Looking for a set of books that are approachable for beginners like you?
Here, you’ll find 8 engaging, beginner-friendly titles that’ll tickle your Spanish fancy.
But before we look into them, let me tell you very quickly why it’s important to read in the language you’re learning.
- Why Read When You Can Speak?
- Reading Puts Grammar Rules into Visual Perspective
- Reading Puts Vocabulary in Context
- “¿Eres Mi Mama?” by P.D. Eastman and Desiree Marquez
- “El Gran Oso Pardo” by David McPhail and F. Isabel Campoy
- “El Recreo Recess” by Rosa Bustillo and Clara Spinassi
- “Jorge el curioso El jonrón” by H. A. Rey
- “Conejo y tortuga van a la escuela” by Lucy Floyd and Christopher Denise
- “Pobre Ana” by Blaine Ray
- “First Spanish Reader: A Beginner’s Dual-Language Book” by Angel Flores
- “Easy Spanish Reader” by William Tardy
Why Read When You Can Speak?
When you’re learning how to speak a language, it’s important that you open your mouth and practice speaking as soon as possible. There’s just no way around it.
But that doesn’t mean reading doesn’t have a place in your arsenal of tools. In fact, there’s a space on your shelf that’s especially reserved for reading material, and you won’t reach your Spanish potential unless you sit down and read up.
Reading brings with it a couple of advantages not found in other methods of learning:
Reading Puts Grammar Rules into Visual Perspective
Well, you can learn grammar by listening to a native speaker blab for a couple of weeks, or you can open a children’s book and see how grammar rules work in a couple of seconds.
Wouldn’t you rather look at a children’s book containing one simple sentence per page (and pictures!) rather than listen to a native speaker talk so fast everything just blows past you? Sometimes you don’t know what it is you’re listening for, and you’re wondering if she’s still speaking Spanish or if she changed over to some Slavic dialect without telling you.
That’s the advantage of staring at words and sentences on a page. They’re static. They’re frozen in time, unlike the sound waves of speech that dissipate into thin air as quickly as they came.
But words on a page? You can work on them. You can look at them from different angles and write some notes. You can stick sticky notes all over the pages and bookmark key sections. You can put the book down, go to the bathroom, come back and the words will still be there, perfectly conjugated. You can literally pick right up where you left off without asking somebody, “Can you please say that again? Slowly?”
Reading Puts Vocabulary in Context
Another advantage of reading Spanish books is that the stories provide context. This differs greatly from study methods like rote memorization which throw isolated words at you.
Context is memory-friendly, because it helps you find an efficient way of storing and accessing vocabulary in your long-term memory. For example, the Spanish words abuelo (grandfather), aburrirse (bored) and aconsejar (advise) can be better recalled in the context of a funny story about a grandfather who gives advice to his bored grandson than they can after memorizing them from an alphabetized list of words.
Lists are very hard to store and recall because the words simply float in a vacuum. They’re not anchored to an engaging plotline, a funny incident or an incredible situation. There’s no context, no emotion, no drama. When you try to recall them, you’re practically grasping at straws.
That said, and without further ado, let’s take a look at the books beginners should make a part of their reading lists.
8 Spanish Reads That Can Whet Your Reading Appetite
“¿Eres Mi Mama?” by P.D. Eastman and Desiree Marquez
We start with one of the most touching mother-child stories in any language. “Are You My Mother?” is the delightful tale of a newly-hatched bird who opened his eyes not seeing his mother and ventures into the world looking for her. He meets a parade of animals and objects who quickly deny that they’re related.
I don’t wanna give any story spoilers, so you’re gonna have to read the book to find out how the story ends. Suffice it to say, nope, the dog doesn’t eat the little bird. This one’s perfect for toddlers and Spanish beginners alike.
“El Gran Oso Pardo” by David McPhail and F. Isabel Campoy
As a Spanish beginner, you’ll find that dual-language books are absolutely helpful.
This version of “El Gran Oso Pardo” or “The Big Brown Bear” is such a book. You’ll find Spanish translations on every line alongside the English text. You’re not only able to follow the mischievous adventures of our big brown bear friend but, more importantly, you’re also able to see how English and Spanish correlate.
You’ll start to notice how the two languages compare and contrast, how their sentence constructions match up in some ways and differ in others. Take note of these aspects and you’ll not only enjoy “El Gran Oso Pardo” the story, but also “El Gran Oso Pardo” the language book.
“El Recreo Recess” by Rosa Bustillo and Clara Spinassi
In the spirit of looking for somebody to play with at recess, think about it—this is one of those books that you and your children (or nieces and nephews) can enjoy together! And it’s not like those bedtime stories where you read like a teacher to a student. In this one, you’re both students learning the language as you flip through the pages.
This is another dual-language book where you get practically a word-for-word Spanish translation on every page. This one can build your vocabulary and knowledge of Spanish sentence structures really fast.
Play and have a ball with this one!
“Jorge el curioso El jonrón” by H. A. Rey
If you’re as curious as George when you read this book, you’ll do so much more than just read a story about a beloved children’s book character.
By the end of the story, you’ll have gotten a real feel for the most basic sentence and phrase structures in Spanish. You’ll see for yourself what “gendered nouns” are and how prepositions & pronouns work. That’s in addition to gaining new Spanish baseball vocabulary.
And if you’re really curious, well, this one’s about how George went from spectator to player in his first trip to the baseball park.
“Conejo y tortuga van a la escuela” by Lucy Floyd and Christopher Denise
“Rabbit and Turtle Go to School” tries to give a definitive answer to one of life’s most crucial questions: If a rabbit and a turtle race to school, who do you think will get there first?
There’s a catch, though. The turtle rides in a bus and the rabbit runs but chooses his own route. So, who do you think will win? Of course, the answer’s obvious.
You! By learning Spanish, you’re not only enriching your human experience, you’re also opening yourself to all the benefits of a second language. Yes, you win. So keep up the good work and keep on learning.
Let’s continue with our list. We’re slowly leaving the “brand new beginner” material behind now and merrily skipping to the “intermediate beginner” material.
“Pobre Ana” by Blaine Ray
If you think children’s books are too “beginner” for you, then this one’s a beat ahead of the others.
Ana lives in a small home in California, with a mother who’s always on her case, a father who doesn’t have enough money and a car that has seen better days. Ana envies the lives of her friends, with their flashy cars and a wealth of other things she can only dream of.
In the summer, Ana finds herself staying with a family in Mexico where she meets new friends and acquaintances. She sees the lives they’re living and learns that there are more important things in life than a new ride.
“Pobre Ana” is the first of the Blaine Ray series. And you’ll be happy to know that it has a vocabulary list in the back.
“First Spanish Reader: A Beginner’s Dual-Language Book” by Angel Flores
A book that contains not 1 but 41 short stories for the Spanish intermediate-beginner. The stories are arranged from easiest to the most challenging. But don’t worry because this one is dual-language, so your back is covered. (Plus, there’s actually a glossary at the back.)
This one will really test a Spanish beginner’s chops—which means you’ll really learn a lot from this reading. Take it one story at a time and, before you know it, you’ll be learning so much vocabulary. Get this book, study it and you’ll stop being a “beginner.” Fast.
The stories are beauties themselves, reflecting splendidly the nuances of the Spanish-speaking culture. With stories like “¿Padre, Hijo o Caballo?” (Father, Son or Horse?) and “La Herradura y las cerezas” (The Horseshoe and the Cherries), you’re assured hours of interesting lessons.
“Easy Spanish Reader” by William Tardy
This one’s for learners who want a “textbook” feel to their readings.
The “Easy Spanish Reader” is divided into three parts. The first is about Enrique and Maria. You’ll learn all about these two friends while you’re being taught some really useful vocabulary. The second part deals with the history of Mexico, which is great because, aside from improving linguistically, you’ll get culturally acquainted with the Spanish-speaking world. This part hits two birds with one stone.
And, finally, the third section is an adaptation of that Spanish classic “Lazarillo de Tormes,” which is a story about a boy who serves a series of masters that includes a priest and an archbishop.
There are exercises between sections. And, if you diligently perform them, you’ll be richly rewarded with a firmer grasp of Spanish.
If you are a fan of more structured learning like this, you could also follow consider supplementing your reading with a full language learning program like FluentU to practice your reading and listening skills with authentic content, interactive subtitles, and quizzes.
Stock your shelves with these 8 titles and start that road to fluency. You’ll never know what treasures await. Rest assured, it’ll be worth every ounce of effort you put into understanding every page.