Whether you're learning your first or second language, you cannot start reading early enough. A good educational program will revolve around stories. Reading, writing, telling, and listening to stories. If you are teaching primary school students, start using graded readers with them from the very beginning. If you have adult students with young children, recommend reading English graded readers with their children. Choose the right materials for young learners as there are important things to expect from a good reader: graded language, interesting topics, educational activities, high-quality illustrations, and digital support. Add colour to your lessons through reading stories, and don’t worry about ‘stealing’ time from your scheduled vocabulary or grammar sessions as your investment will invariably pay off.
Travel the world
Reading is often compared to travelling. Stories can help you imitate real life and prepare for real-life situations. Stories can take you to far-away places you can’t visit with your classes. Finally, stories take you to imaginary places where everything is possible, thus developing your students’ creativity. Read about real situations: relive a child’s first day at school (Can I Play?), go on a family holiday to the beach (The Beach), or see what your cat might be doing at home while you’re at school (Fat Cat’s Busy Day). Visit far-away places: save a jungle from a fire (The Big Fire), and travel to Australia to save a whale in difficulty (Lost on the Coast). Read about Loony Town (Upside Down), or find out about life in the woods (Food for the Winter). And revisit traditional folktales and myths in our new Classics series.
An important principle is that successful language learning cannot happen in a bubble. We use language for reading, speaking, writing, thinking, and we need to connect all these skills. Reading is not an isolated skill, and our young readers support a multi-skill approach to language learning.
Draw and study images
When you are reading, use the images to explain new vocabulary, and avoid translation as much as possible. Use drawing to explain new words or the plot. Ask your students to draw pictures when they are reading.
Summarise the story with your own words, ask your students to go through the story over and over again and point to the pictures. First they might just say words, but the more you read the story, the more words and phrases they will remember. Use the on-page activities to talk more about each page.
Keep writing new words, let them interact with the book. Ask your students to draw pictures of their favourite places or characters, and write words in the pictures to describe them.
At the age of 4-5, children become interested in the big questions of life. They might address you with philosophical questions, and they start caring about conflicts and problems in their environment. Stories can offer answers and solve conflicts with humour. This curiosity will stay with them all through their childhood and teenage years.
Read, reread, and read again
Primary school children love retelling and rereading stories, and their curiosity and hunger for repetition can be your greatest language assistant. And don't forget the many stories are also available as big books for shared reading.
They are not just for aesthetic purposes. They help you with comprehension and vocabulary development, Use the illustrations to summarise or retell the story. Illustrations will improve your students visual literacy and visual thinking skills.
How shall we use activities with young learners? We call our before and reading activities
Play Station activities
It can often happen that a perfectly enjoyable reading session turns into an ordinary language or vocabulary lesson. Avoid this. If you and your students approach a book with a playful and easy attitude, you are more likely to preserve that approach during the reading process.
Background knowledge activation
Remember that background knowledge activation is just as important for young learens as it is for the advanced students. Use the Play Station pages to activate vocabulary and introduce the topic. Read our previous blog post to learn more about background knowledge activation.
Read aloud and read together. Read about shared reading in our previous blog post, and come back this month to read more about the benefits of shared reading.
Involve the family
In a perfect world, our relationship with books starts when we are a few months old. This way we grow into book-loving teens and adults, and this love of reading is easily transferred to reading in another language when we start learning languages. If your young learners don’t come from a book-loving home, create a book-loving school for them. You are doing the greatest favour to them, their families and their future teachers. Give your students a simple homework task: ask them to reread the stories with their parents, brothers, sisters or grandparents at home. If you have students who have younger siblings, ask them to read young readers at home with them.
Helbling Young Readers
Our Helbling Young Readers series offers original fiction and classic stories for Primary Schools in 5 levels. They go from level a-e, and they correspond to the Cambridge Young Learners English Starters (a, b, c) and Movers (d, e) levels. Here are the main features of our Young Readers:
- 5 levels
- full-colour illustrations
- high-frequency words and lexical groups
- language functions
- CD-ROMs for interactive whiteboards.
- audio CD with chants
- recording in British English
- open-out flaps with picture dictionary
- audio-visual dictionary
- easy-to-read font
- CLIL focus
- support website with teacher’s resources.
Visit our Young Readers website for our titles.