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What Kinds of Books We Use in Our Preschool and Elementary Spanish Classes

In the previous blog post I reviewed how to do shared reading in preschool and elementary Spanish classes. Now let’s look at some of the different kinds of books that are effective for shared reading.

In each Sonrisas lesson, there are several choices of books for Story Time. The books have been chosen on the basis of their effectiveness to convey the vocabulary and concepts of the lesson and on their effectiveness in presenting an authentic Spanish language experience. Several type of books can be used to achieve these goals:

  • The familiar, traditional tale. These are books such as The Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Most children have heard these archetypal fairytales and fables in their native language. Upon hearing them in Spanish, children are able to pick up on the tone, gestures, and images of the story in order to understand the Spanish text. These stories require no English whatsoever in order to be understood and enjoyed.
  • Books with effective illustrations. If the story is likely to be unfamiliar to students, we are careful to choose books with vivid, interesting pictures that convey the meaning of the story. As you read, students are able to understand the Spanish because the images tell the story. You can point to the pictures or parts of the pictures as you read. You can also change the tone of your voice to convey meaning. In this way, students comprehend without the need for translation.
  • Poem and verse-based books. Many children’s books are often poems or verses that have been illustrated. The rhythmic, repetitive, rhyming nature of children’s poetry makes it particularly effective in teaching Spanish. An example of this is the excellent book, Chumba la cachumba, by Carlos Cotte that takes a traditional verse about skeletons and illustrates it. It’s hard for children not to join in and start reciting this poem as you read it.
  • Books with repetition. Other children’s books may not be actual poems, but the text repeats itself again and again in new contexts. Children love stories with repeating text, and this style can be found in the oldest of children’s stories (e.g., Little pig, little pig, let me come in …), as well as twentieth and twenty-first century children’s book authors (e.g., Eric Carle’s Brown bear, brown bear what do you see?). With these books, the repeating text is often the foundation for the communication objective in the lesson.
  • The occasional informational book in English. Books that fit into the categories listed above can be introduced, read, and enjoyed 100% in Spanish. Occasionally, however, we will come across a book that may not fit into the categories above, but presents an excellent source of information for teaching culture. In these cases, we will share a book with students in English. Note: We only do this when the book presents the opportunity for students to gain an understanding of the relationship between the practices, perspectives, or products of the target culture in a way that we are unable to convey using Spanish. We believe the cultural education justifies the occasional use of English in this context.


Sonrisas Spanish Schoolcreates, publishes, and sells preschool and elementary Spanish curriculum and Spanish music for children. The Sonrisas Spanish School Curriculum can be used to teach Spanish to children at the preschool and elementary level, as well as home school Spanish. The Sonrisas Curriculum consists of fun, effective, standards-based lessons for the most effective language-learning experience for kids—one based on human-to-human interaction.

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