English Book Recommendations

ell for children

B is for Bear

B is for Bear is a classic favorite with toddlers and parents alike! With a touch a feel component (including the bear’s nose), it helps keep a young child’s interest, while helping to develop vocabulary and teach the alphabet.

esl for toddlers, esl, ells best books for kids, books for esl, language acquisition

Eyes, Nose, Fingers, Toes

Eyes, Nose, Fingers and Toes by Judy Hindley is a sweet book aimed at teaching toddlers the different parts of their body and what they do. The catchy, rhyming language helps young children stay focused on the story.


early readers, usborne, ELL, ESL books, phonics readers

Fat Cat on a Mat

Created in consultation with a language expert, this book from the fabulous Usborne company is from the engaging phonics-based series, Easy Words to Read, and has been specially written to help young children, ages 3 and up learn to read. Not only is the story of Fat Cat on a Mat great fun, it also takes into account recent research on the most effective ways of teaching reading. Both children and adults will be delighted by Stephen Cartwright’s wonderful illustrations and the book’s fold-out pages. Also available as a board book.

usborne, ELL, ESL, early readers, phonics

Big Pig on a Dig

Big Pig on a Dig, part of Usborne’s Easy Words to Read series, features a phonics-based story about Big Pig’s hunt for treasure, specially written to help children learn to read. Lisa’s daughter loved these books when she was just starting to read, around age 4.  Created in consultation with a language expert, the extra appeal of fold-out pages and wonderful Stephen Cartwright illustrations will delight both children and adults. There is also a page of helpful notes for parents. Good for toddlers as well as beginner readers. Other titles in the series include: Ted in a Red Bed, Sam Sheep Can’t Sleep and Toad Makes a Road.  Or, you can get the entire collection here.


usborne, first readers, easy reader books in English, ELL, ESL

Going on a Plane

Going on a plane, part of Usborne’s First Experiences series, follows the Tripps family through the process of going on a plane, from packing their suitcases, to finding seats on the plane, to waiting for their luggage at their destination. It is a comical story that engages preschool-aged children, with funny illustrations that give kids many things to look at, learn from and talk about.  The text is simple enough that slightly advanced readers (pre-kindergarteners) will be able to pick out some words. It is also a great book for introducing children to the idea of travel, and what happens on a airplane. Lisa’s daughter absolutely LOVED this book when they were getting ready for a trip to Greece.

usborne, early readers, learn to read, ELL, ESL

Lift the Flap Word Book

Lift the Flap Word Book is a charming book that lets young children have fun matching words and pictures.  With lots of flaps to lift (70!) it’s an ideal way to give beginner readers or young non-native English learners practice in word recognition and also provides plenty for pre-readers to find, name and talk about. The themes include the park, on the farm, at the seaside, noisy words and words at home.


usborne, books for girls, ELL, ESL, beginning readers

1001 Things to Spot in Fairyland

1001 Things to Spot in Fairyland is an enchanting picture book, which provides hours of puzzle-solving fun. Search for pretty flower fairies in a secret garden, look for frog princes at fairy school and see if you can find bluebirds flying somewhere over the rainbow. This book is wonderful for early readers or even pre-readers…there is very little text on each page, just pictures with a number and title underneath. Children can easily figure out how many of the item they need to find, so they learn not only the name for each item, but are learning number recognition as well. The pictures are easier to find than in some of the I Spy books, which makes it good for younger children as well. These 1001 books are also great if English is not a child’s native language.  You can play “I spy” with your child (you say “I spy a cat”, and they have to find the cat in the picture) to learn and improve their vocabulary.  Check out our blog here for more ideas!

usborne, I spy, early readers, ELL, ESL

1001 Pirate Things to Spot  

1001 Pirate Things to Spot is another 1001 Things to Spot books. This swashbuckling puzzle book is packed with things to find and count. Search pirate ports, stormy seas, and sunken ships to see if your child can spot all the hidden treasure. Just look out for the sea monsters! Similar to the Fairyland book, just with pirates! The “I spy” game works great with this book as well (see suggestions under 1001 Things to Spot in Fairyland, or on our blog)


phonics readers, early readers, ELL, ESL

Bob Books, Set 1

The Bob books are a very popular tool with both parents and schools to for teaching young kids (typically 4 and 5 year olds) to read. With four letters in the first story of Bob Books, Set 1 children can read a whole book, which is extremely rewarding! Consistent new sounds are added gradually, until young readers have read books with all letters of the alphabet (except Q). Short vowels and three-letter words in simple sentences make Bob Books Set 1 a fun confidence builder. There are 5 sets in total, each with 8-12 books, and they get progressively harder, carrying kids through about mid-Kindergarten, depending on the strength of the reader. Lisa used Sets 1 and 2 very successfully with her older kids when they were just learning to read, and found that both kids loved the silly stories, and loved the powerful reinforcement of being able to read a whole book from start to finish on their own.

I Can Read books, early readers, beginning readers, ELL, ESL

Frog and Toad are Friends

Frog and Toad are Friends is one of the popular Frog and Toad series from famous children’s author Arnold Lobel. These books are great for reading aloud, and as part of the I Can Read series (level 2) are ideal for advanced beginning readers, typically ages 5 or 6, depending on the child. Frog and Toad’s adventures are quirky and comical, and the drawings appeal to kids and adults alike. The Frog and Toad series were among Lisa’s favorites as a child, and she was thrilled when her daughter loved them as well (sadly, there weren’t enough guns or superheros in them for her son). A great bridge from picture books to books where words primarily tell the story.


I Can Read, books for girls, early readers, ELL, ESL

Fancy Nancy and the Delectable Cupcakes

The Fancy Nancy picture books are often a HUGE hit with little kids, so they make a great transition to beginning reading. In Fancy Nancy and the Delectable Cupcakes, Nancy is thrilled to be making cupcakes for the bake sale! But will she remember to follow all of Mom’s directions? These books are great in that they mix in “easy” words, with “fancier” versions of words, which kids love, and helps to expand their vocabulary.  Ideal for parents to read aloud, or for stronger readers (advanced beginners) to read to you. If you child likes this one, there are many other Fancy Nancy books to choose from.

Step into reading, early reader, ELL, ESL, beginning reader

DC Super Friends: Flying High

If you have a boy who is a reluctant reader (or a girl who is into superheros!), DC Super Friends: Flying High , is a good place to start.  Interesting content, fun pictures, and not too difficult, this book is great for a 5 or 6 year old who is beginning to read. Most superhero books seem to be for Level 2 readers, so it was nice to find one at Level 1. 

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