We have not done a formal study of Spanish this summer. But, I did not want to lose all that we have studied in the past year. So, it has been fun to pull out a Spanish picture book every now and then. We are blessed with a local library with lots of Spanish language picture books. Seeing how a story is told (whether it is a familiar story or not) is interesting. For my son, finding ways to practice Spanish with picture books has made it a less intense subject. Picture books are fun. Plus, picture books are less overwhelming than a textbook may be.
As I talk about practicing Spanish at home, I do have a caveat. I am semi-fluent in Spanish myself, and my son (who is 8) has been studying with me for more than three years. That said, I kind of wish we were more intensely seeking out picture books before, because it has been fun.
What Spanish Pictures Books Should I Use?
In looking for picture books that would work well for our language learning and practice, I looked for a few options. Any of these would work well.
- A book that is already familiar to the child in English. (Example: Huevos verdes con jamon/Green Eggs and Ham). This helps kids compare and contrast sentence structure and gain familiarity with how words go together.
- A book in simple present tense with repetition. (Example: Red is Best by Kathy Stinson. See also the video for more ideas.)
- A book with two people communicating, preferably if one of them is repetitious. (Example: Books like Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems. See more suggestions in the video.)
I gathered a few of these types of picture books from the library and share a short vlog to help you gain a better idea of how I used these Spanish picture books with my kids.
Books to Use Mentioned in the Video
- Contrarios by Patrick George | Magic Opposites
- No es una caja by Antoinette Portis | Not a Box
- Comparte! by Anthea Simmons | Share!
- El rojo es mejor by Kathy Stinson | Red is Best
- Huevos verdes con jamon by Dr. Seuss | Green Eggs and Ham
- Hay un molillo en mi bolsillo by Dr. Seuss | There’s a Wocket in My Pocket
Other Spanish Picture Books We’ve Enjoyed
- Elefante y Cerdita books by Mo Willems | Elephant and Piggie Books
- Que aburrido! by Michael Ian Black | I’m Bored!
- Buenas Noches, Luna by Margaret Wise Brown | Goodnight, Moon
- La verdadera historia de los tres cerditos by Jon Scieszka | The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
How do I Practice Spanish with a Picture Book?
Here are some further ideas about how we could extend the learning by using El rojo es mejor or Red is Best.
El rojo es mejor is good for Spanish lessons for a number of reasons. First, it is a familiar story. It is always easier to approach a familiar story in a foreign language.
Secondly, it is a repetitive story. For each red item Kelly insists on wearing, the reader can predict that she has a good reason for liking her red item best. I love patterns in books, especially picture books, and for kids reading a text in a new-to-them language, this pattern is fun.
Finally, the book is funny. Although Kelly has a reason why she loves red the best, the clever reader knows that red pajamas really do not keep the monsters away and that red boots don’t allow for bigger steps: it’s just what she likes.
For Spanish, the book is good because it teaches vocabulary that kids may not be familiar with. More importantly, it is a great book to use to teach the concept of noun-adjective gender agreement. In English, we do not need to match nouns and adjectives based on the gender of the noun. In Spanish, this then becomes a new and potentially difficult concept.
Since this book lends itself to learning and practice so readily, I’ve made up a picture book lesson plan to go along with it!
This lesson plan and game includes the following pages:
- Flashcards of each of the eight red items that Kelly loves, with real photos. These flashcards are provided twice, once with English and once with Spanish.
- Charts to sort the flashcards into categories based on how “red” would be translated. (Rojo, roja, rojos, rojas)
- A worksheet to practice the eight vocabulary words
- A worksheet to practice determining proper adjective gender based on the same eight red items
- A full-color worksheet to practice determining proper adjective gender for other colors and other clothing vocabulary
- A writing prompt (in both Spanish and English)
- A page to write down additional Spanish vocabulary words found in the book
- A graph to take a poll as to favorite colors among classmates, family, and friends
What picture books do you seek out when practicing a foreign language?