Know that feeling of satisfaction when you finally begin a conversation in Spanish?
Or do you finally understand who’s dating who in the dramatic world of telenovelas?
If you can tick those things off on your list, your next challenge might be to finish reading a whole book in Spanish. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the feeling when you turn the final page and realize you’ve actually done it; you’ve read a whole book in another language.
The Benefits of Reading in Spanish
Reading in Spanish will not only make you feel incredible about your language skills, but it’ll also improve them. It will expand your vocabulary and also help internalize the language you already know.
There’s also something special about seeing language written down, as opposed to just hearing it. Seeing the words written on the page will hopefully aid your memory of the word and help you recall it later. Another benefit is that you’ll have lots of time to read sentences over and over again until you get the meaning, something that’s not so easy when you’re trying to eavesdrop on the bus.
There’s also less anxiety involved in reading than when you’re trying to get your message across. In fact, reading is probably the most stress-free activity you can do to learn a language. When you read, you can sit back, relax and just take it all in at your own pace.
Reading in another language is also a great way to discover new stories you might not otherwise have read. Not all books written in Spanish are translated into English, so your Spanish skills may be able to help you discover a world you wouldn’t have known existed.
If the thought running through your head is, “But I’m not advanced enough!” think again. Just like when you learned to read in your own language, you can start with basic books and work your way up to something more complicated.
You can also use more structured interactive reading to build up your skills until you’re ready to tackle books. Try using FluentU’s subtitled videos to get you used to reading in Spanish, with the added bonus of flashcards, transcripts and instant definitions!
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. Videos are conveniently organized into lessons, so you can easily work towards a particular objective, topic or skill—like finally reading an entire Spanish book!
How to Pick the Perfect Spanish Book
Reading basic Spanish books will go even smoother if you pick the right book for you to start. Your perfect Spanish book should be:
- An achievable length. Don’t aim for “Don Quijote” on your first try. Think about the length of book you would usually read in English, and then halve it, at least.
- About your level. It can be difficult to know which book has the right level for you, which is why graded readers that are made especially for Spanish learners can be useful. Ideally, you should understand roughly 70% of the words on the page. If you’re not sure, try reading the first page before you buy the book. If you can get the idea, more or less, that’s good, but crucially there should be at least some words you don’t know if you want to challenge yourself. If you want to just get used to reading in Spanish, it might be a good idea to choose a book that you find fairly simple to help ease you into the reading habit.
- A story that interests you. The same goes for reading in any language. If you’re not into the story or subject, you’re unlikely to see the book through to the end. This is perhaps even more important for reading in Spanish. Try to find a story that you like, or you’ll end up frustrated and bored.
Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a list of our top five easy books to get you started.
Top 5 Easy-to-read Spanish Books for Spanish Learners
1. “Papelucho” by Marcela Paz
Written by Chilean author Marcela Paz, “Papelucho” is a series of twelve books written between the 1940s-1970s about an eight-year-old middle class boy called Papelucho. The stories, written in diary form, detail Papelucho’s everyday life in Santiago de Chile and are based on the author’s own childhood experiences.
Books include “Papelucho historiador” (Papelucho the Historian), “Papelucho y el marciano” (Papelucho and the Martian), and “Papelucho ¿Soy dix-leso?” (Papelucho, Am I Dyslexic?). They were unusual at the time because unlike other popular children’s stories, they were not moralistic. These books also have lovely illustrations which help explain the story.
As the stories are written from the perspective of an eight-year-old boy, the prose is simple and easy to understand. They’re also fairly short stories, so the books are definitely manageable reads. The stories also deal with everyday life, so they’re packed full of useful vocabulary.
If you really can’t get enough of Papelucho, you can also watch the Papelucho animated film, “Papelucho y el marciano,” which was made in 2007.
2. “Cuentos de la selva” by Horacio Quiroga
A book of short stories for children, “Cuentos de la selva” (Stories from the Jungle) was written in 1918 by Uruguayan author Horacio Quiroga. Quiroga spent many years living in the jungle of Misiones, Argentina and used his experiences to bring the jungle to life in these short stories.
This is a world where crocodiles put on banana necklaces and smoke Paraguayan cigarettes, where parrots invite tigers round for tea and where one lazy bee drinks all the honey to avoid having to work. These short and sweet stories are easy to read, and you will definitely have improved your animal vocabulary by the time you’ve finished.
3. “El principito” by Antonie de Saint-Expuéry
Although this book was originally written in French, its simple story and sweet pictures mean that it is a delight to read in any language. Some people claim that the alien landscapes described in the book refer to Patagonia in Argentina, as Saint-Expuéry flew over the region many times during his time as a pilot.
A good book for practicing simple dialogue and the past tense, “El principito” is a slim volume, and is a manageable length for intermediate students and above. Even if you have already read “The Little Prince” in English (or another language), you might find it useful to read it again in Spanish so you can just concentrate on the language and enjoy the story.
4. “El alquimista” by Paulo Coelho
Originally written in Portuguese, the Spanish translation of this international best seller is a good one if you want to read a whole novel. The story concerns a young Spanish shepherd who goes on a quest after having a recurring dream. Lessons learned by the shepherd throughout the book can be applied to a variety of life decisions, so the book is often referred to as more “self-help than literature.”
Apart from its spiritual message, this book’s main language benefit is that both the vocabulary and grammar are simple and easy to understand.
5. “El túnel” by Ernesto Sabato
This psychological thriller was written in 1948 by Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato. It was highly acclaimed internationally when it came out, and is a popular set text for teenagers in Argentina today. It has also been adapted for the stage and the big screen.
The plot concerns Juan Pablo Castel, a painter from Buenos Aires who has killed the woman he loved, María Iribarne. Castel examines his motives and much of the book deals with existentialism. It is also heavily laced with the author’s characteristic acid pessimism.
This book deals with some tricky subject matter, but is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to challenge themselves to reading a book in another language that will truly make you think.
Don’t forget to record any new vocabulary you learn as you go along, and not to give up if there are words or even sections of any of these books you don’t understand. You don’t know every word in your own language, so of course you won’t understand all the Spanish words right away either.
Most importantly, try to find a nice space to sit back and enjoy your book. Whether it’s a comfy sofa, hammock or a just lying in bed, enjoy the experience and savor that feeling of satisfaction once you’re done.
Oh, And One More Thing…
If you love growing beyond basic textbook Spanish, you’ve got to try FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, commercials, news, and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized Spanish learning experiences.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
The FluentU Spanish video collection boasts a wide variety of videos—covering topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. 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. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Learn Mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends you examples and videos based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
Start using FluentU for free on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store for iOS and Android devices.
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