What was your favorite book when you were a child? Mine was called Mrs. Honey’s Hat. It was a gift from my grandma. I asked her to read it to me again and again.  

Children learn a lot from having picture books read to them. Many parents start reading to their babies before those babies can speak. Reading or being read to can help kids with language acquisition. In a list benefits associated with early reading, the popular health website WebMd points out that books can introduce children to words and ideas that they might not meet in their daily life. Books can also teach kids about sentence structure.  

(Source: https://www.webmd.com/children/health-benefits-reading-children)

It shouldn’t be surprising that reading English language books is a great way to help your child learn English. 

It might be surprising that reading children’s picture books can also be useful for adults in their language studies.  

In this article you will learn:  

  • How to use picture books to help your child learn English 
  • How to incorporate children’s picture books into your own language studies as an adult  
  • The titles of some good books to get you started  

Picture Book Learning for Children  

Before you add English picture books to your child’s learning program, consider their age and language abilities.  

If your child is very young and doesn’t speak any English, you can simply read the book out loud to them. Be happy and expressive! Let your baby touch and explore the book. Some children might spontaneously repeat your words. If they do this, praise them a lot, even if they say the words incorrectly.  

If you have an older child, you can talk to them more about the book. You can use the pictures to ask them questions using sentences the child has all ready learned. For example, you can ask them what objects and colors they see. When you read to them, you don’t always have to read exactly what is on the page. You can change some difficult words to easier words that your child knows.  

If your child has been learning English long enough to speak and read confidently, you can let them read the book to you. You can ask them about their opinions. If they were the main character, what would they do differently? Do they like or dislike the animals in the book? Would they like to visit the places in the book? Why? 

Don’t make reading a difficult academic chore. Your goal is to make your child like learning English. Never demand perfection. Let your child’s mind and mouth open naturally.

How to incorporate Children’s Books into Your Language Study as an Adult  

Of course, academic textbooks are useful for learning English. However, they are often not written in a way that reflects how real people speak. Textbooks use simple English and limited grammar structures to talk about complex topics. Kids’ picture books do the opposite! Although the topics of the books are often simple, these books are written in complicated English. They are written for kids who have a native level vocabulary and can easily understand every sentence structure, even if they can’t explain the grammar.  

Reading picture books can help you speak English more intuitively, like a native speaker. It can help you learn English the same way that a native speaking child does. Another benefit of children’s books is that they are short. Even if you have to look most of the vocabulary up in a dictionary, it won’t take you very long. You won’t feel tired and discouraged the way that you might with a lengthy adult novel. 

You should be an active reader. If you find a word or sentence that you like, write it down in a notebook to remember later. After you finish reading a book, close the book and try to speak a summary out loud. Don’t try to memorize the book, but do your best to explain the main points. If you are also reading the book with your kid, you can discuss it together.  

Book Recommendations 

Goodnight Our World Series 

The Goodnight Our World series is amazing for boosting vocabulary! The series includes 198 books on a variety of topics. Do you want to know everything about lobsters? How about unicorns? The health care industry? You can choose books about all of these things and more. The Goodnight Our World series also has books about many countries and cities around the world, as well as every state in the USA. If you are getting ready to travel, check if there is a Goodnight Our World book about your destination. It can introduce you to many of the things you will see in that region.  

Of course, there are also many countries and cities that do not have a Good Night Our World book. A fun exercise, after you have read several of them, is to try to use them as a model to write about your country or hometown.  

Hello World  

The Hello World books, by Jill McDonald, cover many topics related to science and geography. These books are colorful and full of fun facts. I even find myself learning new things from them. For example, did you know that octopuses have nine brains? I didn’t, until I started reading the Hello World book about ocean animals with one of my students. 

Baby’s First Classics  

These books are so cute! They offer simplified versions of classic stories that every English speaker knows. These stories are a big part of English speaking culture, so if you are learning English, it’s useful to know them.  

Mo William’s Pigeon Series  

These books use plenty of slang and native expressions that you won’t find in textbooks. The writing style is conversational and funny. In fact, the books are so conversational that they invite the reader to verbally respond to the pigeon’s ridiculous demands. 

Get Started!  

Are you excited to enter the world of English language children’s books? Fantastic! You can purchase these books and many more online. Many are available digitally. Perhaps your local library has some. You can search for an italki teacher who offers classes focused on reading children’s books, or you can make reading books on your own and preparing to tell your teacher all about them your “homework”.  

There are so many wonderful children’s books. It would be impossible to list them all here. What books are popular with children in your country?