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 specially 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 can’t 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’s still in the early stages of learning Spanish. And this is exactly why Spanish readers exist.
They’re created specifically for Spanish learners
Indeed, they’re little books (or short stories, or websites!) 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 four-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 plain 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 all right while others are excellent!
This is why I’m recommending 10 Spanish readers that’ll 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’ll hear a lovely native-Spanish voice pronouncing what you typed in. Better yet, visit Forvo and search for the word to hear it pronounced by a few different native speakers!
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’ll always remain hard. Therefore, when you start, you’d 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’s become automatic, then you can move on to reading 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’d 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’m 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’ll most likely look up the meaning of at least two through five 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’re anything like me, it’ll 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 and 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’s 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’ll simply understand much better during your second reading. Although everything’s 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. Stay engaged by adding audio and video to your reading.
Who says that Spanish readers can only be in text?
Many readers these days come with accompanying audio files, especially when they’re found online (we have a few great options in our list below!). Adding audio is an excellent way to stay engaged but it’s also a great way to boost your learning. Hearing and reading the words in Spanish, then reading what they mean in the English part of each reader, will make it even easier for you to remember more.
Add yet another layer to your learning by throwing video into the mix.
But where can you find videos accompanied by dual-language captions? That’s easy: on FluentU!
FluentU takes real-world videos, like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks, and turns them into Spanish learning experiences. You can read along with the video through Spanish subtitles, and check the meaning with the English subtitle translations (plus, each can be toggled on or off to suit your learning).
FluentU has a wide variety of videos, so you’ll never get bored—topics like soccer, TV shows, business, movies and even magical realism, as you can see here:
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 10 favorite Spanish readers at the moment.
10 Spanish Readers That’ll Make Your Reading Skills Soar
This Spanish reader is considered a dual-language book, which means that there’s 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’ll 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 15 stories are written in the 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’s 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.).
This collection of 30 very short Spanish stories provides so many opportunities to grow Spanish skills. The stories are engaging, brief enough that they don’t feel overwhelming and each passage in Spanish is followed by the English translation so there’s no guesswork involved. If you’re just starting on your Spanish journey, this is a great option for a first reader.
A nice extra are the vocabulary lists that follow each story. Use them to build a solid vocabulary list, or even to make flashcards for review.
The audio version of this book is included as a free download so this is a mobile learning experience that’s sure to entertain and teach!
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.
This classic children’s tale is part of the Keepsake Series, dozens of stories told in both Spanish and English which will enchant young and old alike. There are several of these books in my house and they’re always being read—and not just by children, either.
This book is ideal for beginner Spanish learners. The vocabulary is basic and the story is familiar so it’s not a stretch to figure out unfamiliar words and phrases without any help. But the English translations are on the same page as the Spanish passages so there’s never any need to go for a dictionary to translate.
Use this story—and the others in the series—to build a super foundational vocabulary. Also, since they’re short and sweet, this is a great option for reading aloud. Get some speaking practice in while you read—and don’t forget to enjoy the gorgeous illustrations!
6. “10 Bed-Time Stories in Spanish and English with Audio: Spanish for Kids—Learn Spanish with Parallel English Text (Volume 1)”
This parallel text volume is sure to become a favorite for both adults and children alike. No matter your age, short stories are a great resource for learning Spanish.
These engaging stories are presented so well that even very beginning learners will be able to read without any effort. Paragraphs are written in Spanish but are followed immediately by English translations. Use the translations at the beginning of your reading practice. As your skills grow, read in Spanish without glancing at the English. It’s an easy way to power up skills!
The audio of each story is also available to download. Download in English with narration by a native English speaker or in Spanish with a native Spanish storyteller. The Spanish audio is sure to boost pronunciation skills and provide entertaining listening practice, as well!
7. “Short and Easy Spanish Novels for Beginners: Learn Spanish by Reading Stories of Suspense and Horror”
This bilingual parallel-text book is sure to delight suspense and horror fans! There are two short books included in this text so learners have twice the horror and suspense at their fingertips.
The chapters in these stories are short, the sentences use very basic vocabulary and sentence construction and the English translations are on the next page. So read the Spanish text on one page—and if you have a problem understanding a word or phrase, glance to the other page to find its translation. The transition between pages is smooth; this is a stress-free method of reading because there’s no need for a dictionary or translation app.
A bonus with these stories is the challenge at the end of each. The short quiz will test readers to see how much they learned from reading!
This dual-language book 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 most of 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.
9. Spanish Boom
Now, we move on to some online readers! Spanish Boom offers free Spanish stories to learners. They’re very basic stories that are perfect for beginning learners.
The Spanish text is on the left side of the screen and its English translation is on the right side. This makes it easy to glance to the right if you’re stuck on a word or phrase. Just grab the translation, then go back to reading in Spanish!
A bonus with this resource is that the stories also come with audio so if you want to grab some listening practice along with your reading practice, this is an ideal spot to do so!
A small disclaimer about this site: The Spanish on this website is correct but the English translations sometimes use poor grammar or don’t translate the text literally (instead, getting the gist of the meaning). This is something to be aware of if you want to use this resource—though it doesn’t detract from the usefulness of the stories as solid Spanish-learning resources.
The Spanish Experiment is such a fun resource for beginning Spanish readers! The stories are ideal for absolute beginners to more advanced beginners—and anyone, actually, who enjoys sweet, silly, fun stories in Spanish.
There’s just so much for love about these children’s stories. They have adorable illustrations, they use basic vocabulary and they’re amusing. The English translations are available at the click of your mouse which encourages readers to attempt to discern meanings rather than relying on translations. If you can’t figure out a word or phrase, the translations are readily available. But as your proficiency grows, you might not need those translations!
This resource also has audio available so if you’re looking to add listening practice to your program, this is a super fun way to do that!
No matter your level, there’s a Spanish reader out there that will ease you into reading in Spanish and expand your vocabulary.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Spanish with real-world videos.