Spanish books for learning to read – a video review


Finally, after a lot of research, I’ve now found and acquired several sets of books for beginner readers. None of them are perfect but together I think they’ll get us through the initial process of learning to read in Spanish. They are: Cati and Tomi, My First Bilingual Little Readers and 32 Cuentos de la A and la Z. Here’s a short review both in text and video. I decided to use video because if you’re me you’ll want to see inside the book before buying – something that’s tricky when buying online from abroad.

Cati y Tomi

This is a series of 12 books for beginner readers. I was attracted to these books as I like the way they are graded into three levels with progressively longer texts. They also have questions at the back to check the child understands the story, and stickers which are always popular. So far we have read all the level 1 books, although S hasn’t been keen to reread them (as suggested). On the down side. you have to buy them individually (there’s no pack available), the stories are sweet but aren’t particularly interesting and nor do the illustrations excite. The first level has text in both capital letters and cursive, but levels 2 and 3 are only in cursive. As S is only learning print at school he struggles to read cursive text. We are therefore on hold before starting level 2.

My First Bilingual Little Readers

This is a black-and-white book with tear-out pages you can cut and fold to make mini books. It is published by Scolastic and is obviously marketed at teachers working in bilingual programmes in the US. The main advantage of these little books are the short, easy to read, repetitive texts on a wide range of topics. They are also written in print, which is rare for Spanish learner books. S also likes to colour in the pictures as we do the reading together. They are also very economical costing only £8 each. The only downside is the format is not very durable, but I will endeavour to keep them for when E is learning to read. Having completed level 1 in Cati and Tomi, we are now focusing on these mini books. I have also bought a similar title, Easy Bilingual Nonfiction Mini Books.

32 Cuentos de la A a la Z

This lovely set of books is my favourite. S is using these books with his teacher in their 1-2-1 lessons. There is a story for each letter sound; this attracted me as I wanted to ensure we comprehensively cover all the letter sound combinations. So there’s a book for A, and M and S, but when it comes to C, there’s one for CA, CO, CU and one for CE, CI.

The stories are fun and engaging with brilliant illustrations. They also have questions and activities at the back of the book to check comprehension and extend the learning. I also like that you can buy them all in one pack! This doesn’t seem to be a common thing in Spain.

The only disadvantage (except for the price – eek!) is that they are in cursive text – although we’re so lucky as S’s lovely teacher has printed him out versions of the texts in print and stuck them into the books for him. The texts are longer and more complicated than the two other series mentioned above, so I am planning on completing the others with him first. In the meantime I have been reading some of them to him as well.

I’d love to hear about any other reading books for beginners. Do share any recommendations. Thanks


Establishing regular reading in the minority language

Since S started school in September last year, we’ve tried to get into a routine to encourage daily reading practice. He has two school books to read per week, so setting aside time every evening, has meant we’ve been able to do a little bit of reading each day. Establishing this habit has had a really positive impact and he’s now reading confidently in English and more importantly he’s enjoying it. All this focus on school reading however has meant reading in Spanish has been a bit left behind.

I’ve wanted to set aside time for regular Spanish reading for a while now but came across several barriers:

  • a lack of time (due to school reading books),
  • a lack of appropriate resources (simple books and texts)
  • a lack of motivation (he was hesitant and didn’t want to try reading in Spanish).

Luckily, I think we’re now at a point where we’ve got over these issues. I’ve finally got a good and varied selection of beginner reading material, S’s recently gained confidence in his Spanish reading ability through games and other activities and has chosen to read books in Spanish with me. As also importantly, now he’s more fluent in English, he’s able to finish the school books more quickly. I am hoping this will give us more opportunity for some Spanish reading.

To encourage this emerging willingness to read in Spanish, I’ve made a couple of wall charts. The idea is that he gets a sticker for every completed book, and when the race or chart is complete he can choose a treat.

Tell me about your ideas for incorporating regular reading in the minority language in your daily routine.

Loving musical books (in Spanish)


When my son was a baby I avoided books with sounds – I thought they were just like noisy toys and a distraction from reading.

However I’m now a bit of a convert. I particularly love this series Mi Primer…. which introduces classical composers to children from 12 months. We picked the first one up (Beethoven) during our trip to Granada in February, and since then I ordered the Mozart one too!

The board book format works really well, the books are robust, small and easy for little hands to carry. The integrated buttons are simple to activate and mean the book doesn’t require a large side panel making it much more practical for toddlers.

Each page has a short amount of Spanish text and a short music extract – see video below. E loves these books! She can independently make them play music and loves to dance along! Let’s hope they bring out one with Spanish or Latin music!

Do you use sound books for the minority language? Although I love the music, I’d love to find some with more Spanish spoken audio.

French – for the big brother (age 5)


S is now at school and is lucky to have started French lessons in Reception (first year of primary school in the UK). I understand that languages are often not introduced until age 7 in other schools although they are now part of the national curriculum for primary education.

Trips to France

My mum and step-dad live in South West France and we visit them at least once a year, usually in the summer. This year we will be going at the end of the school summer holidays and again at Christmas. So far our trips have focused on family and haven’t included much French to be honest, except for a few short conversations with the neighbours. As the children get older, I’d like to explore options to expose them to more French while we are visiting. They live in a rural area so I am not sure exactly what activities might be on offer but it’s would be great for them to do some sort of immersion programme or summer school.

In the meantime we’ve subscribed to One Third Stories, a monthly box language subscription service for 4 to 9 year olds. I thought it was an innovative idea for introducing a new language to school age children. S who is now 5 won’t listen to me read to him in French books for long unlike his little sister.

One Third French Stories

One Third Stories is a monthly picture book, audio book and activity pack that uses stories to teach key vocabulary – there are currently both French and Spanish editions. The books are mainly written in English with certain words in French. The idea is that you can work out the meaning of the French words from the context due to the repetition in way the text is written. As a language enthusiast, I thought it was an interesting concept and was keen to try it out.

We tried out the subscription for a year and we have enjoyed the books together. However I have found that S is a bit young for the activities, and not really interested at the moment. He’s happy to read the stories with me and I’m sure he’s picking up some of the vocab and getting used to the sounds. The books are good quality and will last well although I’d prefer they were written in more of the target language. The stories are a bit wacky and not really related to the languages – this is one way I think it could be improved.

For now I’ve decided to cancel the subscription and I am saving all the activity packs for when he’s a bit older and a more confident reader so we can go back over them together. Instead I’ve signed up for Popi, a French magazine aimed at 1 – 3 year olds which I plan to use with both children.

Fun reading practice with Spanish games

I recently invested in a few games to promote reading in Spanish with my 5 year old. He’s only just starting to read and finds books a bit intimidating at the moment. I am aiming to use games and other activities to build up his confidence in a fun way. I’d love to hear about any games or puzzles you’ve found that support literacy in your minority language.

Race to Madrid

This is a board game aimed at people learning Spanish as a foreign language, aimed at age 6+. My idea was to adapt the rules for reading practice. The game, also available as a card game and in other languages, works by using cards to build sentences, gain points and then move around the board, passing through different Spanish cities until you reach the capital. In the original game you have to translate the sentences into English to gain points. In our version we are just reading the sentence aloud instead to practice. S enjoyed the game and wanted to play until the end although he was obviously tired (it was after school as as he’s new to reading it is tiring for him). We’ve only played once so far and the topics that came up were mainly to do with shopping and buying clothes (not highly exciting for a 5 year old boy). Nevertheless, is was an interesting way to do a bit of reading practice as well as introduce some of the main Spanish cities and their landmarks.


Flash cards

There are lots of Spanish flashcards available, but I wanted ones that I could use for reading practice. I decided to go with these Every Day Words in Spanish flashcards as there are over 100 two-sided cards with photo images. They have a good selection of words covering a range of topics like body parts, professions, food, colours etc. The words range from short simple ones like ‘el ojo’ and ‘la mano’, to longer ones like ‘la computadora’. I’m generally happy with the flash cards although they’re a bit thin and prone to getting bent by little hands! I look forward to trying out different activities with these cards. So far we have looked at the cards and read them together, noticing any words S didn’t know (see photo below). Then I turned over the cards and had him read them before turning them over to confirm his answer (video below – you can hear my daughter in the background too – learning a new word ‘vaca’). I am quite new to flashcards (this is my first ever set). I’d love to hear how use them.


Trilingual puzzle – colours and shapes

I was looking for Spanish word puzzles and came across this chunky trilingual puzzle set. It’s a good size and the pieces look well made and durable but unfortunately there were some errors in the Spanish text which was disappointing – it looks like someone used Google translate ­čśŽ Nevertheless, we were able to make corrections and S was able to read almost all the words and match up the pieces.


French – a third language for my toddler

petit ors

Now I’m feeling confident about our ability to pass on Spanish to the children I’ve decided to give French another go, particularly with E as she’s only one and at an age where she’s still receptive to being spoken to in French despite not understanding.


As she loves books she’s been quite happy to listen to me read to her in French, which I figure might help her get used to the sounds if nothing else.┬á┬áMy mum and step Dad live in South West France and have given the children a few board books in French which get read over and over. We particularly like the Kididoc series. They have lots to keep little ones interested with texture, moving parts and flaps and a short amount of text. Petit Ours Brun books are also fab as they are small and low cost, as well as easy to get in the UK (available on┬á The simple, little stories are perfect for toddlers.

download (1)


I’ve also been running French rhyme time at the library once a week since September.┬á I bought a couple of song books, CDs and made good use of YouTube to find a good selection to learn. I enjoy the challenge of having to learn new songs in French and leading the group makes me ensure that I know the songs well enough to teach others.


We also watch the occasional YouTube videos of French songs (she loves Un Elephant), usually when I’m trying to learn them myself! Otherwise I try not to give E any more screen time as she’s only little and already likes to join her brother for his daily ration before dinner (his current favourite is Alphablocks – E gets so excited by the theme tune she does a little dance around the sitting room).


I am also looking to have a French student come and play with us, which as well as giving me conversation practice, will mean E gets to hear a lot more spoken French.

Are you introducing a third language? I’d love to hear your stories and tips.


Easy Spanish literacy games/activities for emerging readers

To help him practice reading and writing in Spanish and improve his confidence I’ve been playing a few games with S which I thought you might be interested in. Here are a few cheap, simple activities you can do at home. I have also ordered a few board games and puzzles with a literacy focus and will write up a full review once they arrive.


S loves colouring so this type of activity is perfect. He needs to read the colours in Spanish to find out what colour to use and reveal the picture. There are lots to download online – I just searched for dibujos para colorear con n├║meros. I prefer the ones where the picture is hidden as I think they are more fun.


Picture matching

This Montessori style literacy activity is matching words to pictures. Traditionally you start with the pink series – which can be downloaded in Spanish here.

I’m also using images from a lovely set of syllables posters I downloaded from Teachers pay Teachers. Here we are focusing on words starting with the syllable LI.


Treasure hunt

The activity involved both writing and reading practice as S helped me to make the game as well as playing it. Together we wrote on to small pieces of card the Spanish words for things like table, chair, and bed. I then hid the cards, treasure hunt style around the house. To play S had to read each card to know where to look for the next one, and so on until he had collected all the card and reached the prize. He loved the game and surprised me by independently writing and reading the majority of words.


Spanish rhyming snap

I wrote pairs of rhyming words on cards for this quick and easy snap game.

DIY Spanish Pictionary

I wrote out some cards with words which are both easy to read and easy to draw such as mano, ojo, bruja, falda, tren, m├║sica etc. S loves drawing so this game was a big hit.


This classic pen and paper game can be played easily and is a great activity to engage emerging readers. I found S quickly understood the game but it will take practice to begin to recognise which letters are more likely rather than just blind guessing. I like hangman because he was able to fully participate independently, choosing the words leche and rosa during his turn and completing the letters without help. As his reading skills improve this game can easily become more complex and competitive.

Do you have any other ideas for simple literacy activities? Do share below.