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Easy Language Books: 6 Places to Find Your Inner Kid

Ah, to be a kid again.

To read picture books… and not get teased for it.

To pretend you’re Nancy Drew or one of the Hardy Boys—or some other world-famous, super-cool, yet surprisingly humble teen detective—as you bravely plunge into “The Case of the Missing Clue.”

Well, let me clue you in on a little secret:

Simple books like these are an essential tool for confidently learning the fundamentals of another language.

So grab your favorite bookmark and let’s get ready to read!
 


 
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Why Go Easy When Reading in Other Languages?

Building a foundation

Easy language books are perfect for laying a foundation of knowledge. By using simple language, they help you learn the basics.

Just like you can’t walk before you crawl, you can’t read great literature or college-level texts before you’ve mastered picture books.

Avoiding frustration

While it’s great to challenge yourself, you want to build your confidence with realistic reading goals.

If you start out trying to read a book that’s way beyond your current level of proficiency, you may soon become discouraged and be reluctant to try again.

Easy language books are a relatively painless way to get yourself through the mental hurdle of reading a book in another language.

Types of Easy Language Books

There are several different types of easy language books, covering various genres and themes. Let’s look at what they are!

Children’s books: Young at heart

Use familiar fairy tales and simple stories to help you learn a language, just like its young native speakers do.

You likely already know many classic fairy tales that are known internationally, which gives you a head start at understanding them in another language.

And even if some children’s stories you choose to read in other languages are new and unfamiliar, the elementary-level writing makes children’s books a surefire way to improve your reading skills.

Tales for teens and tweens

These are usually original fiction, geared toward a young adult audience.

Although the language is more advanced than children’s books, young adult fiction is still fairly simple to read.

However, the themes reflect their adolescent audience: The focus is often on relationships, individuality and self-discovery. The plots can be anything from everyday life to full-on fantasy, or some combination thereof.

Graded readers: Making the grade

Written for academic contexts, these short stories and simple novels help you gradually expand your vocabulary and increase understanding in your target language. They’re often paired with exercises, glossaries and quizzes, since they’re often designed for classroom use.

Bilingual books: Built-in translations

You can find bilingual versions of everything from children’s picture books to complex classics of literature.

While the texts themselves aren’t always easy, bilingual parallel texts give you a “cheat sheet” so you can immediately understand more difficult material.

Bilingual easy language books are perfect for beginners, since you can easily link the foreign words to their translation and not be thrown off by more complex grammar or sentence structures.

How to Get the Most Out of Easy Language Books

Read a series

Many publishers release entire series of easy language books, translating them into many different languages.

Familiar characters, settings and other elements will boost your confidence and propel you forward to read more.

Try more than one language

If you’re not finding an easy language book quite easy enough, getting a copy in a language you know well will help you better grasp the story.

If you’re going for polyglot gold by studying more than one language at a time, you might read the same book in each of the languages you’re studying. Your skills in one language can buoy your understanding in a language where you feel less confident.

Make an easy language dictionary

Jot down new words and phrases as you read easy language books. Unlike a regular dictionary that mixes together all levels of vocabulary, your easy language dictionary will keep you focused on mastering the basics.

Keep a journal of your progress, noting down which categories of words you’ve covered. For instance, if you read a children’s book that teaches you the days of the week and the months of the year, you can cross those topics off your list of essential vocabulary to learn.

Figure out ways to drill yourself on your new vocabulary. You might even make custom flashcards, using index cards or your smartphone.

With FluentU, you can create your own customized flashcard set with almost no work at all! FluentU takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons. A customized flashcard set will pull clips from videos all across the site to give you real-life context for learning your own personal vocab list.

Put yourself in the story

As you’re reading, imagine that you’re a character in the story. Pretend that you speak the target language fluently.

What would you say to the other characters in that language? How would you describe the settings or explain the plot in that language, if you were talking to a friend?

6 Top-shelf Sources for Easy Foreign Language Books

Ready for some easy-breezy reading? Here are a half-dozen of the best sources for easy language books. For each resource, we’ll look at the available languages and formats, special features and a few of the most happenin’ titles in each collection.

Library of Tales

Most of the bookshelves in the Library of Tales are filled with traditional European fairy tales. Originally known as My Grandma’s Tales, the collection is expanding to include original books with easy text.

Available languages:

  • Armenian
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Ukrainian

 …and several more.

Format:

Print and e-book (Kindle).

Types of books:

Adaptations of fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault and Oscar Wilde, plus original stories and creative non-fiction.

Monolingual, bilingual or both:

Mostly bilingual, with a few monolingual books in Russian, and a few in English.

Special features:

The Library of Tales offers unusual bilingual combinations, such as Russian-Spanish, Russian-Italian and Armenian-French.

While a lot of foreign language book series focus on Western European languages, the Library of Tales reflects the Eastern European heritage of its creator, illustrator Svetlana Bagdasaryan.

Originally from Armenia, Bagdasaryan has a Master’s degree in Physics and a Ph.D. in Chemistry. After a household accident caused a concussion, she unlocked a previously unknown talent for art. Her beautiful, colorful, distinctive illustrations are the hallmark of the Library of Tales.

Where to find them:

Library of Tales

Amazon.com

Recommended reading:

“Oscar Wilde’s Fairy Tales”

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This book contains two Oscar Wilde fairy tales, “The Star Child” and “The Selfish Giant.”

Wilde is known largely for his witty quotes, satirical plays and farces (such as “The Importance of Being Earnest”) and his allegorical fantasy “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

He’s perhaps less well-known for his fairy tales, although “The Star Child” (one of the two in this volume) inspired a couple of Russian films. The other story, “The Selfish Giant,” was adapted into an opera in Hungary, a children’s ballet in Australia and an animated TV show in Canada.

“Fairy Tales” (multi-book volume)

This title combines three separate stories—two classic fairy tales, and an original, contemporary fairy tale—that the Library of Tales previously released as individual books, with editions in several different languages.

Currently available in German, Russian and Armenian, this collection is a neat way to sample several eras of storytelling.

You’ll find this trio of tales inside:

“Bremen Town Musicians”

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The Brothers Grimm classic records the adventures of four animals on their way to Bremen to make a new life as musicians.

“Puss in Boots”

Featuring a fashionable feline who’s the cool cat behind numerous films and a video game, “Puss in Boots” was adapted by Charles Perrault of “Cinderella” fame from a 16th-century Italian story (“Il gatto con gli stivali”) by Giovanni Francesco Straparola.

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“The Underwater Adventures of Christina” (Also called “The Sea Fairy Tale” in the Russian edition and “The Giant Squid: Adventures of Christina and Ramses” in the German and Armenian editions)

Set in California, this book is part of a planned original series, written by Gary Mikaelian with Svetlana Bagdasaryan. It stars a young girl named Christina and her German Shepherd, Ramses.

Miley Smiley

Author Miley Smiley transforms familiar household objects into characters in this offbeat collection of original children’s stories.

Available languages:

  • Dutch
  • French
  • German
  • Japanese
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish

Format:

E-book (Kindle).

Types of books:

Contemporary children’s books, mostly written for readers between the ages of 3 and 7. 

Monolingual, bilingual or both:

Both.

Special features:

Personified objects, such as a pair of sparkly red shoes, an old chipped teacup or lonely wooden clothespin entertain you as you learn names for common household items and other basic vocabulary.

Whimsical and witty, most of the titles in this series are available in both monolingual and bilingual forms, so you can choose whichever works best for your learning needs.

This series is contemporary, with new titles regularly added. A character named Alexis made her debut a few years ago, leading readers to the Soap Kingdom, the Bug World and the Backward Opposite Upside Down World.

Where to find them:

Miley Smiley’s website

Amazon.com

Recommended reading:

“Two Green Bananas”

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An appealing adventure for lovers of underripe, unappreciated fruit. Taunted by their scornful neighbors in the fruit bowl, two green bananas escape their torment on the countertop by journeying to the outside world.

“The Clothespin”

You’ll hang on every word of this story! A lonely wooden clothespin tires of his garish plastic companions and goes off to the woods to be with his durable distant relations in the forest.

“The Sparkling Red Shoes”

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These ruby slippers, beautiful enough to walk down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, think they’re better than the rest of the shoes at the store. When young Lisa and her mother select them to be worn at a party, the arrogant Red Shoes see this as confirmation of their superiority. However, once at home with Lisa, they’re pushed aside in favor of more practical footwear like bedroom slippers and rain boots.

KidKiddos Books

Join Jimmy the Rabbit and other recurrent characters from author Shelley Admont as you travel the world of languages through these easy, original children’s books.

Available languages:

  • Arabic
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Hungarian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Serbian
  • Swedish
  • Tagalog
  • Ukrainian
  • Vietnamese

Formats:

Paperback, hardback and e-book (Kindle and/or PDF).

Types of books:

Children’s stories, most of which are meant to teach manners, hygiene and good behavior—with some just for entertainment.

Monolingual, bilingual or both:

Both.

Special features:

All books are translated by a native speaker; at least one other native speaker edits each book, to ensure a smooth and correct translation. Many of the books in the collection are under the S.A. Publishing imprint, with newer titles published by KidKiddos Books.

For most languages, you can find all of the available books in both a bilingual (English-other language) and a monolingual edition. (Notable exceptions are Arabic and Hebrew books, which are always bilingual with English, and English books, which are always monolingual.)

Because most of these books revolve around teaching good habits and manners to children, they’re useful for learning basic vocabulary for family relationships and household items.

Several of the Kindle editions are available for free, with others priced around $3. The low prices make it feasible to collect more of these books, whether you’re building a larger collection of books in one language or you’re studying multiple languages and want copies of the same story in all of your target languages.

Where to find them:

KidKiddos

Amazon.com

Recommended reading:

“I Love to Keep My Room Clean”

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You don’t have to be a neat freak to appreciate the lessons that these bunny brothers learn about the merits of personal organization. As Jimmy and his siblings pick up their toys and put their books back on the shelf, you’ll pick up words for common household items.

“I Love to Eat Fruits and Vegetables”

Feed your appetite for instruction! The bunny boys are back to learn about good nutrition. Pull up a chair at Jimmy’s kitchen table and chow down on a full course of food words. Bon appétit!

Sefa Bilingual Books

Former physician and publishing CEO turned children’s author Ulrich Renz has built an impressive collection of bilingual books on just two stories. His company also offers a new, original fiction series in monolingual volumes.

Available languages:

  • English
  • German
  • 60+ other languages, including French, Spanish, Greek, Thai, Urdu, Farsi, Swahili, Esperanto, Hindi and Icelandic

Formats:

Paperback and e-book (Kindle or EPUB). (Some audio and video versions are also available.)

Types of books:

Fairy tales and original stories make up the Sefa Bilingual collection.

Monolingual, bilingual or both:

Both.

Special features:

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There are currently only two tales in the bilingual series from Ulrich Renz—“Sleep Tight, Little Wolf” (an original story by Renz) and “The Wild Swans” (based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale).

While the book selection is limited, the languages are not: These two tales have been translated into tens of tongues, resulting in 3,450 possible bilingual combinations.

The online Language Wizard lets you choose your custom bilingual blend from two drop-down menus. Renz’s team is also developing a set of audiobooks to pair with the written texts of its two foundational books. (The notation “MP3” beside the language name indicates that there’s an audio version available.)

After you’ve made both of your language selections and clicked the “Go” button, a short sample of the bespoke book you’ve requested will appear in another tab on your web browser, along with links for ordering the formats of your choice from various sellers.

A new, original series, “Motte und Co,” has been released in German; its English-language equivalent is called “Bo and Friends.” The first three volumes in this monolingual series have already been released, with a fourth in the works.

The first German-language volume in the “Motte und Co” series, “Auf der Spur der Erpresser” (“On the Trail of Blackmailers”), also comes in a simplified edition.

Where to find them:

Sefa Bilingual Books

Amazon.com

Recommended reading:

“Sleep Tight, Little Wolf”

The most basic book available from Sefa, “Sleep Tight, Little Wolf” is the best place to start for an easy language experience.

“The Wild Swans”

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Renz’s adaptation of this Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale has slightly more advanced language than “Sleep Tight, Little Wolf.” However, the elements and themes—a castle, a king, a wicked stepmother, enchanted princes and a heroic princess—are quite familiar to anyone who’s heard a few traditional fairy tales.

“On the Trail of Blackmailers”

As your reading skills grow in the languages you’re learning, fresh adventures await you! “Auf der Spur der Erpresser” (“On the Trail of Blackmailers”) is the start of Renz’s new monolingual children’s detective series. You can download it for free, giving you a chance to try it before committing to buy the remaining books in the series.

German Edition: “Auf der Spur der Erpresser” (“On the Trail of Blackmailers”)

English Edition: “Bo and the Blackmailers”

TPRS Books

TPRS, an acronym meaning Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling,” was the brainchild of a Spanish teacher named Blaine Ray. This teaching method also incorporates the theories of Dr. James Asher and Dr. Stephen Krashen.

TPRS Books was founded to provide reading materials that work with the TPRS language acquisition method. Each book is written with a limited number of words to help facilitate the reader’s understanding.

Available languages:

  • Chinese
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Russian
  • Spanish

Formats:

Mostly paperbacks, with some audiobooks on CD.

Types of books:

Fictional stories in graded readers.

Monolingual, bilingual or both:

Monolingual.

Special features:

These graded readers are novels written in simple language. Many of the same stories are available in several languages, sometimes featuring recurring characters.

Geared toward teens, the books’ subjects are more mature than those found in fairy tales and other children’s stories.

Where to find them:

TPRS Books

Amazon.com

Recommended reading:

“Poor Ana”

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Travel abroad with Ana! While in a foreign land, she learns lessons that will improve her life back at home.

Based on the book’s language, Ana’s hometown changes, as does her travel destination.

In the sequel, “Poor Ana Danced the Tango,” Ana travels to Buenos Aires to take an amorous turn on the dance floor.

“Bart Wants a Cat”

Remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that were a staple of childhood in the 1980s? TPRS brings you the “It’s Your Story” series, which essentially works the same way.

Take control of the plot as you choose from several options at key points in the story. Will Bart listen to his parents or his friend? Will he ultimately decide he wants a dog, a turtle or a cat for a pet… or go with a less family-friendly choice, the piranha?

It’s is all up to you. You can make different choices each time you read it, learning more words as you go.

Look for the online teacher guides on the TPRS Books website for extras like a glossary.

EMC School World Languages Readers

This series of slender volumes can broaden your language horizons.

Available languages:

  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Spanish

Formats:

Paperback, with some audiobooks on CD.

Types of books:

Graded readers with fictional stories.

Monolingual, bilingual or both:

Monolingual.

Special features:

Perhaps the most formally scholastic of all our sources for easy language books, the EMC graded readers boast exercises that will test your grammar, reading comprehension and written expression.

The books are categorized into 12 proficiency levels, so you can advance step-by-step. They also feature multimedia tie-ins like online projects and matching audiobook CDs.

Where to find them:

EMC School

Amazon.com

Recommended reading:

“Fabulous Fables Series”

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Each of the six stories in this series is based on a classic fable from Aesop, Gaius Julius Phaedrus or Jean de la Fontaine. Themed activities and games are included in these books, along with an illustrated glossary.

Every story highlights different areas of vocabulary, such as action verbs, parts of the body, telling time and clothing names.

“Young Readers Series”

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Designed to appeal to adolescents and teens, this series features detective stories and mysteries. Activities, games and exercises accompany the stories for extra vocabulary reinforcement and enhanced reading comprehension.

Story selections vary from one language to another, as do the character names and some other details.

 

So go forth. Go to the library. Go online and order yourself a few picture books, or some tales of teenage derring-do.

Remember: You’re not acting like a kid—it’s all in the pursuit of higher education.

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