The best children’s books: 2-4 year-olds

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I always love to find new lists of must-read books, best books, top ten books and so on. It gives me the chance to either discover books I haven’t seen before (not having been raised on English books) or to rediscover some. This time it’s a list from The Guardian The best children’s books which has made me think of the possibility of using them in the EFL class. The list of books chosen for 2-4 year-old native speaking children can be used in EFL for students from 3 to 7 year-olds and the list goes like this: (descriptions from Amazon)

The elephant and the bad baby, by Elfrida Vipont

The Elephant takes the Bad Baby for a ride and they go ‘rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta down the road.’ They help themselves to ice creams, pies, buns, crisps, biscuits, lollipops and apples, and the shopkeepers follow them down the road shouting and waving. All ends well as the Bad Baby learns to say ‘Please’ and his mother makes pancakes for everyone.

The snail and the whale, byJulia Donaldson

One tiny snail longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of a whale. Together they go on an amazing journey, past icebergs and volcanoes, sharks and penguins, and the little snail feels so small in the vastness of the world. But when disaster strikes and the whale is beached in a bay, it’s the tiny snail who saves the day.

My friend Harry, by Ken Lewis

Like many small children, James has a special soft-toy friend. He’s an elephant called Harry. He and James go everywhere together – around the farm, on holiday, to bed. Then, one day, James starts school – and Harry stays at home. Will James miss his special friend?

Where the wild things are, by Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are is one of those truly rare books that can be enjoyed equally by a child and a grown-up. If you disagree, then it’s been too long since you’ve attended a wild rumpus. Max dons his wolf suit in pursuit of some mischief and gets sent to bed without supper. Fortuitously, a forest grows in his room, allowing his wild rampage to continue unimpaired. Sendak’s colour illustrations (perhaps his finest) are beautiful, and each turn of the page brings the discovery of a new wonder.

– Dogger, by Shirley Hughes

Dogger is the endearing story of how Dave’s beloved Dogger was lost and found. Winner of the 1977 Kate Greenaway Medal, Dogger is a timeless classic which, in simple words and detailed pictures, shows the distress the loss of a toy causes a child, as well as the reality of family life. Filled with humour and Shirley Hughes’ deft touch, this is a book for young readers to tackle by themselves, as well as a delight to read aloud.

– Not now, Bernard, by David Mckee

A humorous story in which a young boy is exasperated by his parents refusal to listen to him, so he decides to make them take notice.

– Gorilla, by Anthony Browne

Hannah’s father never seems to have time for her and so she is often left alone and lonely. She loves gorillas and longs for one for her birthday. On the night before her birthday she wakes up to find a parcel, containing a toy gorilla, by her bed. Disappointed she goes back to sleep. Later that night though, something magical happens–a real gorilla appears and takes her on a magical journey.

-Once there were giants, by Martin Waddell

Once there was a baby in the house – and to that baby, Mum and Dad and Jill and John and Uncle Tom were giants. But little by little, that baby grew up – until she became a giant too. This book is explores the stages of life and development.

– Goodnight moon, by Margaret Wise Brown

Perhaps the perfect children’s bedtime book, Goodnight Moon is a short poem of goodnight wishes from a young rabbit preparing for–or attempting to postpone–his own slumber. He says goodnight to every object in sight and within earshot, including the “quiet old lady whispering hush.”

I have left a story that I personally like a lot for last, one that also has many features for the EFL class. It has a repetitive pattern, simple and everyday vocabulary and alliteration which helps with the practice of some ending sounds.

Just be careful, your kids might want to sleep after listening to this story!

100 books every child should read: early years (part 2)

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Must-read books for ESL classes: early years

Let’s start with my very own choice of books to use in ESL classes in the early years. I’m going to begin with a selection of books from three authors who appear in the three lists mentioned in 100 books every child should read: early years (part 1). These authors are: Eric Carle, Bill Martin Jr and Dr. Seuss.

Why these authors?

Easy. They are considered must-read books, have been chosen by ESL authors and play an important role in the childhood of native speakers. In contrast to graded readers, they help children to learn English as a second language and at the same time expose them to the target culture by using authentic material.

Why these books?

Again Easy. These authors have many titles, some even more popular than the ones chosen here, but the language and the length of the stories isn’t appropriate for ESL students in their early years.

Which age and level are they chosen to be used with?

This is a bit more difficult. They can be used with students from 3 to 8 yrs old. I have used these books with students with only a couple sessions of half an hour a week and also with students in bilingual programs. The difference of using them between one or the other program is in the length of time available to work with them and the amount and difficulty of the activities related to them. When students have little exposure to English a week I work on one story for a whole trimester and the activities are more related to the acquisition of the main vocabulary. Whereas in bilingual programs I could move from one story to the next every month and I could even use cross curricular activities, such as the lifecycle of the caterpillar when dealing with the famous Eric Carle’s book.

Which books are we talking about and which advantages do they have in the ESL classes?


100 books every child should read: Early years (part 1)

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Let’s start with the list of  “the children’s top 100 books”  for the early years and it’s as follows:

– The Twits, by Roald Dahl. Mr and Mrs Twit pass the time playing nasty tricks on one another.

– Burglar Bill, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. When Bill accidentally burglarises a baby, it turns out to be a blessing in a stolen basket.

– The tiger who came to tea, by Judith Kerr. The story of a tiger that eats its hosts’ food.

– Where the wild things are, by Maurice Sendack. When Max engages in mischief, he is sent to bed without supper.

– The tale of Samuel Whiskers, by Beatrix Potter. Tom Kitten learnt nothing from his parents about the consequences of curiosity.

– Yertle the Turtle, by Dr Seuss. Yertle commands all the turtles to stack themselves up so he can be top of the heap.

– Fungus the Bogeyman, by Raimond Briggs.

– The story of the little mole who knew it was none of his business, by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch.

– Room on my broom, by Julia Donaldson. Children chant along as a witch and her animal friends see off a dragon in search of  “witch and chips”

– The very hungry caterpillar, by Eric Carle. Its pages drilled with holes as the caterpillar eats his way through the week.

– The cat in the hat, by Dr. Seuss. The cat’s a big show-off, but he knows how to have fun.

– Charlotte‘s web, by EB White . The friendship between a lonely pig and a spider.

– The story of Babar, by Jean de Brunhoff.

– Winnie-the-Pooh, by AA Milne.

(The Daily Telegraph, 19.01.08)

On the other hand, these next ones were chosen by Brewster and Ellis and you can find teaching ideas in their book “Tell it again. The new storytelling handbook for primary teachers”:

– Brown bear, brown bear what do you see? by Bill Martin Jr.

– The kangaroo from Wolloomooloo, by Joy Cowley.

– My cat likes to hide in boxes, by Eve Sutton.

– Mr McGee, by Pamela Allen.

– The very hungry caterpillar, by Eric Carle.

– Megg’s eggs, by Helen Nicoll.

– The clever tortoise.

– The elephant and the bad baby, by Elfrida Vipont.

– Something else, by Kathryn Cave.

– Funnybones, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg.

– Princess smartypants, by Babette Cole.

– Jim and the Beanstalk, by Raymond Briggs.

Now for a more personalized list taking into account advice from my native friends:

– Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? by Bill Martin Jr.

– The very hungry caterpillar, by Eric Carle.

– Green eggs and ham, by Dr. Seuss.

– Chicka chicka boom boom, by Bill Martin Jr.

– Click, clack, moo: cows that type,  by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin.

– The Gruffalo, by Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

Now it’s time to start examining them to see if they can be useful in an ESL class and in which level they would  be appropiate for.

100 books every child should read: early years (part 2)

100 books every child should read

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Go to The Daily Telegraph 19.01.08 and you find a list of the best children’s books. I happened to get it from my mother-in-law and I kept it as a treasure and now the time to further spread the word has come. Any native speaker will have a collection of special books and authors in their minds of their own childhood, but as English is a Second language for me, my childhood wasn’t filled with Dr Seuss, Eric Carle or Bill Martin. I had a children’s version of the Don Quixote but not hungry caterpillars, brown bears nor cats in hats…unfortunately. So a list in a newspaper of must haves seems like a good starting point, not to mention the plus of native speaker friends to help me.

So now that I have a list and friends to help me, what’s the purpose of knowing the must-read books?

Well, children love stories and without a coursebook to follow for my 4 yr old students I have decided to tell stories. A really ancient tradition which I think can help me in my teaching of English. But where to start and moreover how to select them as I have only two sessions a week of half an hour and English is not present in a Spanish child’s daily life in the least?

We have then two questions:

– Which books would be interesting for my students.

– Which books would be appropiate for ESL learning.

The problem of using authentic material as opposed to the graded readers is that the language of books that would interest our students can be too difficult and those on the level of our students can be too childish. The advantage when reading books in a foreign language is that children don’t reject books that they would find childish in their own language. This fact gives ESL teachers a margin of two years, three and sometimes even more to play with.

100 books every child should read: early years (part 1)

100 books every child should read: early years (part2)