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Tips on choosing a young reader

July 16, 2020 by Nora Nagy

During the holidays and the school term, it is important to have a clear picture of the reading possibilities of our young learners. Both teachers and caretakers need to be able to help children choose the right story to spark a positive and rewarding reading experience in English.

There are some practical aspects to consider, and we have collected some tips.

Choose the right level

Typically we imagine that all young learners are beginners, but there are big differences between young learner levels.

The Helbling Young Readers series has two systems to categorize the reading levels:

  • Series level: our own grading system from Level A to Level E
  • Language level: it is based on two Cambridge Young Learners Exams, Pre-A1 Starters and A1 Movers

Inside the back covers, you will find a list of the structures and vocabulary used in the book (with language they have been introduced to in lower levels marked as revision). For example, in Fat Cat’s Busy Day by Maria Cleary, you will find links to other subjects, which are Civics class and Reading class in the case of this story, as we firmly believe that a cross-curricular approach works best to help learners grasp language in context.

Make sure that you know the CEFR level (pre-A1 or A1) of your students, and also check if the structures and vocabulary of the book suit your students’ needs.

Let us remind you that it’s also important to decide if the book you are about to choose for independent reading or for shared reading. We need to remember that children are able to do different things with and without guidance. You can read more about this concept in our previous posts.

Choose the right topic

Apart from choosing the right level, we need to offer a wide range of topics to choose from if we want to promote the love of reading. 

Let the book covers help you with this. When you are about to pick a book for a young learner, show them a selection of available (or pre-selected) titles and ask them to point out the ones they like. The covers usually give a sense of the story, and children will connect to this visual style naturally.

You and family of the child you are choosing the book for will know the kind of stories that might work well. Apart from trying to satisfy the reading tastes of the students, also think about the topics you would like to introduce and talk about. Instead of directly talking about a difficult emotion or situation, approaching it through a story might be more suitable. 

Here is a list of topics covered by the Helbling Young Readers series.

Dealing with emotions and challenges

The Dark in the Box by Rick Sampedro
illustrated by Manuela Scarfó

The Sun is Broken by Andrés Pi Andreu
illustrated by Catty Flores

Henry Harris Hates Haitches by Maria Cleary
illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini

Dad for Sale by Andrés Pi Andreu
illustrated by Enrique Martinez


The natural world

The Thirsty Tree by Adrián N. Bravi
illustrated by Valentina Russello

Sam and the Sunflower Seeds by Maria Cleary
illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini

The Big Fire by Rick Sampedro
illustrated by 
Giacomo Moresi

Lost on the Coast by Rick and Steve Sampedro
illustrated by Cristiano Lissoni

Food for the Winter by Rick Sampedro
illustrated by Estella Guerrera



The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, retold by Maria Cleary
illustrated Cecilia Tamburini

The Kite by Rick Sampedro
illustrated by Stefano Misesti

Can I Play? by Rick Sampedro
illustrated by Valentina Mai

The Beach by Rick Sampedro
illustrated by Agilulfo Russo


Food for the Winter by Rick Sampedro
illustrated by Estella Guerrera



Fat Cat’s Busy Day by Maria Cleary
illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini

The Big Wave by Stefanella Ebhardt
illustrated by Anna Crema


Cool classics

Little Red Riding Hood retold by Richard Northcott
illustrated by Catty Flores

Theseus and the Minotaur retold by Richard Northcott
illustrated by Stefano Misesti

Beauty and the Beast retold by Richard Northcott
illustrated by Catty Flores


Folktales from around the world

The Leopard and the Monkey retold by Richard Northcott
illustrated by Cristiano Lissoni

Peach Boy retold by Richard Northcott
illustrated by
Elly Nagaoka

Lusmore and the Fairies retold by Richard Northcott
illustrated by Michele Rocchetti

The Three Goats by retold by Richard Northcott
illustrated by Stefano Misesti


Just for fun (with a twist)

Freddy the Frog Prince by Maria Cleary
illustrated by 
Agilulfo Russo

Skater Boy by Maria Cleary
illustrated by 
Lorenzo Sabbatini


When you have selected the book to read, you will need a reading plan with some clear objectives that will help your young learner’s language development.

For parents, you can recommend the free guide ‘How to help your child read in English’, available on Helbling e-zone.

For teachers, we have a collection of resources:

You can also check out the following blog posts:

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