Struggling to make your kids open their English textbooks? I’m not surprised! The best way to kill enthusiasm for a language is the “grammar first” approach: drowning kids in boring verb tables until English is nothing but a chore to them. And that’s not how it should be. A language is more than lifeless grammar and vocabulary - it’s the key to a whole new world!
And this goes for adults, too! Don’t force yourself to learn English: find a way to INSPIRE yourself to learn English. Fall in love with the culture, whether that means finding a TV show that you love, a computer game that you’re addicted to, or a book series that you just can’t put down.
In this blog post, we’re going to chat about the third option: finding an English language book series that you (or your kids) can fall in love with.
Reading English books is an excellent way to improve your language skills. You learn new words by figuring out their meaning from the context, meaning that you are much more likely to remember how to use them. You’ll also practice proper sentence structure as you read, without having to learn endless grammar rules: you’ll be able to tell that a sentence is right because it “sounds” right - just as a native speaker would! Finally, you’ll be learning real, conversational English rather than model sentences from a textbook, and you’ll find it SO much easier to understand native speakers as a result!
The most important things to bear in mind when choosing an English book is that it should be interesting to you (or your kids!), and also at your reading level.
What do I mean by “at your reading level”? Don’t worry, you don’t need to understand every word in the book - it just means that you are able to follow the story, and you don’t need to look up a new word in every sentence. Basically, you should be able to read the book and enjoy it without it feeling like a chore (are you starting to see a pattern here?) Remember, learning English should be fun!
As for choosing interesting books, the great thing about books written for children and young adults is that it’s very hard to get bored! Books aimed at younger readers pack as much action as possible into every page, and also use straightforward language so that the plot isn’t interrupted by kids (or English learners!) having to stop and look up a complicated word.
Alright, so now you know why reading in English is such a useful and FUN way to improve your language skills. Time for my recommendations!
This sweet bedtime story is about a bunny saying goodnight to everything in its bedroom. Most of the book is short 2 - 3 word sentences, so it’s accessible even to absolute beginners. The same sentence structure is repeated again and again with different vocabulary, which is really helpful for learning a lot of new words.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
This children’s book tells the story of a caterpillar who eats more and more as the week goes on. It’s a wonderful tool for practising essential English vocabulary like colours, days of the week and numbers. The book’s structure is repetitive, which is great for reinforcing the new vocabulary in your mind.
The popular Curious George series is about the adventures of a naughty monkey called George. The book is written in very short, simple sentences and so is very accessible for beginner English learners.
If you give a moose a muffin
This short but charming book is about a moose who just keeps asking for more and more! It uses the future tense a lot throughout, so it’s a very useful tool for practising this tense and its contractions.
Where the Wild Things Are
This is a much-loved children’s book that was recently made into a popular movie, so you can watch the movie first to familiarise yourself with the story! The book is about a boy named Max, who travels to a magical forest and meets huge monsters called the Wild Things. The structure of the book is quite simple, but it uses some higher level words and so is a great tool for improving your vocabulary.
The Flat Stanley books are a classic American series that tell the story of a boy who is squashed flat and is able to mail himself around the world in an envelope! The story is good fun, and the sentence structures and vocabulary are very accessible for intermediate learners.
The Cat in the Hat
This famous book by Dr Seuss tells the story of two siblings who are trapped inside because of the rain. Luckily, the Cat in the Hat soon arrives to cause mayhem! This classic story is great for English learners because it combines simple structures with advanced words, and is a great tool for widening your vocabulary.
Harry Potter 1-3
Who hasn’t heard of Harry Potter? These books are a great resource for English learners, both children and adults, because most students will already know the story well enough that they will be able to understand the books without too much trouble. The first few books of the saga are aimed at younger children, and so are shorter and generally use simpler language.
The Hunger Games
This popular young adult book series was recently adapted into four movies, which you can watch to give you an overview of the plot before reading the books. The books are written in a fast-paced, exciting style and cover themes that are relevant for both teens and adults.
Harry Potter 4 - 7
The later Harry Potter books cover darker, more complex themes and are also much longer than the earlier books in the series. The witty writing and fun stories are a great way to improve your vocabulary, especially if you’re already a Harry Potter fan!.
This book series is set in a dystopian future, where cities have become mobile and chase each other over the ruined Earth, the larger cities consuming the smaller. The plot is very original and exciting, and the language is straightforward enough that English learners can enjoy the book without having to stop too often.
Recently made into a Disney film, this Irish book series tells the story of a teenage criminal mastermind who discovers the secret fairy civilisation that lives under the Earth’s surface, and attempts to exploit them for financial gain. The plot is great fun and very witty, and is a very enjoyable way to improve your vocabulary.