Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren all over France took part in the traditional ELA Dictation this morning. Here’s a look back at a morning full of emotion for many people. The stories of the day with photos…

Written on Monday 12 May 2014

Before putting on their trainers (for the ELA event of the same name), this morning nearly 2000 schools worked on the 9th ELA Dictation which was written this year by the 2011 winner of France’s most prestigious literary prize, the “Prix Goncourt”. The dictation’s title was “Une paire de baskets pour deux” (‘A pair of trainers for two’) and was the occasion for all the pupils to discuss essential values like respect for disabled people, solidarity and sharing with their classmates and teachers and with ELA families, patrons or personalities from different backgrounds.

The pupils first watched an awareness-raising DVD specially created to present the association and the illness, and then were able to talk with their teacher, the ELA families or the patrons present there to read the text and thus get to know more about the patients’ daily lives. This gave them increased awareness of what taking part actually means and we can bet that the dictation will have been a lot less unpleasant than all the other dictations of the school year…

Guy Alba, President and Founder of ELA, considers that the dictation is an essential part of the campaign launch: “The idea of above all thinking about the illness seems essential to us. The dictation is a way of exchanging about the illness, disability, solidarity and is therefore an original manner of raising the awareness of young schoolchildren. It’s an important stage of our campaign because words have a meaning. Then the sports event comes after, a moment of friendship, where all the children symbolically run for sick children who aren’t lucky enough to be able to run themselves and some who never could.”

Alexis Jenni, winner of the 2011 “Prix Goncourt”, instantly accepted to write the 2012 ELA Dictation: “To me, the message of solidarity seems essential. It’s a value which exists when you’re at school and which is in fact actually hard to share elsewhere. At school children are together and together they learn the meaning of the value of solidarity. That’s one of the reasons why I felt this dictation was important. I’m a teacher but I’m a writer too and writing the ELA Dictation is a way of avoiding the trap of individualism all writers might tend to fall into.

France’s first lady, Valérie Trierweiler was among the 250 or so personalities who accepted ELA’s invitation to read the dictation to pupils in their classrooms. “My presence today alongside ELA is coherent because of the link with children. Many children suffer from poverty or disability. I would also like to thank my colleagues for being here. A cause like ELA needs media exposure to exist. When children are involved, I will always be there when asked “.

Many sporting personalities were also involved (Laurent Blanc, Sébastien Chabal, Ladji Doucouré, Jérôme Fernandez, Christophe Lemaitre, Bixente Lizarazu, Lionel Nallet, Jonny Wilkinson, footballers from the clubs OGC Nice, Valenciennes, Rennes, Caen, FC Metz, Saint-Etienne, AS Nancy Lorraine etc) along with singers (Najoua Belyzel, Mathieu Carnot and Camille Lou – from the musical “1789” – and Mikelangelo Loconte, Maéva Meline, Mickaël Miro etc.), actors (Nathalie Baye, Daniel Russo, actors from the “Plus Belle la Vie” TV series etc.) and TV presenters (Denis Brogniart, Jamy Gourmaud, Catherine Laborde, Stéphane Plazza, Sandrine Quétier, Claudia Tagbo, Sophie Thalmann)…


During the whole week many of them were also to put on their trainers for the 2nd important phase of the awareness-raising campaign, the idea being to pass from a moment of thought to a time for action and to run for the sick children. It is a strong symbol that the pupils get “sponsored” by their neighbours, local shopkeepers or by their families… and one which annually allows ELA to collect substantial funds to finance research and support families in their daily lives.


In their own ways, the teachers for a day, family members and teachers describe this dictation like no other…

The dictation readers:

Mikelangelo Loconte, singer: “I found it really touching to be in contact with the children and teachers in a “fun” context to talk about leukodystrophies. It’s actually a pretty of-the-wall idea to get artists involved in a totally different context from their own and I think it’s an ideal opportunity to raise awareness about leukodystrophies. We rarely have any contact with children in their classes like this morning so that makes the exchanges even more powerful. It reminds us all that we should have respect for each other. Education in these values has to begin very young so schools have an important role to play. I think the pupils should be cooler with their teachers! They have such an important role to play… I hope that this morning all the pupils will have understood that you have to learn about difference, respect other, and communicate with everyone without excluding anyone and that that’s how you become a real grown-up?”

Catherine Laborde, TV presenter: “Every year I go to a school to remind people that ELA exists. My role is to raise the awareness of all the pupils and remind them why it’s so important for ELA to show solidarity and put on your trainers. It’s a moment for sharing that I really enjoy particularly as it is far from the superficial side of TV. I’m really happy to take part in this great show of solidarity. I see it as a duty in my life.

Jérôme Fernandez, professional handball player: “I have a five-year-old son myself and I realize how lucky he is to be able to enjoy going to school and playing sport. We need to carry on supporting this wonderful association ELA to help find treatments for children who are ill.

Claudia Tagbo, actress, speaking to the pupils: “The Dictation is a way of showing support for the ELA families. Just by talking about ELA among yourselves and with your parents will help ELA.

Denis Brogniart, journalist and TV presenter: “When I see that pretty little girl, those eyes, that smile, who came with her mum to tell the class her story… It’s worth so much more than words… I’m certain that these pupils today will be affected by their day and if they are then their parents will be too…”

Jonathan Zebina, professional footballer: “Through this text, it’s important to highlight the values of friendship and helping each other. Even though we don’t realise it in our daily lives, we’re lucky to be in good health and be able to laugh and run around… and that’s why it’s only normal for all of us to get involved in our own way for people who are unfortunately ill.”


The teachers:

Frédéric, teacher in a collège (secondary school for 11-15 year-olds) in Lorraine: “We were visited by players from the AS Nancy Lorraine football club. It was a lovely surprise for the pupils. We’re happy to have been able to share in such a wonderful human adventure.

Stéphane, teacher of second-year children in the Paris suburbs: “We’ve been running this event for several years and it’s always fun and a moment to share together. It’s a good opportunity to meet up with a common objective. It’s also a nice way of making spelling less of a serious subject and dictations more fun to do. Our pupils all wanted to understand the illness and are quite proud to have contributed to ELA’s battle by taking part in this dictation.

Bénédicte, teacher: “We have the parents of Camille who has leukodystrophy and of Juliette who is a pupil at our school. It was a very powerful moment for exchanges and a wonderful lesson in courage. This morning they were with us to answer our pupils’ questions. That obviously makes you want to fight even more alongside ELA with our own weapons – our pens and our trainers!”

Pauline, teacher in a Parisian collège (secondary school for 11-15 year-olds): “I have been at the school for 8 years now and we’ve been taking part in this event for the same length of time. It’s a way of raising awareness in children, the future generations, about the illness of course but it also teaches them more broadly about solidarity. We do the dictation with first-year pupils, we think they are the most receptive to the message at that age. It’s relaxed because the exercise isn’t marked. They’re just very impatient to take part and proud… Every year they want to beat the previous year’s record for the amount of money collected!

Stéphanie, primary school teacher in the Paris suburbs: “It’s the first time we’ve done the ELA Dictation. We were struck by the values it transmits. Later in the school year we will take place in the “Put on your trainers and beat the disease” event with a cross-country run at school.


The ELA families:

Benjamin, 28, leukodystrophy patient: “This morning’s dictation was once again a really enjoyable time with all the pupils and the ELA patron who came with us. Another powerful emotional moment!

Solenne, 12, leukodystrophy patient: “The event went well but I’m glad I didn’t do the dictation! The pupils were really nice. I’d really like to do the cross-country run with them; I could do it in my chair while they run. It was really an extraordinary morning for me!”

Anne-Dauphine, mum of Azylis, 6 years, leukodystrophy patient: “Every day is an effort to take care of our child and to accompany her whatever her life’s like but we aren’t able to cure them. If we all pull together, euro by euro, step by step, I think that one day we will find a cure for leukodystrophies.”

Frédéric, dad of Téo, 21: “What struck us was that this awareness-raising event brought together young people of the same age range: the young school students doing their ‘BTS’ (technical certificate) who had the idea for the event, the European shooting champion (Vincent Jeanningros) who came to read the dictation in front of 250 pupils and Téo, representing patients… All were between 19 and 21 years old! After the more official dictation, there were some close exchanges at the end on the podium around Téo and Vincent.

These young people gave us a lovely lesson – they were so motivated by the 4th time they too part with adults who were surprised, touched, and a little stunned even. It was very emotional for the family!



Tom, second-year pupil: “Personally I think it’s a good thing to do. Thanks to our support, people who are ill feel better. That touches me a lot.”

Lisa, second-year pupil: “It’s a moving dictation and difficult too! But we understand that the boy who is sick is sad that he can’t run like everyone else.

Elsa, primary-school pupil: “The dictation was great and it wasn’t even too complicated! I realised we’re lucky to be able to write. We know that the ELA children can’t write.”

Louise, first-year pupil: “I’d already heard about ELA but I didn’t really know what it was and what it was for. Now I understand better. I know there are children suffering and that they have to be helped. I also tell myself that some children are less lucky that us and that we probably don’t take enough advantage of our luck. I hope everyone will understand there have to be donations to find the remedy and cure them all!

Benjamin, primary-school pupil: “Today I learnt that we should think about children who are not lucky enough to go to school like us!

Caroline, first-year pupil: “I’m the ELA ambassador in my school. For me the most important thing is to talk about ELA to people around me. Being an ambassador means above all giving your time to run little events on behalf of ELA at school. I’ve been happy to be my school’s ELA ambassador and to represent the association’s values of solidarity and citizenship. Today, again, this morning’s dictation was a wonderful day I was happy to take part in.


To see the best photos from the Dictation: