Middle School Reading Recommendations and Tips for New Language Learners
By Raquel Frechette, ISB parent and Library Committee Member, with support from Language Acquisition Teachers, Emilie Berger and Oscar Pau
Picture this: You’re a 6th Grade ISB student. Maybe you’re new to the school and brand new to learning a second language. Or maybe you’re not new, and you’ve been at ISB since your education began, immersed in a second language from day one. But, just like the new kid, you’re also learning a new language (because at ISB all 6th Graders study an additional language: either French or Spanish—whichever is a new language for them), and this time it’s your third, or maybe even your fourth.
Being the avid reader and clever student you are, you know that reading books can be a helpful tool in the language acquisition journey. So you head to the library to pick a book. But uh oh. You don’t know where to begin. Those books you love to read now, in English or a language you’re already familiar with? Well, the French or Spanish books like those seem overly complex. Do you go to the picture book section? Those might seem easier to read, but wait, there are 1st Graders looking at books over there! So what’s an eager, Middle School language learner to do?
Fear not! With the help of Emilie Berger and Oscar Pau, our illustrious Middle School Language Acquisition teachers, I’ve put together a list of tips and reading suggestions for older students who are learning French or Spanish for the first time.
Take a trip down memory lane and relive those early elementary school years – go ahead and pick out some picture books. Don’t worry, no one is watching.
Find a book you’ve already read and know well in English and try to read the French/Spanish version. Or listen to the French/Spanish audio book version – Sora can be great for this.
Choose a graphic novel – the images and style of the book, may help make the story easier to understand even if not all the words and phrases are familiar.
Choose nonfiction books about nature, science, or animals since there are plenty of images and it is easier to contextualize what you are reading. Similarly, biographies can be good choices.
Try not to get frustrated trying to understand every single word in the book. While it’s perfectly fine to look up words in a dictionary if you think they seem important, try to think of the general story and don’t feel like you need to have a perfect understanding of what you’re reading.
Find a summary online in English before you start the book to get a sense of what to expect.
Ask your French/Spanish classmates or teachers for help when you get stuck and don’t understand a part of the book.
Read the same book with another language learning friend and help each other.
And as with most things in life – the more you read, the more you’ll understand.
- Most of the books listed here can be found in the ISB Library – a big thank you to Emilie and Oscar for searching the stacks to find some great options for our students!
Books in Spanish
La gata que aprendió a escribir by Vicente Muñoz Puelles. From the Sopa de Libros collection, this series has some titles that can be appealing to middle schoolers.
Las almas de la Fiesta (Y otros cuentos del Día de los Muertos) by Judy Goldman. An easy read that ties into El Día de los Muertos topic that is discussed in 7th grade.
El Monstruo y la Bibliotecaria by Alfredo Gómez Cerdá. From the Ala Delta collection, another series of books targeting younger students that also has some titles that appeal to older kids.
Escuela de Espanto: ¡El casillero que se comió a Lucía! by Jack Chabert. Spanish translation of a series about kids at a school that’s alive and evil – includes lots of imagery so great for language learners.
Magalina y el gran misterio by Silvia Douyé. A graphic novel series about a girl who attends a magic school. Also on Sora!
Verde by Marie Desplechin. The graphic novelization of the book Verte about an eleven year old girl who grapples with her heritage as a witch and witchcraft powers.
Books in French
Hibou Hebdo: La fête d’école by Rebecca Elliott. French translation of a simple series about friendship stories featuring a little owl.
La Cabane Magique: La vallée des dinosaures by Mary Pope Osborne. French translation of the popular MagicTreehouse series about magic, mystery and time travel.
Tom Tom et Nana: Les vacances infernales by Jacqueline Cohen; Évelyne Reberg; Bernadette Després. A French comic series about the Dubouchon family and their mischievous children, Tom and Nana.
Chi, une vie de chat by Konami Kanata. French translation of a Japanese manga series about a mischievous kitten.
Amulet: Livre un, Le gardien de la pierre by Kazu Kibuishi. French translation of the popular Amulet series of graphic novels.
In addition, check out this collection of books (also includes audio) from French publishing company, CLE International. Here’s a similar collection for younger students.