Do the holiday notebooks really have an educational interest?

They range from nursery to terminal, are available in “Snow Queen” or “T’choupi” versions and increasingly offer digital editions. In the last ten years, holiday notebooks, these exercise guides for children and teenagers, have diversified their offerings, a symbol of ever-growing success. The Passport brand, from Éditions Hachette, currently ranks first in sales with an average of 1 million copies per year for its entire collection. In 2021, Nathan Vacances, one of its competitors, sold more than 90,000 copies for the CP-CE1 level alone.

These figures must be compared with “school occupation” of the French, analyzes Marie Duru-Bellat, professor emeritus of sociology at Sciences Po and specialist in education. “The issue of integration in the labor market is connected to the issue of school. As the competition gets tougher and schooling gets longer, parents want to give their children the best chance.” she explains.

Added to this quest for success is the economic factor of confinements, periods in which “Parents have been given a new educational responsibility”. In June 2020, sales of Éditions Hatier’s holiday notebooks increased by 25% compared to the previous year, a way for parents to catch up on the delay their children have taken.

Socially marked results

But do these notebooks really have an educational interest? Agnès Florin, professor emeritus of child psychology at the University of Nantes, is only half convinced. “These textbooks will not reduce students’ difficulties, but only maintain the knowledge gained during the year. To the extent that the first weeks of the new school year are used to resume the learning from the previous year, I do not think that these manuals are essential”. she expands. “It can’t hurt to work on your knowledge, because the holidays are long and children can learn quickly”, she admits nonetheless. “However, we see that it is often the good students who benefit, which further increases the inequalities,” notes Marie Duru-Bellat.

In one of the rare studies on the subject, in 2001, the Institute for Research on the Economics of Education (Iredu) estimated that “the child who has partially used a holiday book does not develop more than a student who has not worked”. On the other hand, children who complete their holiday notebook improve their knowledge in all subjects by one, on average “very significant effect in mathematics”. Problem : “Students with a good academic level and children in management are more likely than others to complete their notebook”, reminiscent of Iredu, especially because of the parents’ greater investment in the education of their children.

A finding confirmed in 2005 by another national education survey: “Children whose father is a manager or teacher graduate (the notebooks) in more than one out of two cases in contrast to the other children. »

Fun activities as alternatives

Instead of investing in these notebooks, Agnès Florin advises to create fun activities that parents and children can share together. “We can make cooking recipes together to calculate proportions or read stories to develop vocabulary. Together with my children, we also made our own holiday notebooks, where we wrote down, for example, what we had seen or done during our visit to the forest.” she details.

“The holiday must also be used to cut the child off from his daily life, and to stimulate him other than through pure school exercises”, exclaims Béatrice Copper-Royer, psychologist specializing in children and young people. There is no shortage of ideas for artistic, sporting or nature activities “get out of performance anxiety, which is very strong around schooling”, she continues. On the shelves of supermarkets, the publishers of holiday notebooks seem to have heard it: in addition to the “eco-responsible” edition to discover the environment, another version offers quizzes dedicated to sports.

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