Fluency Between the Lines: 6 Russian Readers with Language Tools Built In

Have you ever cracked an egg and found two yolks inside?

Or gotten extra change at Starbucks?

Who doesn’t love to get free bonuses?

With language learning, there are the regular ways to study. Then there are the smarter, more productive methods that give you a little something extra.

Take reading in Russian. Learning with traditional textbooks and standard novels is a great start, but you’ll likely need to turn to a dictionary with every page.

But Russian readers are a special type of Russian book with a bonus tucked inside.

They help you actively build your vocabulary, grammar and culture knowledge while you read.

So why not upgrade your bookshelf with some Russian readers? We’ll show you what makes readers so useful, plus six unique texts you’ll want to check out!

What Distinguishes “Readers” from Traditional Texts?

While all books are meant to be read, “readers” refer to texts specifically written to help with learning a foreign language. Readers will often contain extra material or annotations in addition to the main content, such as translations, grammar notes, alphabet or pronunciation guides and even audio tracks.

Plus, readers are often formatted differently than chapter books. They might have a larger font, bigger spaces between words or lines of text and images (especially for beginner readers).

The 6 Best Russian Readers for Language Learning on Every Page

“First Russian Reader for Beginners”

First Russian reader for beginnersThis Russian reader is written primarily for beginner and pre-intermediate learners of the Russian language. It’s structured specifically for English speakers who want to learn Russian.

This reader is designed in a unique way, based on the ALARM method (Approved Learning Automatic Remembering Method). This method focuses on teaching a foreign language naturally, through readers’ innate ability to recall words that they see frequently. By repeating certain words and phrases over and over, the author helps you store them away in your mind.

The cool thing about this reader is that as the book progresses, you’ll notice that sentences are formed only from words used previously. This triggers your brain to memorize vocabulary and store it away to be used when needed.

Special bonuses for Russian students in this reader are the vocabulary lists that are included at the start of every chapter, and the parallel texts in Russian and English that help with comprehension.

“First Russian Reader for Students”

First Russian Reader for Students: bilingual for speakers of English Level A1 and A2 (Graded Russian Readers) (Volume 10)

This reader, from the same team behind the book above, is intended for beginners and also uses the ALARM method. It organizes vocabulary by topic throughout the book—the words are then used in stories that are written in Russian and translated in English.

The stories have a question-and-answer portion that rephrases the content and helps you reinforce what you’re learning to make the process more effective.

You’ll also find an accompanying audio track, which can be downloaded here.

“Practical Russian Reader Vol. 1: Short Stories in Russian for Intermediate Students”

Practical Russian Reader Vol.1: Short stories in Russian for Intermediate students (Volume 1) (Russian Edition)

As you advance in your knowledge of the Russian language, you can move on to readers created for intermediate students. This collection includes 16 short stories that make the process a bit more challenging than the previous readers.

This version does include a vocabulary list prior to each story as well as help with learning grammar, but it doesn’t have parallel texts in English. The author wants you to study the vocabulary and learn its meaning in order to get the gist of the Russian content for yourself without relying on your native language.

This one also offers question and answer exercises that allow students to test themselves in their newfound knowledge.

“Russian Folk Tales”

Folk tales are an important part of any culture. They speak about that country’s history, morals and beliefs. By reading folk tales, you can often learn more about Russians than you would from a traditional textbook.

This intermediate reader includes six classic and modern tales, but in a format suited for learning the Russian language as a foreigner. The words have stress marks so that you can properly pronounce those long Russian words, and the text includes a vocabulary list as well as review questions after each chapter.


Check out Russia’s most beloved folk tales, such as “Царевна-Лягушка” (“The Frog Princess”), about a frog that outperforms two human women in a competition to marry a prince. Or, “Конёк-Горбунок” (“The Little Humpbacked Horse”), which tells the story of a magical humpbacked horse who helps a simple young boy go through a myriad of adventures until he becomes a handsome, successful young man and falls in love with a beautiful maiden.

Russian Folktales from the Collection of A. Afanasyev: A Dual-Language Book (Dover Dual Language Russian)

The content is organized with a few paragraphs of Russian-only text with the main vocabulary in bold.

Then, a word key follows with English translations—this combination repeats throughout the book.

Unfortunately, this collection is no longer available, but you can check out a similar collect of “Russian Folktales” that includes 13 famous tales and side-by-side English translations.

“Who Will Go to Krasnoyarsk?”

Who will go to Krasnoyarsk?: Russian reader for intermediate and advanced learners. Practicing Russian prepositions and motion verbs. (Russian Edition)

Written by an experienced Russian tutor, this reader is designed for intermediate to advanced students of Russian. Its focus is to teach readers grammar, with an emphasis on prepositions and motion verbs.

The dual-language book will help you formulate proper cases and use the right endings for your adjectives and nouns. To familiarize you with how to properly form prepositions, the book showcases them in different contexts.

The book encourages students to challenge themselves by filling in missing prepositions in Russian passages (after reading the full passage before).

To keep you interested, the book is about real people who encounter real-life scenarios. Therefore, you can be certain that the vocabulary you learn can be utilized in your life.

“Poetry Reader for Russian Learners”

Poetry Reader for Russian Learners

You may think that you’d need a reader to understand even American poetry, and might be nervous to delve into poetry in another language altogether! But don’t fret. The editor made the process fairly easy for you!

Introduce yourself to famous Russian poets from the 1800s and 1900s, such as Pushkin (likely the most famous) and others like Akhmatova and Lermontov. The reader includes a biography for each poet.

The book has a friendly introduction in English, which explains why the poets were chosen for this reader and the best uses of this reader to help you learn Russian.

There’s a very handy section on Russian pronunciation, giving you quick rules should you attempt to memorize and recite the poems yourself. The editor points out that reciting poetry is the best way to appreciate its rhythm and musicality.

The poems are coded for their difficulty and are translated into English. The reader also has exercises to help you review what you learned and questions for discussion should you choose to study in a group.


Russian books don’t have to be limited to native Russian people who read them. In the same way that FluentU makes authentic Russian videos accessible to learners at all levels, readers bring Russian books to learners at any level.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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Even if you aren’t proficient in this language, you can utilize readers to learn Russian folk tales and poetry as well as classical and modern literature. Plus, you can benefit from the added bonus of vocabulary keys, exercises and audio tracks to improve your Russian!

And One More Thing...

If you love learning Russian and want to immerse yourself with authentic materials from Russia, then I should also tell you more about FluentU.

FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning the Russian language and culture. You'll learn real Russian as it's spoken by real Russian people!

FluentU has a very broad range of contemporary videos. Just a quick look will give you an idea of the variety of Russian-language content available on FluentU:


FluentU makes these native Russian videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.


Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab. Easily review words and phrases with audio under Vocab.


All definitions have multiple examples, and they're written for Russian learners like you. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.

And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples.


The best part? FluentU keeps track of your vocabulary, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You'll have a 100% personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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