I’m sure you’ve heard this before:
Reading is a vital part of any language.
But you’ve heard it so much because it’s absolutely true.
If you travel, you’ll want to be able to read a map or directions in the subway.
Trust me, you’re not gonna want to end up miles away from your original destination just because you haven’t honed your reading skills, right?
And when you’re at an incredible Spanish restaurant, don’t you want to be able to read the menu?
Yeah, I know you do.
So what’s the best way to ease yourself into reading Spanish?
One of the recurring strategies is to immerse yourself in Spanish by reading Spanish content on a regular basis—whether it’s by switching your social media accounts and mobile phone language to Spanish or by reading some Spanish blog posts every day.
Those are very good techniques to use, but sometimes you may stumble upon Spanish texts or sentences that are just way too difficult for you (especially if you’re a newbie).
And this is where Spanish readers come in. Those little libros (books) are especially written to help you improve your Spanish skills progressively. Here you’ll find a couple of excellent reader recommendations in order for you to turn up your reading abilities a notch.
But first, why should you even consider reading a Spanish reader instead of a common Spanish fiction book, for example?
Why Use a Spanish Reader?
Classic Spanish books may be too difficult for beginners
A ver (Let’s see), as I said, reading in Spanish is an excellent way to increase your level of fluency no matter what level you’re at. However, lots of English-speaking students report that when they read a text in a book or on a website, there are always words and expressions that they cannot understand and it gets pretty frustrating after a while.
Sure, you can look those up in a dictionary, but the level of difficulty might discourage a person who is still on the early stages of learning Spanish. And this is exactly why Spanish readers exist.
They’re created specifically for Spanish learners
Indeed, they are little books thought out from cover to cover to help people improve their Spanish via reading (and not some random Spanish newspaper article found on the internet). The fact that readers are aimed at your level makes them much easier to read and assimilate.
Spanish readers often include a glossary
And that glossary is super useful! This way, if you want to read on the subway or on the bus you won’t have to carry around a 4-inch thick Spanish dictionary. When you have doubts about some words you read, you can head straight to the glossary, get your quick answer and go back to reading. And you can use this glossary as a vocabulary list for future reference. How often do you find this in old Spanish books?
Classic Spanish books can sometimes be boring
Everybody studying this language has had to read a dull Spanish text or article at least once so far. And this doesn’t really motivate you to learn anything, does it? Spanish readers, however, are usually presented in the form of an entertaining story that you can follow. They even sometimes include interesting cultural and historical elements about Spain and Latin America.
Spanish readers use different techniques to help you learn faster
In fact, you can find readers with features like dual-language format (I’ll explain this in more detail below); very short and straightforward chapters, sentences and vocabulary; glossaries and exercises so you really get the most out of them.
However not all Spanish readers are created equal. Like everything, some are just alright while others are excellent!
This is why I’m recommending four Spanish readers that will help you in your Spanish-learning journey. But before getting to those, here are some tips you can implement quickly to get the most out of your Spanish reading practices.
6 Quick Tips to Get the Most out of Your Spanish Reader
1. Read your book out loud to practice pronunciation at the same time
I admit it, you may sound a bit silly at first when you do this but trust me, this little tip will go a long way. The idea here is that hearing yourself saying different things in Spanish and practicing pronunciation will help you drill the words you read into your head.
If you stumble upon a word or expression you don’t know how to say, just type it in Google Translate and click the little headphone button on the lower right-hand corner. You will hear a lovely native-Spanish voice pronouncing what you typed in.
Repeat after the voice several times in order to get the pronunciation right. Además (in addition), having some Spanish actually come out of your mouth is always a good thing, even if you aren’t chatting with another person.
2. Develop the habit of reading a page a day
Here’s the deal. When you start reading in Spanish, there are several reasons to make it a habit. First, it may be pretty hard and discouraging at the beginning to read in a foreign language. But you will see that as time goes by, it gets easier and easier.
However, if you don’t keep going, you’ll never go through that difficult phase and it will always remain hard. Therefore, when you start, you better read just one page a day (yes, just one!) for four weeks straight. This is so much better than an irregular reading schedule, plus it’s much easier to commit to.
Once you have your routine well established and it has become automatic, then you can move on to read two pages a day (or more) if you want.
3. Read right before going to bed
When I was in high school, I received this advice in order to review better for exams. I didn’t really believe it would make a real difference, but I tried it just out of curiosity. I read some of my geography notes just before going to bed. When I woke up, I was absolutely amazed to see that I could almost recite by heart what I had read the previous night.
Now por supesto (of course), I am not promising that if you read one page of a Spanish reader tonight before going to bed, you’ll wake up tomorrow speaking Spanish (how cool that would be though?). Nonetheless, doing your Spanish reading practice just before sleeping will absolutely help your brain integrate the information much better.
4. Write down all the new vocabulary
If you read a page a day, you will most likely look up the meaning of at least 2-5 words (depending on your level). Therefore, keep a vocabulary notepad nearby when you read. Every time you come across a new word, write it down (even if the translation is already available in the reader itself).
This way, every day you’ll expand your vocabulary by several words. If you are anything like me, it will certainly please you to see your vocabulary notepad fill up as you learn more words to express yourself in Spanish.
5. Reread your vocabulary notes every night
Make sure to read these vocabulary notes every night when you finish reading your book. You don’t necessarily have to make any kind of special effort to remember them. Just understand what they mean and read them out loud before going to bed.
After your vocabulary collection gets lengthy, know that you don’t have to read every single page of your vocab notebook every day. Once you start to have lots of pages to read, just read the last page or two you’re good to go. Seeing these words repeatedly each night will help you remember them without formally sitting down to repeat and drill them.
6. After finishing, reread your Spanish reader
It is usually advised to read a book for a second time when you’re reading in a foreign language. In the case of a Spanish reader there are two buenas razones (good reasons) to do so.
Firstly, you should read the book again to see if you remember the vocabulary that you learned during your first reading. If you do great, you should get through the reader much quicker than the first time (it’s a nice feeling, you’ll see!). If you don’t, you may want to spend more time reading your vocabulary notepad.
Secondly, there may be some things in the reader that you will simply understand much better during your second reading. Although everything is usually quite simple in a Spanish reader for beginners, some word choices, grammar rules or tenses may appear clearer to you. These ah-ha moments are so important for learning—you don’t want to miss them.
7. Use readers in conjunction with other learning methods
Learning with readers is awesome, but they’re not the only way to study Spanish! Don’t forget to supplement your reading with other methods of learning to really drill those new words and phrases into your memory.
One amazingly immersive and engaging program for learning Spanish is FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into 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.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos—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.
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 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 on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the App from iTunes or the Google Play store and bring FluentU’s innovative language-learning experience to your iOS and Android device.
Ready for some recommendations? Here are my four favorite Spanish readers at the moment.
4 Spanish Readers That’ll Make Your Reading Skills Soar
This Spanish reader is considered a dual-language book, which means that there is one page written in Spanish followed by one page written in English. The English page is a translation of the previous page written in Spanish. This is excellent for learning, since you will never get stuck because of an unfamiliar word or sentence.
This is a Spanish reader for beginners. The difficulty is progressive in that the book is broken down into sections based on tense. The first fifteen stories are written in present tense while the others are written in the imperfect, preterite, future and conditional tenses.
There are oral and written exercises at the end of each section to help you integrate what you’ve learned. This book also allows you to learn about Spanish culture through captivating and amusing stories written by different Spanish and Latin American authors.
In addition, a glossary is included so you won’t have to go back and forth between the book and a dictionary (woo hoo!). And finally, this reader is super cheap—so no excuses!
This reader is an interesting detective story that takes place in Buenos Aires (my adopted city, oh yeah!) which contains some Argentine slang for you to learn (double oh yeah!). It’s composed of lots of short chapters written with simple grammar, vocabulary and sentences so that everything is really straightforward.
The cool thing about this book is that you can read one chapter per day. Yeah, I know I said to only read only one page a day earlier, but these chapters are so simple that you can easily finish one in one short sitting. Moreover, the story uses lots of useful vocabulary in a readable storyline (like greetings or talking to friends, etc.) So if you’re getting bored of studying isolated Spanish sentence, pick up this reader!
This reader follows the story of two high school girls in their Spanish club, proposing you study along with them. You’ll find colorful stories of Mexico—from los conquistadores (the conquistadors) to the Aztecs and Cortés’s encounters.
This reader has a word glossary at the end, plus short exercises after each session to help you ingrain what you learned in the different chapters. The difficulty is pretty well adjusted and goes up progressively. Lastly, most words, grammar and sentences are pretty self-explanatory, which is a very good point for Spanish beginners.
Now although this book is more expensive than the others described here, “Easy Spanish Reader” is perfect for refreshing your memory if it’s been a long time since you’ve practiced Spanish. And don’t forget that you can always check your local library for these readers.
The last book in this selection is yet another dual-language book. It features plays, lyrics and narrative verses and proses (for you artsy people) coming from 50 excerpts from Spanish literature.
Now don’t let the title fool you. This Spanish reader is actually much more advanced than the other books on this list. To give you an idea, it’s comparable to reading Shakespeare in Spanish.
So you’ll need to have a solid grasp of the Spanish language to get the most out of it. But if you have at least an upper intermediate level of Spanish and are up for a challenge, this is the reader for you.
No matter your level, there’s a Spanish reader out there that will ease you into reading in Spanish and expand your vocabulary.
Aprovecha ! (Enjoy!)
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.