Storytelling is one of my favourite things to do with young children and it is a regular part of our weekly routine. There is an art to reading aloud to an audience of youngsters and if you take your young learner teaching seriously, it’s a skill that you should definitely develop.
Over the years, I have come across so many wonderful stories which are perfect for story-telling with EFL students but in this post today I’d like to focus on the 5 books that I wouldn’t be without!
1. Bertie and the Bear by Pamela Allen
This book is my #1 absolute favourite as it has all the characteristics that I look for in a story for English language learners. In it, we meet a boy named Bertie who is being chased by a bear, a group of people chase the bear but in the end music and harmony prevail! The story line is delightful and so easy to follow, even for absolute beginners. There are simple illustrations to provide lots of support for the text and easy ways to get the listeners participating. There is lots of repetition, and the whole book takes under 5 minutes to read, making it the perfect choice for even the youngest learners. I’ve read this story successfully with students from 2 to 8 years old.
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2. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
This is my second favourite book but I think my 2 and 3 year old students would argue that this is the best story on our bookshelf. They love the repetitive story line, the flaps which open to reveal the different animals and the different gestures and animal noises we make as we read. I’ve read this one so many times that we all know it off by heart!
You can see little Pedro reading it to his friends on my Instagram account! So cute!!
3. Brown Bear by Eric Carle
This is a classic picture book that is loved by children all around the world but it has specific features which make it especially appropriate for the EFL classroom. The simple story-line repeats throughout the book with a delightful rhythm, making it easy for even the youngest English language learner to follow along. From a linguistic point of view, this book is a great way to introduce children to the adjective + noun word order in a natural way i.e: “Red bird, red bird”. Children also love stories about animals and the ones in this book are beautifully illustrated with a technique that is easy for young learners to replicate in an art lesson.
4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Eric Carle is a genius and I can’t thank him enough for this story. I’ve used this with children of all different ages as a jump off point for learning about other topics. It introduces days of the week, life-cycles, healthy and unhealthy foods, colours, numbers and lots more. Most recently, we organized a Caterpillar picnic in the park and met up on the weekend to eat foods from the story and search for caterpillars. We found two and kept them in a special box to observe them become cocoons and then finally emerge as butterflies.
The moment we released them into the garden was one I’m sure the children will never forget!
5. It’s Ok To Be Different by Todd Parr
I love so many of Todd Parr’s books because of the beautiful yet simple way he gets children thinking about big issues. This book is basically about celebrating diversity and feeling good about being you. If you teach pre or lower primary aged kids, then this one is a winner! You can use it to teach identity, feelings, parts of the body, adjectives and inclusion. I love how the fun and colorful illustrations support the meaning of the text and how easy it is to use this as a jump off point for art activities, games and speaking tasks. It has quickly become a favourite among teachers around the world and you will find lots of great resources and lesson ideas online.
Check out Active English Teacher Vanessa Benedetti Raymond’s activity on her Instagram profile
I believe that read-alouds are a key element in any good English programme for young children. If you are interested in learning more about storytelling, I’ve written a blog post for Onestopenglish.com about it. In it you will find some practical tips for choosing, delivering and using stories for memorable and meaningful language learning.