Children’s books are an extremely important tool for families hoping to introduce French as a second language at home. However, it can be difficult to find books that are simple enough for second language learners. Ne vous inquiétez pas- I’m here to help!
Here are a few tips on how to choose a book for a baby, toddler, or preschooler, followed by a visual list of my favourite French books for each age (the images are clickable links!).
P.S. Many of the books listed below belong to a series (ex: Pat le chat, Je t’aime de la tête aux pieds, etc.) be sure to check out the other books in the series as well!
French Books for Babies
- Minimal writing if the parent is hoping to learn/practice the language as well.
- Interactive books that have a fun texture, buttons to press, or pages that can be manipulated (ex: “Mon imagier de la famille” and that entire series has moving parts on each page, “Avec mon doigt” series encourages them to feel/trace the images with their fingers).
- Big beautiful images (ex: “Pourquoi j’aime ma maman”) or images with real babies (ex: “Mon imagier des émotions” is a favourite because they are so intrigued by the close up baby faces).
- BOARD BOOKS: Don’t think for 1 second that a paper book will last in an infant’s hands. Expect an infant book to be chewed and drooled all over.
French Books for Toddlers
Toddler Tips: Look for…
Lots of repetition. This will encourage them to learn words/phrases quickly. (Ex: “Une patate à vélo” repeats the phrase “Mais non, ça se peut pas!”, meaning “No, that cannot be!”- and is a funny phrase that tots will enjoy trying to repeat.)
A book about something they’ve shown interest in. (Ex: “Le gros camion” and series is great for tots showing an interest in cars, trucks, and transportation). Reading will be much more easily encouraged if the book includes their current interests.
Books that are meant to be sung. (Ex: Pat le chat “Mes boutons ronds” can be sung in the tune of “Sur le pont d’avignon” and most of the Pat le chat series are stories put to fun children’s songs.)
Cherche et trouve (search and find) books are great fun for toddlers, especially if you hand them a magnifying glass!
P.s. You’re still probably better off going for board books at this age, although I’ve thrown in a few paperback ones as suggestions…keep those ones on the top shelf 😉
French Books for Preschoolers
Preschooler Preferences: Look for…
Stories with great morals. They’re at the age where storybooks can really speak to them. Books offer perspective and visual supports for situations that might be otherwise difficult to explain to young children. (“Au coeur des mots” helps to explain why and how the words you use can have a great impact on others.)
Books that are funny. We all know that this age is full of giggles and silliness. Young children are drawn to books that make them laugh. (The “Chester” series and the “Carlos” series are always big hits with this age group.)
Look for books that will help prepare them for school or for events in their life that are to come. (“David va à l’école” is bound to be read to them in school and helps to explain behaviour in a humorous way)
Just like with toddlers, finding books that include their interests is always a great way to encourage reading.
Creatively designed books with flaps to look under or pages with holes etc. will catch a young reader’s attention. (“Va-t’en grand monstre vert” slowly adds parts of the face as you turn each page and incorporates the element of surprise.)