Children’s Literature for ESL

children's books

I was talking to one of the teachers in our program recently about her use of children’s literature in her classroom.  Every time I read Dr. Suess to my kids, I can’t help thinking how much fun these books are to read and how much ESL students could benefit from them.  But, many of our students are adults who would understandably feel demeaned by being asked to read kids’ books.

The solution?  Literary analysis.  Get students to analyze children’s books as a genre of literature.  In this way, students are exposed to texts that are simple and fun but are also required to do some higher order thinking.  Not only does this save face (“I’m not reading kids books, I’m analyzing children’s literature!”), but it also requires a deeper level of thinking and encourages more complex language use.

Unfortunately, the technological supplements to these books are usually lame flash games with very little learning value, particularly for adult learners.  However, the rare exceptions (useful online grammar and vocabulary games, for example) could be beneficial supplements.

Is this a gimmick to get adults to read kids books?  Perhaps.  But without a little encouragement, adult students might never be exposed to some very good (and very accessible) writing.  To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, if they’ve never read them, they should.  These books are fun and fun is good.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Children’s Literature for ESL

  1. Nice idea. Not having children, I hadn’t really checked it out before (so maybe this is old news), but I found this site:

    http://www.childrensbooksonline.org

    There are tons of books. I didn’t investigate much, but it looks like you can listen to a lot of them and that they’re organized by level. Some translations are there too, which could be helpful depending on what you’re doing.

    Jeremy
    blog.stuartmillenglish.com

  2. Megan Troyer

    Just catching up on your blog, Chris. What about using kids (OSU Childcare?) with your class and assigning a Dr. Seuss book to the ESL students to read to the children. This gives your adult ESL students an eager audience to the books as well as exposure to the unique rhyme and rhythm of Dr. Seuss.

    I recently had a discussion with my husband about a pair of pages in “The Foot Book” about whether it should be read: “Wet foot, dry foot, low foot, high foot” or “wet foot, dry foot, high foot, low foot.” The text of “high foot” is on the top left of the page while low foot is on the bottom right. My argument was for “low, high” because that maintains the rhyme.

    Since we read right to left, top to bottom, which is correct? 😉

    • I know exactly the pages you mean, Megan. I’ve misread them too, but I think, in the end, the rhyme is paramount.

      Bringing kids into the scene is also a good suggestion. I know of other teachers who have done this and I think it’s a great exchange for both sides.

      Thanks for your comment!

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