Episode 64: Q&A – What books do you use at home to supplement English, Spanish and German?

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On this episode of the podcast, I share my family’s favorites for English, Spanish and German books. I share favorites from every member of the family including our little one!

Episode #64- Transcript

They there! Welcome to another Question and Answer edition of the Bilingual Avenue podcast. Thank you for tuning in for another episode.  It’s always fun to read your emails, tweets or Facebook messages letting me know that the podcast is helpful!

Today’s question is fairly straightforward but really fun.  Let me read you the email.

Hi Marianna!

Quick question for you, what are your favorite books to use at home? We are also working on the same languages English, Spanish and German so I’d love to get your take on your favorites. Thanks! Yaritza

Yaritza, thanks for your question and for allowing me to share it with the Bilingual avenue community.

Alright so my favorite books, this is a really fun question!  Let me break it down by language so it is easier for anyone out there working on any of these three languages to follow along. I am going to have links to everything I talk about on the show notes page. You can find that at blingualavenue.com/episode64. So don’t worry too much about jotting everything down, you can always check that later.

Let’s start out with German –

If you’ve heard the show before you know that German is currently our community language.  My husband and I don’t actually read to our daughter in German because we are each working on English and Spanish respectively but we do like to have them on hand.  We do have friends come over and we encourage them to read to our little one.  My husband Todd and I also use them but we just translate as we go when we are reading.  We also think it is just good practice to have some on hand to support her language development in German as she gets older.  Now because neither by husband nor I read to her in German, we do have a fairly small selection of books but let me share you the ones we do have and why we have chosen them.

My absolute favorite set of German books is called, and I am going to really embarrass myself with my German here, but they are called: Wieso? Weshalb? Warum?  These books are AWESOME.  You can of course find them in many bookstores in Germany and a few other countries throughout Europe.  The publisher is Ravensburger. I absolutely love them.  They are very well made, the illustrations are fun, and they are broken up by age group.  We have a few in the 2-4 years old group and at least for this age group, many of the pages have flaps that kids can open and close with additional illustrations under them.  There is a wide selection of them and they cover all the fun topics that kids that age love to learn like the Farm, Going to the Beach, The Train, My Body, The Forest, etc.

(A few titles to share with you from this collection):

Unser Baby

Alles Uber Dinosaurier

Auf der Baustelle

They also have them for 4-7 year old range and some of the ones for that age group come with something called a Tiptoi which is basically a special pen that you place over a picture in the text to hear sounds, voices, music, etc.  They may have them in other ages but so far I have found the 2-4 and the 4-7.

These books are all incredibly well made.  I pick them up often and translate it when reading to my daughter because they are just so interactive and catchy that I think they are just a great resource.  I encourage them to check it out.  You may even want to look through them even if you are not working on German at home but there may be some topics your child finds really appealing and then you can translate it for them.  Just a thought for you to consider.

We also have some books from the Bilibrini collection.  These books are bilingual so they are both in German and English.  What I like about these books, at least the two that we have at home is that under each page, they highlight specific objects that are in the illustrated section and have the name for the object in both German and English.  These books are fun.  I use them to play “I Spy” with my daughter and they are very affordable.

The last set that I really like are the Pixi books.  They are small little books, typically just a few pages and they are almost pocket size.  They are really affordable, they are usually just a Euro and they are fun to carry in, for example, your child’s toy bag when you are on the go.

I’ll link to a few of the books for each of these categories in the show notes so you can browse through them and see if any of them are appealing.  You’ll find the links on the show notes page at bilingualavenue.com/episode64.

Alright let’s move on to Spanish –

One of my favorite books, and you have heard me mention this on the show before is called Pio Peep by Alma Flor Ada.  It is a book of many of the traditional Spanish nursery rhymes.   There is no music with the book, the rhymes are just written like poems.  The rhymes are also included in English so I feel like my husband can also learn them and understand what it is that I am reading to my daughter.  And the illustrations are incredible so I am big fan of that book.

Another favorite and is not necessarily my favorite, I don’t dislike the book I just never would have guessed it would be such a great hit, is one called Donde Esta Spot? by Eric Hill which translates to “Where is Spot?” My daughter LOVES it and I mean just loves it.  It’s a very simple book and we started reading it probably when she was about eighteen months old and she’s almost 2.5 years old and is still a big fan so almost a year later, the book is still a hit.  Like I said, it is really simple.  A mama dog is looking for her puppy because he has not eaten his dinner and so each page takes you through the different parts of the house where the mom searches for Spot and in just about every hiding spot she doesn’t find Spot but she finds another animal.  Like I said, the text is super simple so to get the most out of reading it, I take advantage of every illustration on the page and I ask my daughter lots and lots of question about what she is seeing.  If I just read the book it would probably take me five minutes to get through it but by asking questions and having some back and forth with her it probably takes more like fifteen minutes to get through it.  Since Donde Esta Spot? was such a hit we purchased another version with the same characters.  She likes them but it’s certainly not the same passion she has for the original.

I will share with you another book I loved to read to my second graders.  It’s called Que Monton de Tamales by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez.  The story is of a girl who tries on her mother’s wedding ring while helping her to make tamales for a holiday get together.  Well guess what? She loses the ring and it’s now missing! So the whole story is about figuring out where the ring is. This was a big hit for my students because they could all relate to having lost something and that feeling of worry but spoiler alert, there is a happy ending so it’s a nice story from beginning to end.

And one last that I will share is a childhood favorite of mine, La Calle es Libre by Kurusa Monika Dopper.  I mentioned this book back in episode 9 during my episode with Daria.  I read this book in fourth grade so it is for older children and I just fell in love with the plot.  It’s a longer book so again you want to keep it for your older kid but it is a truly moving story about a group of children that live in a low income community band together to demand a playground for them and the other kids in the neighborhood to play.  A really touching story and one that shows what children working together are capable of accomplishing.

Alright and now we are getting to the English selection.  Let’s start with the ones we read at home.  I actually solicited my husband’s help as well since he is currently doing the English reading with our daughter.  We have many books in English, we have been blessed that both of my husband’s parents so Grandma and Grandpa were elementary school teachers and specifically Todd’s mom gave us many of the books she had in her classroom library.

My husband’s all-time favorite book series is Little Critters by Mercer Mayer.  He has this great story, my husband does, where he hurt himself one day as a child when closing the door to a car and was as you can imagine agonizing in pain.  To make him feel better, his parents went across the street to a book store to get him a Little Critters story and ever since then, he has just adored these books.  The main character is a furry little creature that resembles a hamster and it’s all about his adventures and interactions with his loving family.  There are hundreds of these books.  The first one came out in 1975 yet Mercer Mayer and his wife Gina Mayer are still writing them and they published a few just this past year, 2014.

Now let me also share one of my daughter’s favorites.  From when she was really little she really enjoyed the Sandra Boynton books, especially for bedtime.  They are short stories usually available as a board book and she seemed to enjoy the illustrations and the rhymes that were incorporated into the text.  She is not as into them now since she is almost 2.5 but they seem to be a really big hit with younger children.

As far as my English favorites, I have two books that I loved to reading to my students in the classroom.  Both of them you may have heard of before because they have been turned into movies!  One of them is the Polar Express.  This is not only a great story but the illustrations are incredible.  This book is so special that it was awarded the Caldecott medal which is given to the preceding year’s most distinguished American picture book for children.  This is obviously a huge honor and you can imagine is no easy feat so you know that if you have a Caldecott winner in your hands that you have a good book.  On the show note’s page, I’ll include a link to the Caldecott wiki page so you can get a list of all the winners dating all the way back to 1937.  So you are sure to get some ideas and some variety on that list.

My second book that was a huge hit in the classroom was one that you may also be familiar with because of the movie and that is Where the Wild Things Are?  I’ll tell you one of my favorite ways to use this book when working with second graders.  You remember back in episode 18 I talked about how you can use a strategy called making connections. By encouraging your child to make connections with the text, they can better comprehend the text in front of them.  This book was a huge hit when I never I used that lesson because if you are familiar with the story Max, the main character LOVES to use his imagination and creates this other wild and almost crazy world.  It was a huge hit and very well received.  This book can work with many age groups.  You can find connections in so   many different ways so I definitely encourage you to check that out if you are looking to try out that strategy or if you are looking to add a new book to your repertoire.

Wow, ok that was a fairly long Q&A episode but I always get carried away whenever we are talking about books and reading.  Again if you think you would like to get some more suggestions on some texts that you can read to your children especially English and Spanish maybe some German, just let me know and I’ll create a list for you.  I’ll need to know what languages will work for you and I may be able to expand beyond those three and work with some other peers to give you some suggestions.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s episode, I most certainly have.  I’ll include a list with a link too all the books I talked about today on the show notes pages.  Until next time, thanks again for tuning in to the podcast.

May you have fun travels on your language journey. Hope to see you again on the avenue.


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