Great ESL Books for Kids 2023 (Updated) –
When it comes to ESL books for kids, the options can be overwhelming! How to choose?
Every good English Language Learner book for young people will be grounded in current language research while also holding kids’ interest through fun, engaging storytelling. The best ones will have elements the whole family enjoys, so that both parents and kids can learn something together.
Here are our current top children’s books for learning English. All prices are updated as of 12/1/2023:
For Youngest Kids:
Great ESL books for kids are often also great books in general! This classic storyboard book has been a family favorite for nearly 30 years.
With bright colors, well-selected vocabulary, and a fun storyline, The Very Hungry Caterpillar will keep both young kids and parents engaged—and making memories as well. Content vocabulary includes days of the week, types of food, and basic numbers.
Author: Eric Carle
ESL Age Range: 1-3 years
Lexile Measure: Adult Directed – 460L
Format: Storyboard Book
For Youngest Kids:
This colorful collection of storyboard books introduces the building blocks of literacy. Starting with the alphabet and progressing through a series of engaging topics, pre-readers begin to connect letter shapes and sounds to real-world pictures.
There is a lot for both kids and parents to explore in this 10-volume box set: abc’s, colors, numbers, birds, wild animals, farm animals and pets, fruits, shapes, transport, and vegetables. The sturdy construction will hold up to repeat use, so My First Library can be enjoyed by multiple young family members over the years.
Author: Wonder House Books
ESL Age Range: 1-3 years
Format: Boxed Storyboard Book Set
For Young Kids:
No list of books for learning English would be complete without a recommendation from Dr. Seuss. The combination of silly stories, colorful images, and accessible language in each book is so much fun that kids stay engaged and don’t even realize that they are learning new things along the way.
The five books in this collection (The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, and Fox in Socks) all take a phonics approach to vocabulary building that allows young readers to develop skills step by step. They are great for adults, too!
Author: Dr. Seuss
ESL Age Range: 1-6 years
Lexile Measure: 430L
For Young Kids:
A Bilingual Christmas: English and Spanish
Just in time for the holidays! This bilingual Spanish – English picture book helps kids and parents build vocabulary related to the Christmas season.
Simple sentences and colorful illustrations make this a great option for reading together as a family. Author Carolyn Martins has several other bilingual books as well, including A Bilingual Halloween and The Ocean: El Océano.
Authors: Carolyn Martins
ESL Age Range: 2-8 years
For Young Kids:
This fun selection from the ‘How to Catch’ series takes kids on a wild holiday adventure to capture a runaway snowman that magically came to life!
Parents will enjoy reading this picture book to their young kids, and kids will also enjoy reading out loud alongside their parents. The clever story and engaging characters will keep them coming back for more throughout the year.
It looks like the hardcover version is sold out on Amazon, though you may be able to get a good used copy. I will link the paperback version instead.
Authors: Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton
ESL Age Range: 4-10 years
Lexile Measure: 560L
For Young to Older Kids:
‘Now I’m Reading’ combines fun, simple stories with a phonics-based approach to language learning. As the story progresses, kids discover the basic sound combinations of English and learn to put them together in new ways. Young people will enjoy the stories and the feeling of accomplishment from decoding words successfully. Parents will like the sense of humor and methodical approach.
After your child masters one level, there are many more stories to explore in the series.
Author: Nora Gaydos
ESL Age Range: 4+ years
Format: Kindle Edition
For Young to Older
Cousins Forever (Bilingual)
Cousins Forever explores the changes that kids experience when moving to a new country. When the main character’s cousin moves away with her family, the two girls discover that the distance between them provides both difficulties and opportunities to learn.
As they discuss differences in seasons, activities, and of course, languages, the cousins are able to understand more about the world and about the different feelings that their separation brings. I also love the beautiful watercolor images throughout the story.
Cousins Forever has been translated into over 50 languages in a bilingual format. Seeing both English and their first language side by side allows growing ESL readers to process their own experiences while also developing language skills, and also allows families to discuss these important topics together.
The English-Only version is available here on Amazon. From this you can find the 50+ bilingual editions, a few of which I will highlight on this page.
Author: Elisavet Arkolaki
ESL Age Range: 4-12 years
For Older Kids:
This visual dictionary is well-organized across a variety of content areas, including social studies, science, and math. Content includes grammar points and aligns with Common Core State Standards for language instruction.
What I like about this resource is that kids learn related words in context, and the combination of images and vocabulary make it easy to check for progress in a variety of ways.
Authors: Jenni Santamaria and Joan Ross Keyes
Age Range: 7+ years
Norton Juster’s classic tells the story of a boy named Milo, “who didn’t know what to do with himself — not just sometimes, but always.” As Milo sets off with his watchdog Tock on a mysterious quest to restore Rhyme and Reason, he discovers along the way that the world has so much more to offer than he ever imagined.
My pre-teen ESL students love this book for the engaging story full of memorable characters and unexpected moments. As an English teacher, I love it for highlighting the importance of education and openness to new experiences. Whether the Mathemagician is explaining the concept of infinity or Milo is holding a word ‘on the tip of his tongue,’ The Phantom Tollbooth invites us to see life, language, and learning from a fresh perspective.
Author: Norton Juster
Age Range: 8-12 years
Lexile Measure: 1000L
One of the most challenging areas of English vocabulary building is using idiomatic expressions. For kids who have the curiosity to learn the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind everyday expressions, the Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms is a great resource.
I like the A-Z organization because it makes it convenient to use as both a resource and a personal reading project. Each of the more than 700 expressions includes a definition and explanation of its history. You’ll want to ‘shake a leg’ and buy a copy today!
Author: Marvin Terban
Age Range: 8+ years
Thanks for checking out these recommended ESL books for kids! You may enjoy some of our other posts as well.
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