I am often asked to recommend French books for young learners. The choice of book for a monolingual child, learning a foreign language, is not quite the same as for a bilingual child.

The challenge in both cases is finding a book with the right level of interest and vocabulary.

The golden rules still apply for this age group:

  • Simple text,
  • Repetition,
  • An interactive activity
  • Attractive pictures

One of my favourite bilingual books is Quentin Blake’s Ten frogs. This is a perfect introduction to French words for English-speaking children (and their parents!) Blake is one of Britain’s best-loved book illustrators and this fun book encourages children to practice counting and naming everyday animals in English and French. Younger children, who cannot read, can have fun looking at the pictures and making the animal sounds while the parent counts. The French words are very simple for an English monolingual parent. This book can be enjoyed from birth until about 6 years old. The publisher is Pavilion.

Range ta chambre !

Another firm favourite for young learners of French is Range ta chambre by Xavier Salomo. This charming French book can be read often by smaller and not so small children (my eight year old loves it!) It is a sweet story about a boy called François who needs to tidy his room. The narrative is one that any child (and parent!) can easily relate to. We follow François throughout a typical week when he is asked to tidy certain objects in his room. These different objects are highlighted and an English-speaking parent with basic French would find reading these words easy. The child hears the word and looks for the objects in the corresponding picture.

This book helps the English-speaking child associate the visual object with the French word. As the week progresses, the room gets more and more untidy and there are more and more objects to find. By Saturday, we see that the parent asking François to tidy his room is “dad” and the room is so untidy that dad offers to help his son. Chaos ensues! The story ends with dad and son enjoying an affectionate moment and on Sunday there is a picture of a very tidy room. So a happy ending!

For a native French reader, the story is very appealing. The fact that it is ‘dad’ who tidies up, moves away from the stereotype of mum as the one who is always tidying rooms. Research shows that dads don’t read often enough to their children and that it is particularly important that dad does read, especially for young boy readers. Research also shows that dads don’t want to read books, which feature mums! The story doesn’t require a high level of French for a non-native speaker. It is recommended for two years upwards and is published by Seuil Jeunesse.

Do you know or appreciate other French books ? 

Originally posted 2015-03-10 07:00:30.