Many English learners would like to read to improve their English, but they can’t find books that are easy enough to understand. On the ESL Podcast blog, Lucy Tse has written an excellent post about choosing intermediate-level reading. I’d like to add some additional ideas and recommend some books my adult students have enjoyed.
Reading and listening are the best ways to improve your Engish. When you read or listen to things that are interesting and easy, you acquire, or pick up, more English. The problem when looking for books is to find the right combination – interesting + easy. Books written for young adults or teens – the subject of Lucy’s blog post – may help solve the problem.
Finding the right book
The Internet makes finding a good book easier than it used to be. One of my favorite places for book-searching is the Barnes and Noble (B&N) web site. Here is the link to the fiction and literature section of the B&N site.
On the B&N web site, most of the books Lucy wrote about are called “teen” or “young adult” books. Teen books have their own starting page. When you go there, you’ll find different categories on the left side of the page. The most popular – best selling – teen books are listed on the right side of the page. This is a great page to begin to explore for good books. And if you don’t know where to start, try using the best-seller list.
If you want to look at a specific book or a category of books, like young adult books, use the search window. Put the title of the book or “young adult” in the window and click on “Search.”
When you find a book that looks interesting, click on the cover picture or title of the book. Here is the page for Holes, one of the books Lucy recommended. Below the picture of the book you’ll see a link that says “See Inside.” If you look inside, you’ll discover that you can actually read the book at your computer.
Below the picture of Holes, you’ll also see a link that says “Read an Excerpt.” An excerpt is a small part of the book. Almost all of the books have either a “See Inside,” “Read an Excerpt,” or “Sample Chapter” link, so you’ll be able to tell if a book looks interesting and if it’s easy enough for you to understand and read.
Some of my students’ favorite books
My adult students have read and enjoyed many of the books – like the Newbery Medal books – Lucy suggested. Here some other suggestions – some of my students’ favorites:
- Lois Lowry, Number the Stars – people from Denmark help rescue Jews from the Nazis during World War II.
- Mildred Taylor, The Land; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; Let the Circle be Unbroken; The Road to Memphis – these four books tell the story of a black family in Mississippi from the time they were slaves in the 1800s until World War II.
- Linda Sue Park – A Single Shard; When My Name Was Keoko – wonderful stories from a Korean-American writer.
- Paul Fleischman, Seedfolks – people from an apartment building in Cleveland get to know each other when they share a community garden started by a young Vietnamese girl.
- Karen Hesse, Letters from Rifka – a Jewish family escapes from the Ukraine after World War I; also Phoenix Rising.
Good news – many choices
When you buy a book today, you can choose from many formats, or forms. You don’t have to choose between only the traditional hardcover and paperback books. Most of the teen and young adult books are also available as eBooks, audio books on compact discs, and as MP3 books that you can download to your iPod or other MP3 player.
More information about choosing books
If you’d like to learn more about choosing books, read Using popular fiction to improve your English.