Remember the excitement of leveling up to the next set of readers in grade school?
It was the best feeling: running up to the bookshelf in the school library and being able to pick from new stories in the “older kids” section.
Being an adult doesn’t mean that you have to lose that feeling!
Turns out graded readers are a great way to learn French, and there are thousands of options to choose from.
Why Learn French with Graded Readers?
Reading is very important when learning French since it helps you practice how to spell words and expands your vocabulary. There are plenty of reading options for learning French, such as children’s books which are easier for beginners to understand.
French readers are geared towards those still learning the language. These books can be one of the biggest assets of all when it comes to improving your French. Even more helpful are graded readers, which keep you on track by focusing on individual levels.
Learning with French graded readers has some clear benefits:
- They are labeled to allow for easy selection. Knowing the language level before you dive into a book means you won’t end up with a story that seems interesting but is either too easy or too difficult for your reading level.
- They allow you to easily track your progress. They allow you to track your improvement by seeing how long it takes you to move up to the next level.
- They are specifically designed to improve your French. Each story is told through careful vocabulary and grammar selection geared towards learning the language.
- They include glossaries to highlight new words and bonus questions at the end of the book. The glossaries help improve your vocabulary while the questions test your reading comprehension and help assess your learning.
With so many benefits, it’s a no-brainer as to why you should learn with graded readers. There are so many options out there, so we are making it easier by presenting you with five extremely useful series that have earned our seal of approval!
Another great graded resource for improving your French is FluentU.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the French language and culture over time. You’ll learn French as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.
You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with FluentU's adaptive quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning and play the mini-games found in the dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
As you study, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a 100% personalized experience.
It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
Learn French with 5 Entertaining Graded Reader Series
1. Lire en Français Facile (Read French Easily)
Lire en Français Facile is an excellent creator of French graded books for levels A1 (beginner) through B2 (intermediate).
Their website is very easy to navigate, as all of their books can be split up by level or category (content or genre). In addition to choosing between levels, you can choose between books for children, adolescents and adults.
For example, you can find lower-level, abridged versions of classic French novels for adults. The great thing about reading these is that you gain exposure to renown French classics that would otherwise remain inaccessible to new learners because of their difficulty. Each classic is graded into the A1, A2, B1 or B2 level, so no matter what level you are currently at, you can find an option that fits your needs.
If you aren’t a classics person, there are plenty of modern fiction choices available too. As a bonus, each purchase comes with an audio CD or MP3 download so you can practice your listening and pronunciation skills at the same time.
After finding something you like on their website, you will need to purchase it elsewhere, like on Amazon, which carries most of their titles.
- Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables” (“The Miserables”)
- Jules Verne’s “Le Tour du monde en 80 jours” (“Around the World in 80 Days”)
- Alexandre Dumas’s “Les Trois Mousquetaires” (“The Three Musketeers”)
2. Black Cat CIDEB
Black Cat CIDEB is another great series, offering graded readers in many different languages, including French. They have loads of books to choose from and break their options down even further than most, rating them as 1, 2, 3, 4, A1, 5, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. This is a great way to really hone in on your specific level.
Their lower level books include a lot of fables, while their intermediate options include a number of French classics. Advanced C1 and C2 level book choices are made up of great French literature. No matter which level your French is, you can find something to enjoy here.
A great perk of buying from this company is that they offer diverse purchasing options like paperbacks with accompanying audio CDs or digital downloads that come with their mobile app. Additional incentives include access to online web activities that correspond to your book and final exit tests to see how much you really understood.
To make it easy on their customers, you can make purchases directly from their website.
- “Cendrillon” (“Cinderella”)
- “Blanche-Neige et les sept nains” (“Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”)
- Victor Hugo’s “Notre-Dame de Paris” (“The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”)
- Gaston Leroux’s “Le Fantôme de l’Opéra” (“The Phantom of the Opera)
- Gustave Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary”
- Molière’s “L’Avare” (“The Miser”).
3. CLE International
CLE International is an excellent company that offers graded readers for infants, adolescents and adults. They carry collections ranging in level from A1 through C2 and their subject matter is very diverse.
For example, you can get an otherwise extremely difficult classic like Joseph Bédier’s retelling of “Tristan et Yseut” (“Tristan and Isolde”) at a beginner’s A2 level. Additionally, they offer plenty of textbook-like graded readers that focus on topics like business, food or conversation.
One of the great things about this company is that they also offer supplemental books to help with difficult grammatical rules, phonetics and more, and many of their books include an audio CD.
Customers can place orders directly on their website and they ship to most countries around the world.
- Joseph Bédier’s “Tristan et Yseut” (“Tristan and Isolde”)
4. Eli Graded Readers
This company offers French graded readers and many other languages. They break their selections down into the following extremely specific categories: children (A0, A1, A1.1 and A2), adolescents (A1, A2 and B1) and adults (A1, A2, B1 and B2).
Like the companies above, they offer abridged French classics, like those of Molière, Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert and Jules Verne, most of which are accompanied by audio CDs. However, “Eli Graded Readers” also has a wide selection of newer fiction.
As an added bonus, customers have a variety of purchasing options for those of you who prefer digital downloads and books for eReaders.
You can place orders by selecting your country on their sales network page.
- “Le Roman de Renart” (“The Story of Reynart”) (unknown author)
- Domitille Hatuel’s “Je t’aime Paris!” (“I Love You, Paris”)
5. Easy Readers
Easy Readers offers graded books in all languages and has a particularly large French selection.
You can choose from four different categories: beginner (A1 and A2), elementary (A2), intermediate (A2 and B1) and advanced (B2).
They carry a very diverse collection of genres and subject matter, and base their level selections on factors such as the number and level of vocabulary words in each book.
One of the nice supplements they offer is access to downloadable exercises and exams to accompany your book and test your reading comprehension.
While you can’t order directly from their website, you can check your country’s nearest distributor or search for individual books on Amazon.
- Georges Simenon’s “Maigret et le clochard” (“Maigret and the Homeless Man”)
- Marguerite Duras’s “Hiroshima mon amour” (“Hiroshima, My Love”)
There are a lot of great French graded readers series out there if you only know where to look. Don’t wait to challenge yourself by setting some new reading goals—it’s time to level up!
Camille Turner is an experienced freelance writer and ESL teacher.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.