When students are in high school learning Spanish, the reading practice they often get is in a textbook or from excerpts of novels or articles for teens or adults written by Spanish speaking authors. These resources provide a great opportunity to build vocabulary, cultural knowledge, grammar skills, verb usage, and comprehension.
But, one resource I like to recommend parents and teachers add to the Spanish reading mix are children’s books and novels. I like to take advantage of these resources because they provide students with an opportunity to more easily learn everyday Spanish language usage.
The reading level of these books for a native Spanish speaker is at a child’s level which provides high school students with something easier to read, but that uses the Spanish language at its various difficulty levels. For example, in the page examples you see in this picture from the El osito polar book, there are verbs used in the present, preterite, and imperfect tenses. There is also grammar usage of indirect object pronouns. Students in the second semester of their second year of high school Spanish, would be able to read this fairly easily.
In the example of the pages shown from El cachorrito de Arturo, there is use of verbs in the preterite, present, and future tenses. There is also use of verbs in the subjunctive as well as direct and indirect object pronouns. This material would be more easily read by third-year high school Spanish students.
If you are a teacher, you will be able to look at some children’s books or novels and determine what would best fit your students.
If you are a parent, I would offer this advice:
- Consider choosing children’s novels or books your child has already read in English, like the Cricket in Times Square. This way he/she will already be familiar with the story and follow more easily.
- If possible, check with your child’s Spanish teacher about some book options. Choose a few books to show him/her so he/she can see the pages and tell you if it looks like an appropriate language level based on what your child has learned so far.
- When your child is reading any book, only allow him/her to use a Spanish/English dictionary (online is ok) to look up words, no online translators. Here is why: If a student runs across a verb he/she doesn’t know, you want him/her to use some brain power to think of which infinitive (unconjugated) verb the conjugated one in the sentence came from. Then, he/she looks up the infinitive of the verb to learn its meanings and to figure out what is being said in the sentence. Merely being able to pop a conjugated verb or an entire sentence into an online translator does nothing to develop the student’s language skills.
- As your child reads, tell him/her that it is important to at least get the gist of what is being said. It is ok if they don’t know every word. If they get the meaning more or less of each sentence, they will follow well enough what is happening.
Personally, I have found that reading children’s books and novels really helps build the high school student’s everyday Spanish language skills while challenging them to read at a native level. They don’t feel overwhelmed with these materials and enjoy them.
I know many times I have read things, and as I was reading them, said to myself, “Oh, so that’s how they say that!”