“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R. R. Martin
Reading has numerous benefits, we know this. Reading helps reduce stress, improves memory and concentration, and can even slow down mental disorders like Alzheimer’s. When it comes to language, reading increases your vocabulary, and improves your writing, too. So what easy English books for Beginner learners of English can we recommend to our students to encourage their reading?
Benefits of reading for Beginner learners
Why should we encourage our Beginner learners to read books in English?
Reading exposes our learners to vocabulary and grammar. Importantly for Beginner learners, reading introduces the reader to language chunks. This helps the brain to recognise and produce those same language chunks in the appropriate situations. Learning language chunks is easier than learning individual words and structures and thinking how to put them together.
Read more: Using Phonics To Teach Reading
Top tips for reading English books with Beginner learners
But before we start talking about books, let’s look at a few tips for reading English books for Beginner learners.
- With Young Learners, you can introduce books even before they can read. Essentially, you use storytelling and reading aloud to teach Young Learners – just as you would in a first language classroom.
Read more: Teaching Young Learners Using Storytime
- Older learners must be able to read before introducing books. It does not matter what level of English they are, but they must already have a concept of letter-sound correspondences and letter identification.
- Just because an English book is Beginner level doesn’t mean that it has to be a children’s book. Children’s books are fantastic resources for Beginner learners but so are easy English books and graded readers.
- Graded readers can be used during your lessons, but with older learners, the books can be taken to be read at home. Your lessons can then focus on language, discussion and follow-on activities related to the books.
What is a graded reader?
A graded reader is a book written specially for language learners. It is usually a well-known novel or story, but it is rewritten using simpler language and grammatical structures. It can also be a story written purposely for English language learners. It includes pictures, as well as a glossary of difficult vocabulary. It is usually shorter than most books.
Publishers like Macmillan and Oxford University Press have graded readers which cover a range of topics. They have readers for Beginner learners up to Advanced learners.
- With Beginner learners, it is useful to read English books they are familiar with in their first language. Fairytales, classic novels, and books with a film equivalent are all good sources for Beginner English learners.
- Rather than reading aloud in class, use audiobooks and let the students read (silently) along with it. Or encourage your students to listen to the audiobooks at home. This will help with their pronunciation – individual sounds, sound-spelling correspondences, rhythm and intonation.
- Reading should be challenging but not impossible. Choose English books for Beginner learners that are slightly above their level, but not so high that they give up on the first page. They shouldn’t know every word, but they shouldn’t have to look up every word either.
- Use context and cultural clues where necessary. The students must focus on the meaning of the story first. Make sure they understand any cultural references before they begin reading to make the story easier to understand.
- Once the general meaning and plot of the story is familiar, then time can be spent focussing on the nitty gritty of the language.
- Alternatively, if you want to encourage extensive reading, let the students read books in English themselves in their free time, without any focus on the language. Hopefully your learners will grow to enjoy reading English books, which will do wonders for their language learning.
Read more: Activities For Reading Lessons
English Books For Beginner Learners Of English
Now let’s get down to business. What are some of the best English books for Beginner learners?
Here are our top picks for English books for Beginner learners of English:
- The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Expury
- Matilda – Roald Dahl
- How To Train Your Dragon -Cressida Cowell
- Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White
- Harry Potter – J. K. Rowling
The Little Prince
Originally written in French, this short story follows a little prince’s journey from an asteroid to Earth.
The book became a publishing phenomenon, with over 200 million copies sold worldwide, and 300 official translations.
With short, simple sentences, an intriguing storyline and a short story, this English book is always a hit with Beginner English learners.
How To Train Your Dragon
You might be familiar with this story in its movie form, but it was originally a series of novels.
The storyline follows a young viking boy as he goes on adventures with his dragon. Full of action, humour, and amazing illustrations, the books have been hailed as a modern classic.
Aimed at young adults, it’s a great series to get your Beginner English students involved in.
Matilda is the story of a young girl with some very special talents. The story follows her life with her family who mistreat her, her headmistress who hates children, and her favourite teacher Miss Honey.
The larger-than-life characters, hilarious storyline, and incredible illustrations by the acclaimed Quentin Blake are all good reasons to introduce your Beginner learners to Roald Dahl.
To be fair, any of Roald Dahl’s books are appropriate for our learners because they are all equally amazing. Our favourites include George’s Marvellous Medicine, The Twits, and The Witches.
The books are aimed at young readers which makes them accessible for language learners, but they suit stronger Beginner learners. The majority of his books have been made into films, and most of them can be found as graded readers.
On the surface, Charlotte’s Web is the story of a girl, a pig and a spider, but it’s much deeper than that. It’s a story of friendship, loyalty, love, life, and death.
It’s available as an audiobook on Youtube and in 2006 it was made into a film starring Julia Roberts and Dakota Fanning.
The Harry Potter series is a favourite for readers of all ages all around the world. It’s a 7-part fantasy series about a young wizard and his adventures through school with his friends.
Written for young readers, J.K. Rowling uses simple language vocabulary to tell the story. There are plenty of learning and teaching activities related to Harry Potter online – and you can watch the movies too!
The best thing about Harry Potter is that your learners are likely to be very familiar with the storyline and characters. They may even have read the books in their first language. This makes the reading experience a lot easier.
These are just five English books suitable for Beginner English learners. Remember, when using authentic texts in the EFL classroom, if the text seems too difficult, it may be necessary to scaffold the lesson more to help your students. Assess the levels of your students to decide which books will be best for them to read in English.
But before you go, if you teach higher levels then you should also check this out: 5 English Novels For Intermediate Learners