What if I told you that reading doesn’t need to be hard and it doesn’t need to give you a headache? What if I told you that you could learn new words, improve your listening and speaking skills, and it could be interesting and fun?
You’re going to think I’m crazy, but read this post until the end and I promise that you will want to start reading.
I want you to read children’s book series.
Why is reading so important?
This section is for those of you who think reading is a waste of time.
Reading is not a waste of time! Reading helps you learn a lot of new words in a short amount of time. You learn new words in context, which means you learn words by looking at the situation in which you find the words and by looking at the words around them. You learn how to use the words correctly in a sentence, without memorizing anything. Learning happens naturally, the way you learned your native language.
Reading is not a waste of time IF it is “free voluntary reading.” This is an idea from a well-known education professor named Steven Krashen. (We are going to talk more about him later in this lesson.) Free voluntary reading means that you choose books that are interesting to you and at your level of reading.
You are not just learning words. While you are reading for fun, you don’t even realize that you are learning collocations and sentence structure. Here are some other benefits:
- Your confidence improves.
- Your grammar improves without having to memorize “rules.” You learn sentence structure instead of rules.
- It becomes easier to speak to and understand native speakers.
OK, this is nice, but how do you find books at your level* of reading that are fun and interesting?
*Please remember that “at your level” doesn’t mean that you need to know every word you read, just that the book is easy to understand and you don’t need to look up a new word in every sentence.
Learn more: What are collocations?
What is a book series?
Books series are very popular in the English-speaking world. I read many books series when I was a young girl!
Think of TV series like the Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Modern Family, Game of Thrones, or CSI. Each series has the same group of characters and the same theme. NCIS, for example, is about a group of agents who investigate crimes involving the US Navy or Marines.
A book series is similar. It’s a group of books that all have the same characters and are about a similar topic. In each book, the characters experience a new problem.
How do you know that reading book series works?
That professor that we talked about earlier, Steven Krashen, published an article many years ago in the Journal of Reading. I found this article recently and I was so excited when I read it! It’s about English students like you who improved ALL their English skills by reading a children’s book series called Sweet Valley Kids. (These books are no longer in print, but I recommend others below).
Here’s what happened: There were four women living in the U.S. and learning English as a second language. They were asked to participate in a reading program. Their teacher gave them books to read from a series called Sweet Valley Kids.
The women loved these books! These were short books with less than 100 pages, and they were easy to read. The women were able to read many of the books in a short amount of time. The more books they read, the more their English skills improved. They found that after reading several of the books in the series, it was easier to understand things on TV and easier to have conversations with native speakers!
You can read the entire article here: Acquisition of vocabulary from the Sweet Valley Kids series: Adult ESL acquisition
Where can I find these books?
Sweet Valley Kids, the children’s book series that the women read, is not available anymore. However, I found 4 children’s book series that I think are interesting. There are several places where you can find these English books:
Canada & the U.S.
- secondhand bookstores
- thrift stores (Salvation Army, Goodwill, Value Village, etc.)
- Amazon.com or Amazon.ca
Outside Canada and the U.S.
- English bookstores in major cities or at universities
- the English section of libraries
- Amazon.com or the Amazon online store in your country
Here are the book series that I recommend:
I picked these first two series because the characters live in the real world and the stories are about everyday situations.
1. Greetings from Somewhere
This book series is so fun. Ethan and Ella are twins. Their mother is a travel writer and their father is a professor. They get to travel around the world! In each foreign city, something happens and they must solve a mystery before they leave for the next city!
2. Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew
Nancy Drew is a popular character in the English-speaking world! Nancy is a detective. She and her friends Bess & George solve mysteries that happen at school and in their daily lives.
These books are also available as Audible audiobooks.
I chose these next two series because I wanted to recommend series with boys as the main character.
3. Tales from Maple Ridge
This series takes place in 1892 in a small town in the U.S. The main character’s name is Logan Pryce, and the books in this series are all about his daily life and the problems he faces, like his first trip to a big city or finding his brother in a blizzard.
4. Flat Stanley
Yes, Stanley is flat, as flat as a pancake! One night, while he is asleep, a bulletin board falls on Stanley and flattens him. He discovers he can do fun things because he is flat. He becomes a hero because he stops thieves from stealing paintings from a museum!
These books are also available as Audible audiobooks.
That’s what I wanted to do for a long time before but I do not know what books are good resources for me. Thank you so much for your advisement. I will start getting some from library and update to you the results
That’s great, NHA! I hope you can find some of the books at the library. Please remember to let me know what you think of the books. I’m excited to hear from you!
Thank you! I was just looking for good children’s books to read.
Yay! I hope you enjoy the books!
Hi,thanks for your tips. Right now I am reading Judy Moody,and another children books,because I think like you it is easier to understand. I bought these children books you said,and when I read the first one,I will tell you the results,but I have two questions: Do I have to write down the core words? and I suppose to that the rest of the books of one serie will have more or less the same vocabulary? Thanks If you have a different method to go over vocabulary ,please tell us. Thanks a lot you are a great teacher.Regards.
These are good questions!
Do I have to write down the core words?
No, you don’t. Because this is free reading, you don’t have to actively study the books or write down words. However, if there is a word that is repeated in a book and you don’t know the meaning of the word, then you should write it down & look it up in the dictionary. This is free reading, though, and there are no rules!
Will the rest of the books of one series have more or less the same vocabulary?
The vocabulary about the characters, their families, their daily lives, etc. will be more or less the same, but there will also be vocabulary related to the subject of the book. For example, one of the Tales of Maple Ridge books is about a bad snowstorm, so there will be lots of vocabulary about weather. Another book in the series is about a trip to a big city, so there will be lots of vocabulary about life in a city.
What do you think of the Judy Moody books? Is the vocabulary useful?
All the best,
yes,the vocabulary is very useful,because it related to everyday histories of children who go to 3th grade and sometimes the words are the same and is easy to read it. Today I am going to read your book Nancy Drew and the clue drew-sleepover sleuths. I hope I like it. All the best.
Another question,should we start to read one serie from the first book or is it not necessary? thanks again.Regards.
With these kinds of book series, you can start with any book. You don’t need any knowledge from previous books to understand the current book.
Hi, Teacher Melanie, I thanks so much to recommend this books to read. I will start to read this books soon.
I hope you enjoy the books, Clecio! Let me know when you’ve read one of them!
Amali Praveena says
That is a very good idea, especially for people with English as a second language. I read children’s story book/ bedtime stories for my 3 and a half-year old kid every night before she goes to bed. It helped me learn English grammar and sentence structures and to practice my voice. Now, reading children’s book series is an addition to it, which I’m going to do it definitely and will see the results.
Wonderful! I think reading your daughter at night is such a great idea! It helps her English, too! I hope you enjoy the children’s book series as well.
These books are very useful for me to learning second language.
You are very nice.^^
Thanks you very much!❤
You are very nice too, Trang! Thank you for your kind words!
Thank you for your guidance.
I hope that this helps you, Behzad! All the best with your English studies.
Thank you, Melanie. I’ll read these books as soon as possible. It’s very fun and interesting. I think it’s a very good tip.
Marta R says
I read the series Judy Bolton & company from Margaret Sutton when I was young. Sorry it is very old, I imagine it will be very hard to find those books at stores. I saw them in thrift stores. What I remember is that I loved to read them and was excited to finish one to start reading the next one.
Thanks for the recommendation Melanie!
Hi teacher, that was a good post! I have a question about the word reading, is it a verb or is it a noun in that context? Another question, you wrote WHAT IF I TOLD YOU, does that sentence structure belong to which conditional sentence?
Reading was used many times throughout this article, and I’d say most of the time reading was used as a noun.
It’s important to remember that sentences with IF are not always conditional sentences. “What if told you (that) …?” is not a conditional sentence.
Thank you for your suggestion for improving the English language.
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Following your advise, I’ve read one of Nancy Drew stories. Frankly speaking I found it interesting, even if plot wasn’t so exciting ;-). In matter of fact I’ve learned a lot of new words and this exercise has helped me with vocabulary. Basically, when I found a new word, I checked it with Macmillan Dictionary – and if the word has at least one star – I added it to my list words to remember. Do you recommend any way of working with such list? How to learn it?
If I may, I’d like to ask you another question. I watch a lot o movies in English. But problem is with my listening skills. I have to watch a film with subtitles (in English of course). When I turn off subtitles I hardly understand what is going on ;-). Any advise how to make progress and watch films without subtitles?
Once again – thank you very much,
Thanks for advising us to read this book, and it’s good for us as learners to such books in terms of improving our English language through reading them.Thank you very much teacher
I never read any children book yet.
I think I must read once.