Take It Easy! 5 Options for Easy Russian Short Stories
The greatest thing about having kids is reliving your own childhood.
As an immigrant, I spent my childhood in Russia, but my teenage years and adulthood in the United States.
When I had my own child, I suddenly remembered the amazing Russian stories and fairy tales that my parents and grandparents had told me.
I wanted to tell them to my own son, but only remembered fragments. While many of them, such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Snow White,” are universal, it just didn’t feel the same to tell them in English.
However, I didn’t have enough terminology in my word bank to translate them.
After a quick online shopping spree on Amazon, I was the proud owner of several Russian short stories for kids.
Sharing these with my son felt great, but I got another amazing benefit from this—improving my Russian skills.
Read on to find out how I improved my Russian with easy Russian short stories, the resources I used in this process and how you can use the same stories to work on your own Russian skills.
But first, let’s look at just how useful easy short stories can be for the Russian learner.
How Russian Short Stories Can Help You with Each Major Language Skill
Easy Russian short stories are the perfect gateway to reading in Russian, a vital part of learning the language. Once you learn the Cyrillic alphabet and easy Russian words, you can move on to reading Russian books. However, books for adults are fairly difficult for beginner and even some intermediate Russian students.
On the other hand, Russian short stories for kids are perfect! They use easy-to-understand language, have larger font and the context is pretty simple to figure out, even if you get stumped on some of the vocabulary.
With longer books, students often struggle to recall what was in the first part of the book once they get to the end. Short stories are just that—short, which means that you can get through them in one shot and still remember what you read!
The only place you should ever read silently is the library! Otherwise, when learning Russian, you should always read out loud. This helps you speak more coherently and improve your oral skills. Don’t think that this is easy, though. There were many words I pronounced that had my son going “huh?” However, I used the old adage of “try, try again” and practiced my pronunciation until we both understood what I was reading.
If you can find a listener, kids’ short stories are a great thing to share with others. While the other party may not necessarily understand what you’re trying to say in Russian, you can always translate it into English for them afterwards. Who wouldn’t want to listen to an adorable fairy tale in any language?
When studying a language, we often focus on reading words, but not always on listening to them being used in conversations. Russian sounds very different from English, and many students have a very difficult time understanding what’s being said to them.
You may think to yourself, “How can I listen to books, unless someone is reading to me?” While that can work, too, if you don’t have a native Russian speaker nearby as my son did, the next best solution is audiobooks!
Finding short children’s stories in audio format allows you to hone your listening skills with shorter and easier vocabulary. Don’t forget to pause the story to look up words you don’t know and to try pronouncing especially difficult words more than once.
The great thing about studying a language is that you have the ability to create your own exercises to improve whichever skill you’re working on. My son and I used our Russian stories to practice our writing. At first I taught him to write letters from the books, and then he and I both learned to copy words to practice writing the Cyrillic script. When we got really good we even wrote some of our own short stories!
Easy Russian Short Stories for Kids (and Adults)
Remember that learning Russian with children’s short stories doesn’t just work for kids. Children’s stories can be extremely beneficial to adults as they are easy to understand, contain shorter words and are often simply fun! Below are five different stories and books of stories I shared with my son, along with tips on utilizing them to improve your own Russian skills.
“Привет, Торопыжка, не жадничай слишком” (“Hey There, Speedy, Don’t Be Greedy”)
This is a cute story about a little squirrel. He lives the life of a human boy, goes to school, has a family and friends. Throughout the book he learns important lessons about being kind, sharing with others and respecting parents.
Learn words about friendship, manners and being nice here—such as добрый (kind), друг (friend) and жадный (greedy)
This is also a great book for speaking practice. This was one of the first books I read to my son when starting this process. I told him I chose it because it teaches life lessons, such as the importance of sharing. But I’ll share with you the real reason I purchased this story (just don’t tell him!).
It’s because the entire story is written like a poem and words rhyme. For someone who’s not great at pronouncing Russian words, knowing that one word rhymes with another word is a great cheat sheet!
Plus, there’s a version of this book in English, which means you can also refer to it to look up the meanings of the words you’re struggling with.
“Learn Russian with Fairy Tales: Interlinear Russian to English”
This is a great compilation of fairy tales in Russian. You can read seven fairy tales that have been shortened for your reading pleasure and include translations. Each one is no more than 10 pages long.
Our favorite story from the book was “Никита Кожемяка” (“Nikita the Tanner”). In it, the hero defeats an evil dragon who kidnaps beautiful women with his wits rather than his physical strength.
Use this book to practice your reading skills and expand your vocabulary. These short stories are perfect for simple Russian reading practice because each word has an English translation right under it. Also, the font is big and spaced out so it’s easy to distinguish the letters from one another, even those that don’t look as familiar to you.
Plus, the book comes with a free audio download link, which lets you hear the words for yourself if you want to practice pronunciation and listening as well.
“Short stories for children: Adapted texts for easier reading to learn Russian”
This book is written specifically for people who are learning Russian. It has 25 stories that are about as short as you can get (1-3 pages). However, the stories are really chapters of a complete book about the life of a little boy and his siblings.
This book is perfect for learning the words to describe everyday life. The kids go to school, eat meals, visit grandparents, play with pets and celebrate holidays. We learned words such as утро (morning), завтракать (to eat breakfast), бабушка (grandma) and воскресенье (Sunday).
Use this book for writing practice. This book has words that are fairly basic, short and easy to read. This makes them easy to copy! We practiced our writing skills by copying the words onto paper to learn our letters. We then challenged ourselves by making flashcards out of the words in the book and making our own sentences.
As mentioned above, books contain a wealth of information and it’s up to you how you work with them to learn Russian!
“Я люблю фрукты и овощи” (“I Love to Eat Fruits and Vegetables”)
Addressing a common problem that crosses all language barriers, the author of this short story helps parents deal with picky eaters. In this bilingual book, Jimmy the bunny learns to appreciate the healthier varieties of food rather than just the sweets he usually prefers.
The story is super cute and teaches Jimmy a lesson—his brothers explain that he needs to eat fruits and vegetables to grow big and strong, but he doesn’t understand the importance of that until he falls off a chair when trying to reach a jar of candy and becomes tiny! After you learn names for food in Russian, check out the other books in this series about loving parents, cleaning your room and so on to learn more Russian.
Use this book for speaking and writing practice. As the book talks about food, we would use it as a base for conversing about our favorite foods in Russian. After reading the book, we would walk around the kitchen and make lists of what we found and divide them into categories (fruits, dairy, meat, etc.). We would then formulate sentences using the food groups and even came up with silly recipes from the new words we learned!
“Dumbo” Russian AudioBook
Again, stories aren’t only meant to be read—they can also be heard to practice listening skills. Audiobooks are excellent and easy-to-use resources for honing these skills while learning Russian and being entertained with fun stories. Choosing this children’s story was a no-brainer as it offered a beloved Disney character. Plus, the story is itself familiar, as we already know the English version.
This YouTube video retold the story in just over 14 minutes, allowing you to hear the words and also read them, if you prefer, with auto-generated Russian subtitles. Unfortunately, it is no longer available on YouTube, but you can, instead, watch other fairy tales such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” on YouTube.
Use this story to practice your listening and writing skills. Try to write down what you hear to sharpen your writing and comprehension. You can always pause to give yourself extra time!
It’s no surprise that stories have been around as long as time itself and are never going away.
They offer the chance to read in languages from around the world, and are an excellent learning tool.
So utilize the five stories in this post to hone your Russian skills!
Renata Ilitsky is a professional content writer with over 10 years of experience. She specializes in creating unique and engaging content for any industry. To read some of Renata’s other work, please view her writing portfolio.