By Anna Rozzo

​We all know that our students are busy; they work long hours in addition to attending class. Not only are our students holding multiple jobs, they are learning English faster than generations of immigrants before them.

In addition to this inevitable time crunch, many ELL adults may be embarrassed to read to their kids in English, especially if the child is bilingual. However, one strategy for parents raising bilingual children is reading bilingual books to them (Lee et al. 2015).

Furthermore, the returns on parents and caregivers reading to their children is well-documented. Storytelling introduces readers to a rich variety of vocabulary and the acquisition of that vocabulary is dramatically facilitated by the context of the story (Collins, 2010).

Nonie Lesaux makes a distinction between “skills-based reading competencies” and “knowledge-based reading competencies” (2012). The former are the mechanical decoding skills that children whose first language is not English tend to excel at or perform at comparable levels to their native-speaking peers. “Knowledge-based reading competencies” however, require cultural background knowledge and multiple, nuanced meanings of words (Lesaux, 2012). This is why it is imperative that ELL parents read to their children. In order for their children to perform well in both competencies, they need to be exposed to the contextualized vocabulary of stories.

ELL parents or caregivers may not feel confident or know how to pronounce all the words in a given story. Enter YouTube. There are a number of narrated children’s’ books on YouTube. The videos consist of the pictures and/or illustrations from the children’s book with a subtitled narration. If there are no subtitles, students can borrow the book from the library and “read along” with the videos. These videos allow both child and parent to come together and learn as they read and listen.

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle Caldecott Honor 2014

  • Grade level range: PreK-1
  • Application: This is a wordless picture book, so parents and children can narrate the story bilingually.

Where Do I Live? By Neil Chesanow

  • Grade level range: PreK-1
  • Application: basic home and neighborhood vocabulary, very ESL accessible

First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger Caldecott Honor 2008

  • Grade level range: PreK-1
  • Application: animals, very ESL accessible

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

  • Grade level range: PreK-1
  • Application: numbers, food vocabulary, days of the week, Simple Past

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine Caldecott Honor 2004

  • Grade level range: PreK-1
  • Application: clothing and clothing patterns, colors

If You Give a Moose a Muffin or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie or If You Bring a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff

  • Grade level range: K-2
  • Application: 1st “real” conditional; basic if-will statements

When a Line Bends…a Shape Begins by Rhonda Gowler Greene & James Kaczman

  • Grade level range: K-2
  • Application: shapes/geometry, vowel sounds and word stress (rhyming phrases)

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman & Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman Caldecott Honor 2010

  • Grade level range: K-2
  • Application: colors, seasons, poetry/figurative language

A Book of Seasons/El libro de las estaciones By Alice Provensen & Martin Provensen

  • Grade level range: K-2
  • Application: seasons, seasonal activities, bilingual book available

A Chair for my Mother by Vera B. Williams Caldecott Honor 1983

  • Grade level range: K-2
  • Application: Simple Present for habitual activities, Simple Past

How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz Caldecott Honor 2009

  • Grade level range: K-2
  • Application: refugees’ story, geography

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

  • Grade level range: K-2
  • Application: auxiliary “do”, would, could, may, will, vowel pronunciation & word stress (rhyming)

Olivia by Ian Falconer Caldecott Honor 2001

  • Grade level range: PreK-2
  • Application: Simple Present for habitual activities

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña Caldecott Honor 2016

  • Grade level range: PreK-2
  • Application: Simple Past, using public transit

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting & by Ted Lewin

  • Grade level range: K-2
  • Application: the immigrant child/student experience

My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits & Gabi Swiatkowska

  • Grade level range: K-2
  • Application: the Korean immigrant child/student experience

Sofie and the City by Karima Grant & Janet Montecalvo

  • Grade level range: PreK-3
  • Application: the Senegalese immigrant child/student experience

Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo Caldecott Honor 2015

  • Grade level range: PreK-3
  • Application: adjectives, neighborhood vocabulary

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

  • Grade level range: PreK-3
  • Application: colors, adjectives

A Child’s Calendar by John Updike & Trina Schart Hyman Caldecott Honor 2000

  • Grade level range: PreK-3
  • Application: seasons, months of the year, cultural traditions, poetry/figurative language, rhyming/pronunciation

A Gift for Sadia by Marie Fritz Perry

  • Grade level range: K-4
  • Application: the Somali immigrant child/student experience

My Diary from Here to There by Amada Irma Perez & Maya Christina Gonzalez

  • Grade level range: 3-5
  • Application: the Mexican immigrant child/student experience

Hannah is My Name by Belle Yang

  • Grade level range: 3-5
  • Application: the Chinese immigrant child/student experience, history, more books like these ​

Another advantage to these videos is that the parent can pause and replay at any moment checking for pronunciation and spelling. Children can play their favorite videos over and over again with their parents and caretakers.

Here is the YouTube playlist for this list of books.

​Do you know other YouTube readings of picture books that you would add to the list? How would you use this list with your students? Leave us a note in the comments!

Collins, Molly F. (2010). ELL Preschoolers’ English Vocabulary Acquisition from Storybook Reading. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25(1), 84-97.

Lee, Michael, Shetgiri, Rashmi, Barina, Alexis, Tillitski, John, & Flores, Glenn. (2015). Raising Bilingual Children: A Qualitative Study of Parental Attitudes, Beliefs, and Intended Behaviors. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 37(4), 503-521.

Lesaux, N. (2012). Reading and Reading Instruction for Children from Low-Income and Non-English-Speaking Households. The Future of Children, 22(2)

Anna Rozzo is currently a visiting lecturer for the academic ESL program at SUNY Binghamton where she teaches composition and public speaking skills to international students. Additionally, she helps to train and supervise undergraduates who serve as TA’s in the ESL classes. Previously, she taught ESOL at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, Prince George’s Community College, and Montgomery College. She has also taught at the American Centers in Rabat and Kenitra, Morocco and served as an English Language Fellow in Indonesia.

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