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Perhaps you really want to learn Spanish or your want your children to become bilingual, but you don’t know how to make it happen. It can be as simple as opening an ordinary book written in Spanish and reading aloud. Here, I show you how and what to read aloud and ways to make learning Spanish effective.
What a read aloud time at home with the kids is like:
We all pull out our cozy blankets and get in the favorite spot on the couch or in some imaginary place in our thoughts. I have my hot drink in hand and a book in the other. Shhhh…. It’s time to listen. Two Spanish words are on the board with a simple picture of the meaning. I say the words and they write them on their notebook page as they say it.
The story pours out on their listening ears. They draw what they hear. When I finish reading the snippet, we talk about anything that caught their attention. We all learned new vocabulary, sentence structures and even grammar without a formal lesson. We read aloud in Spanish. Do you?
Spanish Read Aloud Books
First of all, any ordinary book written in Spanish can be used for reading activities. You have freedom to choose the genre, subject, and reading level, so go with your favorites. The main activity is reading aloud.
What is reading aloud?
Simply described – everyone listens while one person reads out loud.
Many have fond childhood memories of sitting on the rug and listening to teacher read a book. After lunchtime, us school kids gathered to hear our favorite stories. We loved to see the pictures. It was the highlight of the day, besides recess. But what we didn’t realize was that we were learning a language.
Spanish Read Aloud Book Benefits
Second language learners need a source for language. Books are a great source of vocabulary and full of examples on how to use the words. Reading aloud creates a language rich learning environment. Just like you don’t have to go to the gym to exercise. All it takes is a push up at home. Basically, reading aloud is a home-based immersion program. This brings the language into your life, right here and now.
Books are a model of Spanish language
To begin with, books are a grammatically correct model of language. Pages and pages full of thoughts are expressed in every way you can imagine. Each thought has been carefully written and edited before printing. The text provides a real world, even if it’s fiction, example of grammar in action.
Also, at times, some books even put conversations into print. This is huge – it’s an instant replay of the way people speak. Although technically not a conversation the author painstakingly creates a print version of real speech. You can examine how people make demands, ask questions, express desires and state fact and emotions. All the things a learner needs to know how to do in real life.
To add to that, the book is a valuable source for quality vocabulary. The author has carefully chosen a wide variety of words to describe, tell a story and give detailed information. Writers carefully craft sentences with skillful choice of words.
Spanish Language Skills Growth
Finally, reading aloud is more than reading, since the rest of the language skills – listening, speaking and writing can be included in the read aloud time. And anyone can benefit, not only school teachers and students. Families, friends, homeschoolers, and language learning groups can read together. Even one person can read aloud to themselves and benefit greatly. Reading aloud is very flexible.
Beyond the language skills, reading aloud has many other extra benefits.
Bonding. Reading aloud is a way to connect with friends and family. Priceless conversations will come from the stories and information. The time spent together is a treasure. And hopefully a time everyone will look forward to.
Attention span. Life skills are developed too. The ability to focus, sit still and listen actively are important skills to have. And the ability to use the imagination and be creative are essential to a well developed mind. Reading aloud provides opportunity to do both.
Knowledge. The learning topics are endless. At the same time you pick a book, you also pick the topics the book contains. Every book has unique combination of time, place, characters, settings. Often, the message will expose you to new information and ideas.
Flexibility. There are so many options from location to books. You choose what, when and where to read. The books are inexpensive and portable. So, you can read at home, in the yard, at the park or a meeting place for book club. Sometimes it’s a great solution for creating a quiet time in the afternoon or bedtime. Or, you can squeeze it in at breakfast or dinner time.
Ready to read aloud?
Spanish Read Aloud Activities and Lessons
Most important of all, the structure of the read aloud time drives the language growth opportunities. In a short time, all the four language skills will be actively processing. During that time, different activities can be done to maximize thinking and memory processes. That additional spells massive language growth.
Read Aloud Activity Structure
Without a doubt, going through each of these phases will increase the language learning opportunities. As I said before, this activity is more than reading. With these additional points, it becomes an opportunity to read, speak, listen and write in Spanish.
Even more important, the time spent discussing before, during and after are essential to engage with the text.
I allow a total of 30 minutes for our read aloud time. In this time, we go through three phases:
- Before Reading Discussion – 5 minutes
- Reading Aloud – 10 minutes
- After Reading Discussion – 5 minutes
These are my target time frames. I leave an extra ten minutes as wiggle room for any part that needs extra attention. Occasionally, you may need more or less time, but keep in mind this is a short and sweet activity.
If at any point it becomes frustrating or an unpleasant experience, there are certain tips and strategies listed below. Follow those or just stop and try again later.
Before Reading Discussion – 5 minutes
To start, introduce the book and some key words for the reading. Before reading, scan the text to find a couple words of interest. This will help with comprehension, especially for beginners who will understand little.
• Write selected words, phrases, sentences on board• Define and explain meaning of word• Ask a starter question
Spanish Only Limitation
Of greatest importance, to maximize the learning experience limit yourself to Spanish. No definitions in English. If all you’ve got is one word, use it. Or if all you’ve got is a picture, start drawing. You can even use objects too. One time, I pulled out my cooking pot to show my kids what la olla means.
- Act it out
- Draw a picture
- Show the object or a picture of it
Plus, a dictionary is a great source for definitions. If you have no clue what a word means, of course, look the definition up in the dictionary. For those with no experience, a Spanish-English translation is alright. But aim to transition to a Spanish dictionary ASAP.
A Starter Question
After the introduction to key words, a quick introduction or question will start a conversation. This creates engagement from the start. With the thinking processes comes much language skill growth.
For a new book introduce the title and author:
- El titulo es… The title is…
- El (la) autor (autora) es… The author is…
For beginners, a one word question and answer will help build confidence:
- ¿Quién? Who?
- ¿Dónde? Where?
- ¿Cuándo? When?
As you become more comfortable, use these discussion starters:
- ¿Qué es importante? What is important?
- Dime lo que recuerdas. Tell me what you remember.
- ¿Qué sucederá a continuación? What will happen next?
Remember to keep this before reading conversation really basic, easy and short. A beginner may only be able to ask or answer with single words. Perfect starting point! With more practice, it will become more natural to be able to say more.
Reading Aloud – 10 minutes
Everyone sit back and enjoy. The more engaged everyone is with the text, the better. This is a very active process. Remove all distractions and give the listeners something good to do. Listening, reading, speaking and writing skills are maximized with activities to engage thinking and memory.
For the Reader
Two language skills, reading and speaking, are your focus. If you are already a good reader that part should come pretty naturally. However, Spanish has some different sounds that will be tricky. The biggest challenge for the reader is pronouncing the different sounds.
Instead of inventing things to say, you get to focus on how to say it right. This is a rare opportunity in learning a language. Maximize the time you are reading for this purpose.
For the Listener
The focus for the listener is simply understanding. The extra work and distraction of decoding words is eliminated. Focused listening maximizes oral comprehension skills. As a consequence, the listener can engage with the text in these ways:
keep a notebook of new words
draw more detail for vocabulary
build a model with blocks, legos or dough
Although the listener may not understand much in the beginning, consistent listening practice will develop comprehension skill over time. Do not get discouraged, it will get easier and better with more learning opportunities.
Tips to Maximize Engagement
Even in the read aloud time, intentional discussion points are important. A strategic question will keep everyone focused and engaged with the unfolding story or information.
Ask a thought provoking question
¿Es verdad? Is this true?¿Estas de acuerdo? Do you agree?Dime sobre… Tell me about…
Stop at a pivotal moment for a cliffhanger
¿Qué sucederá a continuación? What will happen next?
Thinking and memory makes learning more effective. Sitting by passively will not grow language skills. It is so important to engage with the text at all times.
After Reading Discussion – 5 minutes
The final portion of read aloud time is a simple conversation. The purpose is to show comprehension and learn how to express thoughts about the text. This step is crucial to maximize speaking skills.
- Write selected words, phrases, sentences on board
- Define and explain meaning
- Ask an ending question
An Ending Question
After reading aloud and listening, a simple question will start a discussion about the text. End with a question to retell the story or main points.
¿Qué leí? What did I read?¿Qué harías? What would you do?Dime que entendiste. Tell me what you understood.¿Qué sucederá a continuación? What will happen next?
For beginners, it would be enough to pick favorite words or phrases from the reading. Or, a hands-on activity to retell the story or information.
• Make a notebook page• Act out a scene• Make a map• Do a presentation about what you learned
Most important, it is necessary to keep realistic expectations. No experience means you cannot do anything at all. So, scale to your experience level and aim for easy. The purpose is to practice perfectly with a good model of language. Growth will happen with consistent practice.
Read aloud tips and strategies
These read aloud tips and strategies will set you up for success. We all know everything has challenges. Use these tips as a guide to handle the obstacles of reading aloud. Hopefully, applying them early will create a positive learning environment.
Comfortable, Fun and Cozy
From the start, approach reading aloud as something special, because it is a rewarding activity. Find a book all of you will enjoy with lots of pictures. The best set up for the occasion is a comfortable and cozy environment. And do your best to eliminate distractions.
To set them (and yourself) up for success, the universal expectation is nobody understands anything. Sound crazy? Not really, because each learner is starting with no Spanish experience. This is a process of building and growth from zero. That comes with consistent practice.
The best book to read aloud in Spanish is the easiest and most interesting. Even in the best books, parts will drag or be too hard. You can stop and skip anytime. Don’t hesitate to skip the lame books either. It’s never too late to start with another book.
Make Adjustments for Skill Level
The same book will work for everyone. But, some adjustments may be necessary. Always do what is easy for the individual according to their abilities. Length of text and repetition will ensure maximum learning opportunities.
- Read smaller portions
- Lower reading level
- Repeat sentences, paragraphs or sections
- Focus on words, phrases, or sentences
- Read larger sections
- Higher reading level
- Add more challenging activities to reading time
- Focus on writing
Share and Reward
Regularly allow for opportunities for everyone to share their work. This is the time to shower them with praise and rewards. You know what motivates them.
With these ideas in mind, it’s time to put them into action.
Read Aloud Books – Good Books to Read in Spanish
Surely, choosing a great book in Spanish to read aloud is essential. There are so many options out there, but not all of them are going to be a good fit.
Many Types of Reading Materials
Any type of print material can be a read aloud. They are not all in the format of a book. Yet, my favorites are stories that have action, dialogue and description. For simple stories, children’s books are ideal. Informational articles have topical vocabulary.
A List of Good Reading Material
There are so many options out there. You pick your best and most favorite reading – children stories, preschool board books, dictionary, encyclopedia, newspaper, magazine articles, speeches, famous quotes, poems, blog posts, best sellers, mystery, classic literature, biography, historical fiction, science, mathematics, history, non-fiction, etc…
The best read aloud will have the content you prefer. This is what will motivate everyone. Nobody will want to read or listen to something they don’t enjoy. If what you chose is not working, stop and find the material that draws in everyone.
Traits of Good Writing
Not all books are created equally. Some will be better suited to your purposes than others. This list of good writing traits will help you decide whether a book is suitable. To select a good book, these are the things to look for:
- main point and supporting details
- a message that provokes thought or inspires
Examples: chronological order, persuasive argument, thematic, narrative, prose, analysis, comparison and contrast
unique style of author, tone
- rich, colorful, precise
- Creates images
- Figurative language
- rhythm and flow of language
- varied in structure and length
- makes sense
- correct grammar and usage
- structure of sentences, paragraphs, the whole
It is best to include a variety of reading materials. Once you find a favorite author, find more of their books. And keep expanding into different types of sources.
To be honest, there’s a lot of poorly written Spanish books, especially bad translations. So, I am always looking for the great books that have a high quality of writing. I will share all the great things I find with you on the blog.
Spanish Read Aloud Books for Beginners
There are some amazing books out there, but sometimes they are hard to find. Don’t let that keep you from starting. I was able to find the Celia books used online and the fables in the public library. Check out your local library to see whats on the children’s Spanish shelf.
All in all, reading aloud is an extremely effective way to learn Spanish. From my personal experience, reading aloud is an activity that sharpens every language skill. All the language skills can be improved through this one activity. All it takes is a small, but regular time commitment. And the content is an absolute treasure.
Other Helpful Resources:
- Spanish Narration | Questions for Reading and Storytelling
- Spanish Books for Beginners | Phonics Sounds and Syllables
- Beginning Spanish Books – Fables