Reading List for Multilingual Children and Families

Books not only have the power to tell fictional stories, but books can also realistically represent cultures and our personal lives as well. Multilingual families can use books as a vehicle through which they can tell the story of their past, their culture, and their values. Reading books together can become a great family tradition and add to sweet shared memories for everyone. Here is a list of heartwarming tales that is good for families to share!

Ages 0-3; Reading Level: Pre-Reader

I Love My Daddy Because… by Laurel Porter Gaylord, illustrated by Ashley Wolff: In this celebration of dads, heartwarming illustrations of baby animals and their fathers remind us of the many reasons why dads are so special.

My Grandma by Ginger Foglesong Guy, illustrated by Vivi Escriva: It is time to visit Grandma! First a taxi, then an airplane, one more bus — and there she is! This book for young readers uses very simple bilingual text to follow the journey from home to Grandma’s front yard, telling the story with colorful illustrations. Children will enjoy poring over the detailed artwork, and readers will feel a glow when everyone is finally juntos — together.

El Gato Leo Comes to Play: A First Spanish Story by Opal Dunn Age: Leo, a small blue cat, speaks only Spanish. He responds to simple directions (such as “Ven. Come. Ven aquí. Come here.”) in Spanish with the English equivalent found by lifting the flap. This playful book concludes with a guide to Spanish pronunciation.

Ages 3-6; Reading Level: Beginning Reader

¡Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué Rico! by Pat Mora, illustrated by Rafael López: Celebrate the native foods of the Americas — peanuts, blueberries, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and more — through haiku poetry and stunning artwork from award-winning illustrator Rafael López.

A Walk With Grandpa by Sharon Solomon: As Daniela walks in the woods with her grandfather, they play a game in which they express how much they love each other. Children may wish to continue the game on their own with their family members after finishing the story! Colorful illustrations bring Daniela and her grandpa — as well as the surrounding forest, wildlife, and nearby wetlands — to life. Bilingual text.

Lewis Cardinal’s First Winter by Amy Crane Johnson, illustrated by Robb Mommaerts: Lewis Cardinal is worried as his friends get ready for winter. They all seem so busy, and he has nothing to do — plus, it’s beginning to look like he will be all alone throughout the winter! Soon he learns that he will have plenty of friends with him, however, and he begins to understand what hibernation and migration are all about. Lovely illustrations bring Luis and his friends to life.

Ages 6-9; Reading Level: Independent Reader

Lights for Gita by Rachna Gilmore, illustrated by Alice Priestley: Gita is ready for the Hindu celebration of Divali, but she is afraid that it just won’t be the same in her new home in Canada. When icy rain prevents the celebration they had planned, Gita becomes even more miserable, until she finds a way to light the darkness and remember Divali’s true meaning.

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco: Anna’s mother made a quilt to help the family remember their life in Russia. It has since passed from one generation to the next, used to chronicle as well as remember family members and their stories. Readers will empathize with the handsomely illustrated story from the author’s own experience in which Polacco uses both color and and black and white contrast to focus children’s attention on this special keepsake.

I Hate English! by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Steve Bjorkman: Mei Mei loves to think and write and talk…in Chinese. But at her school in New York City, everything happens…in English. Mei Mei is afraid that if she starts speaking in English, she will lose all that she loves in Chinese, including her friends at home in Hong Kong. Will Mei Mei always hate English as much as she loves Chinese? A humorous and touching story about the difficulty of accepting a new language and home.

Ages 9-12; Reading Level: Independent Reader

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: An affectionate, sometimes bashful pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing of time, E.B. White reminds us to open our eyes to the wonder and miracle found in the simplest of things.

My America: Home at Last by Katherine Lasky: In the second book of Sofia’s “My America” stories, Sofia and her family arrive in Boston following her detention at Ellis Island. There is much to explore, and many mysteries to solve. How much should Mama charge for the tortellini she is making? Where is her little brother’s pocket money coming from? And will she ever hear from her beloved friend Maureen again? Filled with adventure, humor, and many surprises, readers will find themselves cheering Sofia on as her Italian family adapts to their new life in Boston.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord, illustrated by Marc Simont: Meet Shirley Temple Wong, a delightful heroine who has come from China and arrived in Brooklyn in 1947 — the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. Based on the author’s own experiences, the story captures the highs and lows of coming to live in a new country, learning English, and falling in love with the Brooklyn Dodgers during moments that are both heartbreaking and hilarious. A must-read for teachers working with ELLs and newcomer students.

Pick up one of these tales of life, change, and growth, and share it with your family members!

Book descriptions come from Colorín Colorado, a bilingual site for educators and families of English language learners.