Great Books for Bilingual Grade-Schoolers

4

I’ve made it more than halfway through my daughter’s first year of  “real” French school. And I’ve survived!

CP is the equivalent to American first grade, but without the fluff and frills of American school. It’s amazing how much the kids have learned and how little time they have during the day to be kids. But somehow they manage to stay sane, which is more than I could have said for myself at the beginning of the year.

The first couple of months of CP were wrought with panic for me: how will I be able to help her with her French homework and how will I help her learn to read if I only speak English to her? (We are a very strict OPOL family).

Reading Bilingual BooksShe loves books, loves being read to and loves looking at books. But she was getting so frustrated that she wouldn’t go beyond reading a sentence or two. So I read to her in French…but not solely.

There are so many American books translated into French: what a great resource for a bilingual kid to have her favorite books in both of her languages? It all started with Captain Underpants;  I read her a couple chapters in English and then gave her the French version for her to read to herself before she turned out her light. I showed her that the layout and story was the same so she could keep reading in French. Sometimes, we split the dialogue: she reads one character’s voice in French and I read the other, with some help from her since she claims I always make mistakes with gender and confuse my [u] and my [y].

It feels strange to read to my daughter in French after almost 7 years of only speaking and reading English to her, but it’s what works for us. And it was the best solution I could come up with when she said, “Mommy, but I can only read in French.”

What are your kids’ favorite books? How do you teach them to read in their language(s)?

Suzanne’s recommended (mostly) bilingual reading list  :

  1. Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey– called Capitaine Slip in French, this is a funny series about two goofy boys and their very own superhero who can leap tall building without getting wedgies. What kid wouldn’t like a “pipi-caca” book?
  2. Toon books – This is a great series of graphic novels for kids. Our favorites are Nina: in That Makes Me Mad,  Maya Makes a Mess and The Big Non-No. This last book is available in a bilingual version.
  3. Clementine by Sara Pennypacker – a series about a little girl with a big imagination and a lot of trouble. The series exists in French too.
  4. Elephant and Piggie  by Mo Willems – Called Emile et Lili in French, these easy readers are simple and funny. The translations are clear and consistent.
  5. Petit Vampire by Joann Sfar – a graphic novel series about a little vampire who wants to be a human. Little Vampire also exists in English.
  6. Other favorites are : Le Prince de Motordu – a story about a prince who confuses his words (he lives in a chapeau instead of a château that has a crapeau instead of a drapeau on top),  Tintin, and Yakari.

Kid book Captain UnderpantsKid book Benny and PennyKid book ClémentineKid book There is a Bird on your Head

French kid book Petit VampireKid book Prince de MotorduFrench comic book TintinKid french comic book Yakari

 

4 comments

  1. Myrna

    Is this a community in Alsace France where you have americans together working or is it a newsletters helping americans in France? I nust moved to France to be with my fiance and our unborn child and i dont speek the lamguage and im looking for a community that helps with things like that. Please let me know. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Clark

      Hi Myrna, American Community in France is an online community for American expats and Americanophiles living anywhere in France. There are of course communities in Alsace that can help to support you and your family-in-the-making! I’d recommend that you poke around on the internet and in your local area to find who they are. Here are two places you can start: http://www.americansinalsace.com/ and https://www.internations.org/ . You’ll find that it can be easier to make friends with fellow expats, American or otherwise, though it’s definitely worthwhile to meet and befriend the local Frenchpeople. And most importantly, make sure you work on your French! It’s very important here, and there are many resources to help English-speakers learn the language, including Memrise: https://www.memrise.com/

      Best of luck to you!

      Reply
  2. Jadzia

    One of my boys is also in CP (and another in CE1), so I have a few to add to this list. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is available, at least in part, in French. For younger kids, Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, as well as Horton Hears a Who, are available in French translation. My childhood favorite “Madeleine” is available in both languages. And if you don’t mind branded stuff for little kids (like my 2 Dora-crazed toddlers), a lot of the Dora books are available in both French and English. We also use our iTunes account hooked up to an American bank account to let them watch movies in English (bc I can’t find a region-free DVD player here), which also keeps up their English–at our house, they get a movie every time we finish reading a long chapter book (the kind that takes 1-2 weeks of nightly reading).

    Reply
    • Jadzia

      Also, for adolescents, I have seen stuff like Twilight and the Hunger Games series in French bookstores, and am pretty sure you can get the English versions off of Amazon.fr.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *