We all know that reading can transport you to another world.
But did you know that it can also transport you to another language?
Reading in Spanish is one of the most effective ways to absorb the language’s grammar, grow your vocabulary knowledge and prepare to effortlessly understand signs and menus on your first trip to a Spanish-speaking region.
And on top of all that, there is just nothing like falling into a good story.
In this post, we will show you eight exciting options for learning to read Spanish with tales of crime, time travel, young love and much more. There are great titles here for beginner to advanced Spanish learners to improve their comprehension and overall language skills.
But first, a question for any of the non-bookworms out there:
Why Is Reading Such Great Spanish Practice, Anyway?
It is not just about boosting your reading comprehension skills in general. Reading in Spanish has a range of benefits for language learners. You can expect:
- Vocabulary building: Spanish books are brimming with words that you do not know yet, through no fault of your language learning efforts. You just have not yet been exposed to every word in the language. Reading can help to bridge that gap.
- Self-paced learning: There is no rush when it comes to reading. You can take it at your own pace and proficiency level.
- Grammar knowledge: The grammatical structure of Spanish sentences is difficult to master when you are starting out, especially when you just listen to the language.
Seeing sentences in black and white will help you internalize grammatical patterns and cement grammar rules you have already learned.
How to Read with the Purpose of Language Learning
Reading a novel in Spanish is not the same as reading a novel in your native tongue. In other words, do not just kick your feet up. If you really want to learn and retain this new knowledge of Spanish while learning, there are a few things you should do while reading:
- Read slowly. Do not try to “skim it.” Take your time to notice common vocabulary words or confusing sentences. By slowing down you will also better understand the context clues that are vital to your comprehension of the story.
- Look words up. If you cannot figure out what a word means from the context, do not be afraid to look it up in a Spanish dictionary.
I find that writing down the meanings of words I have researched in the margin of my book helps me to remember them better.
- Reread. If you needed to look up a bunch of words the first time, I would recommend sweeping back over the passage again after you have looked up all the words.
It will surprise you how smoothly you can read it the second time around. Not only will this improve your comprehension, it will also boost your confidence as a Spanish reader.
If you enjoy learning Spanish through entertaining, gripping stories (…who would not?) then you should also add FluentU to your study plan.
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.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, 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.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. 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 gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
8 Page-turners to Learn to Read Spanish at Any Level
Armed with this knowledge, it is time to pick out a book. This part does not have to be hard, just remember to be aware of your Spanish proficiency level. If you are not sure where to start, then grab an easy read and work your way up to the advanced titles.
Easy-to-follow Beginner Reads
When you are getting started with the language, look for short, entertaining and easy reads to get your feet wet.
“La Casa del Arbol” (“Magic Tree House”)
By: Mary Pope Osborne
Many native English-speakers learned how to read with the “Magic Tree House” books. It is great to return to these books in Spanish, as the familiar stories will give you some context and stability.
The book series follows a brother and sister who have a magical treehouse, which takes them on unforgettable journeys through time and space.
These books will help you to gain confidence reading in another language. You will find that the vocabulary is simple, but as each book is in a different setting you will be able to broaden your vocabulary.
Short Stories at Centro Virtual Cervantes (Cervantes Virtual Center)
This resource is a user-friendly website and has inicial, intermedio y avanzado opciones (beginner, intermediate and advanced options). The inicial section has some great short stories that are easy to follow. You could easily finish a story in one sitting.
To access these readings, click the Enseñanza (Education) tab on the top menu bar. Then scroll down to Lecturas paso a paso (Step by step readings). Then click and get reading!
I would recommend taking it one at a time and slowly working your way through all of these stories. The language is European Spanish, which is slightly different than others but still a good resource to get started with.
Intriguing Intermediate Books
If you are ready to bump it up a notch, then check out some reading choices that are perfect for the intermediate learner.
“Los Ojos de Mi Princesa” (“The Eyes of My Princess”)
By: Carlos Cuauhtémoc Sánchez
Any young adult book will work well for intermediate reading practice. This story in particular is easy to follow but the writing will give your comprehension skills a healthy challenge.
“Los ojos de mi princesa” is a novel centered around a teen who falls in love with a girl at school—and the obstacles in his quest to be with her.
The dialect is Mexican, so you will learn some of the catchphrases that are common in Mexico.
“Por Trece Razones” (“Thirteen Reasons Why”)
By: Jay Asher
This is a riveting story about a young girl who leaves behind clues to her tragic suicide. You will not be able to put this one down.
The language is intermediate, but you may already be familiar with the story from the mega-hit TV adaptation of the book. So you should be able to follow along without too many problems.
“Crimen en Barcelona” (“Crime in Barcelona”)
By: Paco Ardit
Paco Ardit has written a series of books, including this one, with Spanish learners in mind. The stories are light and his style is easy to interpret. This one is about a crime scene in Barcelona—murder mysteries are interesting in any language!
This book is particularly helpful because it was written specifically for a Spanish-learning audience. You will encounter lots of common expressions and grammar structures that you need for everyday Spanish communication.
If you like his style of writing, you might check out some of the other Spanish-language stories he has written.
Compelling Reads for Advanced Learners
What makes a book a good read? You have to be really interested in the story. Once you are comfortable reading in Spanish you can and should read absolutely anything that interests you. Cash in on the double goodness of reading something you enjoy while learning a language you love.
Below are some excellent choices for the advanced Spanish reader.
By: Diana Gabaldon
As the first of nine books, this enchanting story will continuously draw you into the lost world of the Scottish Highlands.
The complex story and high-level vocabulary will command your attention. You are going to love the story, but be ready to devote some time to this dense book.
By: Carlos Fuentes
If you are looking for an advanced read that is a little shorter, “Aura” is a good option. Despite its length, the novel has an interesting storyline with advanced themes woven throughout.
Fuentes is a Mexican novelist, so you will get to pick up on some of the vocabulary used there locally.
“El Camino” (“The Way”)
By: Miguel Delibes
With this one, not only will you be practicing your Spanish, but you will also be learning about the culture in Spain.
The novel is set in Spain in the 1940s and 1950s. The story follows a young boy through his decision to stay or leave his small hometown for more opportunities in a bigger city.
Delibes uses European Spanish, so you will have the chance to practice this form of the language.
When you are comfortable reading in Spanish, continue to expand your knowledge by reading other more complex and diverse books. This is by no means an exhaustive list of every reading option available to you, but it is a really good place to get started. Just pick something you are interested in and the reading will come a lot easier.
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