is arriving just as Ottawa students are beginning to settle back into the daily routine of classes and homework. Because of this, we have decided to celebrate the amazing kids in our lives by having Kids Rock Broadway night on Sunday, September 30th at 7 pm.

Tickets for the performance start at $40, and there will also be a number of fun props that kids can use to get that epic Rock 'N Roll photo with. Additionally, School of Rock Orleans will be hosting an instrument petting zoo. Drum kits, guitars, and basses OH MY! Kids will have a chance to check out the instruments up close, learn more about them, and get some totally jammin’ shots to add to the family photo album.

School of Rick with dewey.jpg

What’s special about SCHOOL OF ROCK is that children in the audience can see what others their age are capable of and therefore, what they are capable of. It’s a show about the pressures of achieving perfection and the power that music and pursuing your own passions can have. Finally, it’s an exuberant reminder to children and adults to take a second out of their busy lives to have fun and let loose once in a while.

For more information on show times, ticket prices and availability, check out BroadwayAcrossCanada.ca. We hope to see you there!

** If you're planning on attending as a family, make sure to check out this special offer for Kids Rock Broadway on Sunday, September 30th - Click here to purchase tickets and use offer code: FAMILY