Using Bilingual Stories to Teach “un Poquito de Español”

When people hear that I’m a Spanish teacher, or that we speak Spanish at home with our kids, I am immediately asked for resources that I recommend to introduce their kids to Spanish. When searching for bilingual stories, you will find millions of books written– or translated into– Spanish. The huge majority of these books are at a language level that only Spanish-speakers would benefit from. How could an English-speaking parent read “Curious George” in Spanish, if neither she nor her child understands the language?

You will also find thousands of picture dictionaries… and one word per page boardbooks… and textbooks. There are also terrible translations (Azul el sombrero, verde el sombrero being my biggest pet-peeve!). What my friends are looking for are none of the above. They would like simple stories that teach a little Spanish (but are not too advanced that the parents can’t read or understand them!): here are my best recommendations.Bilingual Books for Kids English and Spanish- Kid World Citizen

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Most of the books I have found for beginning level Spanish are for the youngest crowd- they just don’t make “easy” Spanish books that are interesting/relevant to older students (unless it’s a textbook). Although many of the following bilingual stories have been written for ages 3-5, I think these that I have listed can be used to teach Spanish for ages 2-8 or even older?

The first series that I always recommend is the English and Spanish Foundations Series, by Gladys-Rosa Mendoza. Excellent grammar and translations, simple text made for non-native speakers with a very helpful pronunciation guide in the back, and colorful pictures to represent the basic vocabulary presented on each page. These are a step up from the one-word-per-page board books that I would use with infants and toddlers, though there isn’t exactly an engaging story. Language learners need a lot of repetition to acquire vocabulary, and these board books hold up.Mi Familia y Yo Bilingual Book- Kid World Citizen

The Alphabet/El alfabeto
Numbers 1 2 3/Los números 1 2 3
Colors and Shapes/Los colores y las figuras
My Family and I/Mi familia y yo
The Weather/El tiempoCuando Yo Estoy Bilingual Book- Kid World Citizen
What time is it?/¿Qué hora es?
My body/Mi cuerpo
Jobs Around My Neighborhood/Oficios en mi vecindario
Fruits and Vegetables/Frutas y vegetales
I can!/¡Yo puedo!
When I Am/Cuando estoyYo Vivo Aqui Bilingual Book- Kid World Citizen
Animals at the Farm/Animales de la granja
Cars, Trucks and Planes/Carros, camiones y aviones
My Clothes/Mi ropa
It’s My Birthday!/¡Es mi cumpleaños!
My House/Mi casa
I Live Here!/¡Yo vivo aquí!

The next set of books comes from author Lynn Reiser. When I am asked to read a Spanish book in my childrens’ classes, these are books I choose. They are bilingual (in a clever way), in that the 2 languages are presented on each page- but spoken by 2 different characters (Margaret, who speaks English, and Margarita, who speaks Spanish).

My Way A Mi Manera- Kid World CitizenMy name is Margaret. My rabbit’s name is Susan. Susan says, Hola.

Me llamo Margarita. Mi gatita se llama Susana. Susana dice, Hello.

Margaret and Margarita and My Way- A Mi Manera alternate the Spanish and English prose throughout, and the reader understands through the text and pictures that the 2 girls begin to play and become friends. Lynn Reiser wrote a similar book called The Lost Ball- La Pelota Perdida that is worth checking out.

Another author that has several great bilingual titles to choose from is Pat Mora. I love her books: simple, repetitive phrases that use vocabulary and structuresthat early Spanish learners will know (and mostly in the present tense). She has a 4 book series (called “My Family- Mi Familia) that are particularly easy-to-read and feature a bilingual family: Isabel, Tina, Danny and their family and pets. Let’s Eat ¡A comer!, Sweet Dreams ¡Dulces Sueños!, Here Kitty, Kitty/¡Ven Gatita, Ven!, and Wiggling Pockets/Los Bolsillos Saltarines.

Perros Perros Dogs Dogs Bilingual Book- Kid World CitizenGinger Foglesong Guy has written several bilingual books of simple stories, that can be used to introduce Spanish vocabulary: Siesta, Fiesta¡Bravo!, Perros! Perros! Dogs! Dogs!, My Grandma/Mi Abuelita, and My School/Mi Escuela. Like Pat Mora’s books, they present the simple story in English and Spanish, and are best for kids just learning Spanish.

Tips for reading Bilingual Stories with your Kids:
Separate the languages.
For true beginners who know no Spanish, read the book first in English. Then read it in Spanish. Unfortunately, if you read each page English and then Spanish (or Spanish and then English) kids ears will only tune into the English and just ignore the Spanish. This is why in Spanish classes, teachers should not just say instructions in Spanish and then translate- the kids will be accustomed to tuning out what they don’t understand.

Use the illustrations to teach.
Once they begin to pick up a little bit of the vocab, you can read them only in Spanish- try pointing to the pictures to show them what you are talking about. Once the kids start to get the vocab, have them point to the correct pictures as you read.

Perro grande (point to large dog). Perro chico (point to the small dog).

Pull out vocabulary.
Pick a group of words (colors, adjectives, numbers) and try to incorporate them in other activities, such as counting toys, describing animals at the zoo, naming colors. If you practice the words in a variety of real contexts, you will find that when you read the books in Spanish, the kids will understand them better!

Bring me something ‘rojo’ (Tráeme algo rojo= TRAH-ay-may ALL-go RO-ho)

Once your engaged Spanish learners want to get to the next level, check out this list of great books from Colorín Colorado. Most libraries have at least some Spanish titles- ask your librarian to show you the language section, and see what you can find!

By Category

By Date


  1. says

    These are such great tips! Will be sharing on my Facebook page later this week! I really appreciate the idea of separating the languages – I will have to remember to do this!

  2. says

    Fabulous post that I will be sharing on my Facebook page. We are adopting from Chile and need English/Spanish books for teaching English. :) The list provided here is perfect for us. Thanks so much!

    • kidworldcitizen says

      Oh wow!!!! My sister lived in Chile for a year- lived and volunteered in an orphanage in Santiago. If you want to get in touch with her let me know:). These books are perfect because they are made for non-native speakers!!!:) Congrats on your adoption- I would love to learn more! Also- check out the recipe from Chile on this page:
      I need to get more Chilean activities up:)- I will chat up my sister!

  3. says

    Thank you for linking up with “Say It Two Ways Thursdays”! This post was literally exactly the kind of thing I was hoping people would link up. I’m really glad to get recommendations because I’ve picked up “bilingual” books with really bad grammar, or that translated directly without any consideration for rhythm or rhyme. Thank you!

  4. Tracey Hastie says

    Thanks for the great suggestions – I already have lots of material but am constantly on the lookout for more. My children are all fluent in Spanish and English respective of their ages 21,20, 5, 5 and 1. The littlies are currently enjoying learning to read with e-books from American Reading at Home which provides books in paper or electronic form in Spanish and English – they are well translated from what I have seen so far. I live in Bolivia but will soon be moving back to NZ after 8.5 years and my little girls will pick up English reading in school so I am teaching them Spanish reading at home. Adopting from Chile next year so these kids will already be reading in Spanish and will need help with English reading so I am preparing for both sides. Thanks for the help.

  5. kidworldcitizen says

    How awesome for your kids!!! About adopting from Chile, my sister spent a year in an orphanage in Santiago- I’m so excited for you!!!! Congratulations!!! :) Glad you liked the book suggestions- I bet the bookstores in Chile will have wonderful beginner reader books too!

  6. Marissa Rivera says

    Love the website and this article was so helpful to me at this time! You have listed great resources and tips that I can definitely use in class. I will be teaching Spanish to 5th graders (English is first language, Spanish is my first language) and it is hard to find a curriculum that is good. This is for a homeschooled group of children; do you have any recommendations in terms of curriculums??
    Thanks, Marissa


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