7 Children’s Books to Improve Your Italian Through Reading
Children’s books are extremely useful tools for language learners.
They’re a perfect entry point into the world of Italian reading, and their pages are filled with vocabulary and grammar lessons (that don’t feel like lessons).
In this post, I’ll get you started with my seven favorite Italian children’s books, including some titles you’ll recognize and some classics for building your Italian cultural knowledge.
Let’s get started!
- 1. “Io sono piccola?”
- 2. “Diario di una schiappa”
- 3. “Peter Rabbit ed altre storie”
- 4. “Geronimo Stilton” Series
- 5. “Adriano, il Cane di Pompei”
- 6. “Prosciutto e uova verdi”
- 7. “Le avventure di Pinocchio”
- How Children’s Books Can Improve Your Italian
1. “Io sono piccola?”
Reading in a new language can be scary no matter how you slice it, but there are plenty of easy ways to get going.
“Io Sono Piccola?” (Am I Small?) is a picture book that’s written in a bilingual format, which contains both Italian and English versions of the text.
Every page of the book has an English translation of whatever is being said in Italian, so even the newest language students can follow the story.
The book follows a young girl named Tamia who isn’t sure if she’s small and keeps asking animals she runs into. The story itself is an illustrated picture book, which only makes it easier to follow. Italian text in the book is bolded, which makes it visually distinct from the English translations.
The text in the book is simple to begin with, making it an ideal story to be enjoyed by both learning adults and kids alike. Those learning Italian can use this book to get their little ones involved with translations to make family language learning easy.
“Io sono piccola?” can be purchased both in print and digitally on Kindle, making for an easily accessible jump into reading Italian.
2. “Diario di una schiappa”
To anyone with children, “Diario di una schiappa” (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) might seem extremely familiar. This is because it’s the Italian translation of the popular American book series.
The Italian title translates literally to something like “Diary of a Dud.” The “Schiappa” series may seem a little intimidating to a new Italian speaker at first. There’s a load of books to choose from in the series, and they’re all pretty long as far as children’s books go.
So what exactly makes these books useful for newer learners? The answer is: their formatting.
This book series is famous for its unique style, which combines brief snippets of the diary entry-like story with cartoons to illustrate it. Every couple of paragraphs has a cartoony, simple drawing to go with it to make sure that readers at any experience level can understand what’s happening.
This style also helps introduce readers to more casual Italian dialogue, as the story is written from the point of view of a middle-schooler. These books are also beneficial to helping kids learn by recognizing familiar stories and characters in a new language.
Paperback copies of the series are easily available in their Italian translations, formatted for readers of all ages to enjoy.
And if cartoons are you thing in general, check out this post for a list of the best Italian cartoons for language-learners.
3. “Peter Rabbit ed altre storie”
Nearly anyone in any part of the world knows who Peter Rabbit is. The works of Beatrix Potter have become near-legendary for children across generations and nostalgic for plenty of adults. This cultural impact is part of the magic of learning Italian from her stories.
Like most popular stories, the works of Beatrix Potter have been translated into many languages, including Italian. “Peter Rabbit ed altre storie” (Peter Rabbit and Other Stories) contains 24 different Potter stories re-formatted for Italian readers.
This list includes familiar names like Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and Cecily Parsley. Students can engage with familiar, even nostalgic characters in a new language to help them understand Italian better. The popularity of these stories makes them accessible to children and adults alike.
If you prefer listening to books, the stories are also available in audiobook format, providing an experience that can benefit listening and pronunciation skills. Some readers may even choose to do both, reading the book while following the narration.
There are many new possibilities to be found with this familiar rabbit.
4. “Geronimo Stilton” Series
So far, the books on this list have largely been translations of stories from other countries. The Geronimo Stilton series, however, is one of the most popular Italian children’s books there is.
Over in Italy, these short chapter books have spawned everything from toys to an animated TV show. Elisabetta Dami’s series about a mouse reporter has certainly made an impact on popular culture.
These books haven’t just been read in Italy, either. Over in the U.S., the books are translated into English and published by popular children’s book company Scholastic. If a chapter book in Italian seems like a little too much, don’t be afraid to pick up an English copy and do some comparisons to follow the story.
The series provides an insight into Italian culture as a book series made by and for Italian readers. There are plenty of the books in this series to choose from as a result of years of publication, so there are no worries about getting bored here.
5. “Adriano, il Cane di Pompei”
With this book, you’ll get travel, history, geography and archaeology lessons all rolled into one. Not to mention one lovable canine.
“Adriano, il Cane di Pompei” (Hadrian, the Dog of Pompeii) is the warm story of a dog who lives in the ancient city and modern tourist destination of Pompeii.
Hadrian loves the hustle and bustle of the place and the comings and goings of people. He considers every visitor his friend, and is often fed by the kindness of the guests.
(But you know something’s about to happen that’ll drastically change things, right? Get the book to find out why this title is one of the most asked-for books both by young and old.)
“Adriano, il Cane di Pompei” is written in simple Italian grammar. It’s written first in Italian, three to four sentences at a time. Then on the same page, below the Italian, English translations are conveniently provided.
And if that’s not enough, the book also features historical asides that not only teach you language skills but also give you a peek of the past. What more can you ask for?
6. “Prosciutto e uova verdi”
“Prosciutto e uova verdi” (Green Eggs and Ham) is the Italian version of a Dr. Seuss classic, one of the best selling children’s books of all time.
And if you loved it in English, you’ll also love it in the Italian—especially how the rhyme and the repetition can give your beginner language skills a boost.
You’re not starting from scratch when learning this one. You probably read the English version when you were a child and are familiar with Sam-I-Am. You may have even recited some parts of the book from memory.
The original version was intended to introduce English beginners to vocabulary, and thankfully, that spirit has transferred to the Italian version. The structural genius of the original comes through.
You’ll be reciting Dr. Seuss in Italian in no time.
7. “Le avventure di Pinocchio”
Reading Italian books is also a great opportunity to explore Italian culture and art. Taking a look at an Italian edition of “Le avventure di Pinocchio” (The Adventures of Pinocchio) is a great place to start.
Most people around the world are familiar with Pinocchio, the story of the talking puppet who wants to become a real boy. It’s also common knowledge that the story comes from Italian culture, so it’s no surprise that the puppet’s adventures are easy to find in Italian.
The familiarity of these stories can be so helpful for readers of any age and skill level, but they also help readers learn about Italian culture.
By better understanding the story in its Italian roots, students aren’t just practicing reading, but also getting much-needed cultural immersion.
The story is available in multiple formats. Options for reading include paperback, digital editions and an audiobook to follow along with. There are tons of ways to get into this much-loved piece of Italian culture, so don’t be shy when trying to get started.
How Children’s Books Can Improve Your Italian
Reading in Italian can be pretty daunting when you’re not used to it. It’s a brand new world, with new grammar rules, sentence structures and vocabulary.
All that said, children’s books don’t have to be only for Italian beginners. Language learners at all levels can benefit from reading these books, and this post lists off some good places to start.
So how can reading children’s books help you?
- Children’s books benefit learners of all ages by providing simple, understandable stories that can easily be broken down. You can take things one word at a time, one sentence at a time and slowly put together reading comprehension skills from there.
- Most children’s books are also illustrated, which provides a visual guide for new students to figure out what’s going on. It will also help you to remember the words more quickly.
- There’s also a strong market for bilingual books that put Italian and English side-by-side, which helps teach you new vocabulary in a fun, narrative context.
If you want to get more practice with any unknown words you find while reading these, you can do so with an app or language learning program.
For example, FluentU is a program that lets you see Italian words used in context though authentic videos, such as movie trailers, commercials and more. It also lets you interact with the subtitles for on-the-fly definitions and the chance to add words to your flashcard lists for later review.
Reading is an invaluable skill to have in your toolkit when it comes to learning languages.
Children’s books can be a great place to start this learning adventure, so pick a story and get ready to grow your Italian!