Reading is like exercise for your brain.
You use your “mental muscles” when you read books or learn new things, until eventually your body remembers how to do it and it gets easier. When you read articles on Buzzfeed, look at web comics, or simply read books in English you are working those muscles.
But as your English advances, are you remembering the basics?
When you exercise regularly your English will improve drastically (a lot), but when you look back at beginner videos that you used to watch, you’ll see that you lost a lot of form (structure) over time.
Maybe it seems too easy to do beginner level things now, but it does help you reinforce and remember basic structures that you may have forgotten. And just like bad form in exercising can hurt your muscles, bad grammar can hurt your writing and speaking.
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An occasional exercise in beginners English can be quick, easy, and helpful! Children’s books are another “back to the basics” way of improving English. Practice makes perfect, so going back and remembering the “rules” of English is really helpful.
You can use these books to check your bad habits, to find sentences that you can use as “frames” for more advanced phrases or words, to work on your weak points, and to remember grammatical terms and definitions. These books are written to teach the fundamentals of a language, no matter your level!
Why Do Children’s Books Work Best?
Every native speaker started somewhere. As children, most people started reading easy books, slowly reading harder ones as they got older.
These books are written for beginners, so the language is simple and the lessons are straightforward (clear), introducing grammar so that anyone can understand it. Textbooks can teach you these lessons as well, but they will be more complicated and hard to remember.
Another benefit is that the grammar in children’s books must be perfect. When you read a novel or an article there is a chance, especially if a person or character is talking, that the grammar may not be completely correct. However, because these are written to teach rules to children, the grammar is simple and accurate.
They are not only fun and engaging, with a lot of pictures to help understand, but must also teach good English grammar. These books are also short, so if you are an advanced or intermediate level learner, reading them will only take a few minutes to get through (finish). Because it is fast, easy, helpful, and made to be fun, who wouldn’t want to read these in their spare time?
How to Choose Books That Work
If you are going to read children’s books to improve basic grammar, you need to choose the right kind of book. Some are stories that are simply easy to read, but it’s best to focus on books that are designed to teach certain things. I will recommend a few good books here, but it’s also good to learn how to choose them for yourself.
- Find a book that teaches the grammar that is most difficult for you: if you have a difficult time remembering what type of plural to use, choose a book that targets that. And if you want to improve everything, you can choose many kinds of books. Remember that you are not looking for textbooks for children, but beginner level books that teach short lessons! These books should be short with a few sentences that help you remember rules. Most books like this come in a series (many different books with the same theme) or have a common author, so once you find one, you’ll find recommendations for others inside as well.
- You can find a lot of books by searching through the children’s section of a bookstore, especially if they have special sections for language and grammar. Try to look in a bigger bookstore first. If you prefer online reading, you can search in the Kindle or Amazon store in “Children’s Books”, “Language Arts”, or “Grammar Reference”. You can also search with keywords like “grammar”, “language”, “spelling” or “learning for children” and see what you find.
- If you still don’t can’t find any good books, you can speak with teachers or parents who have small children about what books they like, or look on Pinterest boards online made by parents and teachers. Don’t be embarrassed, just ask for suggestions. Most people will have a long list of favorite books from their childhoods, and would be happy to share them with you.
(Asking people is also a good way to practice small talk with others! Talk about the books that you read when you were a child as well!)
How to Improve English Grammar by Reading Smart and Fun Children’s Books
1. Lynne Truss and Bonnie Timmons: Punctuation
“Twenty-Odd Ducks“, “The Girl’s Like Spaghetti“, and “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” all teach different rules about punctuation. Lynne Truss is a New York Times Best-Selling author who has many children’s books published. These books will help with commas (,), apostrophes (‘), and punctuation marks. These are especially important when writing because the meaning of a sentence can change a lot with just one comma in the wrong place. Every time you write a letter, email, or even a test in English, this part of grammar is especially important, but people can forget their proper use.
2. Brian P. Cleary: Rhyming Grammar Lessons
Brian P. Clearly has published a lot of books that you can choose from. “How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear? and “A Bat Cannot Bat, a Stair Cannot Stare” teach homophones and homonyms (words that have the same pronunciation, but different meanings). “Skin like Milk, Hair of Silk” teaches similes and metaphors, and “Pre- and Re-, Mis- and Dis-” teaches prefixes (small words that are attached to the beginning of other words). Metaphors are used daily in speech and writing, so it’s always useful to learn more.
The author very often uses rhyming to teach lessons. This can help you remember the words easily, and improve your pronunciation!
3. “Grammar Tales:” Sentence Structure
While this series has a lot of different lessons by different authors, they have a good section of books on sentence structure.
“The No-Good, Rotten, Run-On Sentence” by Liza Charlesworth is about—that’s right—run-on sentences (very long and strange-sounding sentences)! If you write essays in English, this is one of the main points you lose points on, so it’s very important to know when to stop.
“The Mega-Delux Capitalization Machine” by Justin McCory Martin will help you remember what to capitalize in a sentence, and more importantly, what not to.
Finally, “Francine Fribble, Proofreading Policewoman” by Justin McCory Martin is about the “grammar police”. This book will cover all types of bad sentence habits and how to fix them quickly.
4. Peter Maloney: Plurals
“One Foot, Two Feet” is a book about irregular plurals. Although this is just one book, it is a popular one because it is written so well. Plurals can be difficult to remember because while there are some rules, there are also a lot of irregular forms used as well. You can read about all the different types of plurals that exist and get a hang of using them again.
If you want to read even more about plurals, there is another book by Brian P. Cleary called, “Feet and Puppies, Thieves and Guppies“, that can help you as well. This may not be a topic that you think about a lot, but people use plurals every day and remembering the right terms is important. English especially has a lot of exceptions, so it’s best to learn them right!
5. Ruth Heller: The Basics (Explore!)
Ruth Heller began publishing children’s books in the 1980s and has released several great lessons. “Fantastic! Wow! and Unreal!” teaches interjections, “Mine, All Mine!” has several different types of pronouns, and “Behind the Mask” is about prepositions rules.
Learning the definitions of different types of words, grammar rules, and phrases is important when studying a language. These books, along with ones on nouns, verbs, and adjectives, will help you remember how to define these different categories of words. It may be simple, but you don’t want to forget the differences, especially if you take exams or do Mad Libs with friends.
Now that you have your books to get started, start exercising your reading muscles and practice beautiful grammar when you write and speak in English.
It is a tricky language, so these easy examples will help you learn quickly!
Christine McGahhey is an American writer currently living in South Korea who has volunteered for several years to teach students and adults English.
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
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