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California born by a Cuban mother, married to a Japanese man, and have lived in Japan since 2004, minus one year living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I have friends and family in many places in the world. I dreamed of traveling to many distant lands, creating music and dancing to it, meeting interesting people, and discovering treasures in the most unlikely of places.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Book Lists for Beginning Readers

To all of you ESL and EFL teachers out there:

Reading books brings together all of the grammar and vocabulary that students have learned into a realistic scenario. It gives students a good feeling of the language, and helps them learn what I would like to describe as a kind of rhythm only possible by either living in the country where a language is spoken, watching movies with subtitles in the language, listening to music and learning the lyrics, or reading books, on the internet, the newspaper, or other materials. However, reading books is the most relaxing way to do this, because most books made for beginning readers are made especially for people at a certain level. For example, High School or adult students might feel insecure if they are required to read picture books. On top of that, picture books don't always incorporate the simplest of language. Books like Penguin Readers or Oxford Bookworms are made especially for those whose intellectual level is higher, but whose reading ability is low. They also have a limited amount of new words, words that only beginners might know, plus, they use limited grammar difficulty. With each level, the number of words that must be known and the grammar level increases. This allows students to study slowly, at their own pace, while having fun with a story. And since it is a book, they can stop when they want, take breaks, and get an in depth assimilation of information at their own pace.

I have been charged with selecting books for my library, and it has been a wonderful task. Last year, I was able to order about 600 English books of all types. I tried to think of the different levels of my students, their interests and their abilities, and select books with the highest recommendation on Amazon.com. I also selected medal winners, Carnegie and Newberry, and Nobel Prize winners. Finally, for advanced students, I selected some books with thesaurus glossary in the back, and a thesaurus on each page for the harder words, from a series called ICON Webster's Classics.

I have had a heck of a time finding lists of books for beginning readers online. I can find them individually on Amazon, or on the publisher's page, but trying to get them in a list format to order easily in bulk is kind of hard.

This morning one of the teachers that I work with gave me this website, where you can get lists of some of these books, in order of their level of difficulty. There are others as well. Sorry, its in Japanese, but you can try the links to figure out how it works.

Other things for language learners to know about reading books in a new language, according to my teacher friend: Try not to use a dictionary. Rather, infer the meaning from the surrounding words and grammar (which is why a book in your level is best!). Also, you don't have to keep reading a book if you don't like it... just go get another one! This way you will keep reading energetically!
I pretty much agree with him :)


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