They range from kindergarten to terminale, are available in “Snow Queen” or “T’choupi” versions, and increasingly offer digital editions. Over the past ten years, holiday notebooks, these exercise manuals for children and teenagers, have been diversifying their offer, a symbol of ever-growing success. The Passeport brand, from Éditions Hachette, currently ranks first in sales with an average of 1 million copies a 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 should be compared with “school obsession” of the French, analyzes Marie Duru-Bellat, professor emeritus of sociology at Sciences Po and specialist in education. “The issue of integration into the labor market is linked to that of school. With competition getting tougher and schooling getting 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 during 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 with the delay taken by their children.
Socially marked results
But do these notebooks really have a pedagogical interest? Agnès Florin, professor emeritus of child psychology at Nantes University, is only half convinced. “These textbooks will not reduce the difficulties of the pupils, but only maintain the knowledge acquired during the year. Insofar as the first weeks of the new school year are used to resume learning from the past 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 quickly unlearn”, she nevertheless concedes. “However, we see that it is often the good students who benefit, which further increases 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 progress more than a pupil who has not worked”. On the other hand, children who complete their holiday notebook improve on average their knowledge in all subjects, with a “very marked effect in mathematics”. Problem : “Pupils with a good academic level and children in management have a higher probability than that of others of finishing their notebook”, recalls Iredu, in particular because of the greater investment of parents in the education of their children.
A finding corroborated, in 2005, by another national education study: “Children whose father is a manager or teacher finish (the notebooks) in more than one out of two cases, unlike the other children. »
Fun activities as alternatives
Rather than investing in these notebooks, Agnès Florin advises carrying out fun activities, which parents and children can share together. “We can make cooking recipes together to calculate proportions, or read stories to develop vocabulary. With my children, we also made our own vacation notebooks, noting down what we had seen or done during our visits to the forest, for example,” she details.
“Holidays should also be used to cut the child off from his daily life, and to stimulate him other than through purely school exercises”, abounds Béatrice Copper-Royer, psychologist specializing in children and adolescents. Artistic, sports or nature activities, there is no shortage of ideas for “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: alongside the “eco-responsible” edition to discover the environment, another version offers quizzes dedicated to sport.