Thursday, 15 August 2013

Reading in French

The new Programme of Study for KS2 Languages requires children to "appreciate stories, songs, poems and rhymes in the language".  I'm always on the lookout for books in French and Spanish that will enrich the children's learning experience and that will introduce language points and inspire some independent writing.  Plus I am what you might call a book addict.

There are lots of things you can do with stories and books. Here are some of the French books that I have.

The old favourite Hungry Caterpillar is ideal for introducing days of the week and food.  The "eating" pages contain repetitive language that's easy for children to join in with.

In Je m'habille et je te croque a wolf puts on his clothes before coming to eat you.  Children would be able to create their own version with perhaps a different animal and different clothes. 

Maman! by Mario Ramos only has one word (Maman) on each page.  A little boy runs from room to room in the house looking for his maman, not noticing that in each room there are a different number of animals.  This book is great for numbers, animals and plural forms.

The rabbit in Bon appétit! Monsieur Lapin decides that he doesn't like carrots anymore, and goes to ask some other animals what they eat.  The language is nice and repetitive, and introduces you to things like "Pouah!" and "Beurk!"  A good example of how direct speech works in French, and introduces some new food words, which children will be able to work out using their general knowledge.

The parents of the little crocodile in Je mangerais bien un enfant try to tempt him with bananas, sausages and chocolate cake, but all he wants to eat is a child.  The language is more complex than in the previous titles, but it could be simplified.

Toutes les couleurs introduces colours as a little white rabbit gets stained with different colours while playing outside, before being bathed in blue water by his mother.

The little dinosaur in Pop mange de toutes les couleurs takes on the colours of everything he eats until he is a rainbow dinosaur.  The language is a little more complex than in the previous title, but it also introduces similes and colloquialisms.

Petit poisson blanc is looking for his mother and comes across lots of other sea creatures who are different colours in the process.  Children could create their own version of this story, using different animals and a different main character.

The La petite boule blanche series shows how pictures can be built up using a series of shapes, and each of the books has a different language focus.  My favourite is La petite boule blanche au pays des contes, which focuses on nasal sounds.

Mots rimés pour lire sans trébucher has a series of poems and rhymes which focus on specific phonemes.  Excellent for phonics.

And finally for intercultural understanding there is the La Terre vue d'Alban series, produced by the team that brought us Earth from the Air.  Comment vivent les enfants dans le monde? has photos of children in the places where they live, with information about each one and a commentary by Alban the fish.

So these are the French books that I have.  I'd love to hear about yours!


  1. We love all those too!! The poem book is one I haven't read but will be trying to source as it sounds super! :o) Little Imp and I would add the following to our best book list: Ours brun dis-moi (great for animals and colours); la surprise de Handa (great for animals and fruits); la petite poule rousse; cher zoo and la chasse a l'ours. I also like the Mr Men books in French for older KS2 children as they can easily be adapted into their own stories with their own Mr men style characters. Looking forward to getting back to rehearsing our "La chenille qui fait des trous" French assembly in time for European Day of Languages next month. Emma :o)

    1. Va t'en grand monstre vert is lovely for parts of the face and most of the Lulu rabbit series, mentioned above as 'Toutes les couleurs' are lovely. Le strip-tease d'Uki and La semaine d'Uki are both great, too, for clothes and days of the week, respectively. Could you elaborate on your Mr Men idea for KS2 as it sounds interesting? Many thanks, Claire

  2. Merci beaucoup ! This coincides with my current quest to find more authentic reading for my students. I am currently checking out all the titles you listed.

    Bonsoir lune (not authentic, as it is a translation of Goodnight Moon), is a nice simple read as well. My students like it because they are familiar with it.

  3. Dear Clare,
    I love your blog and I have found so many fantastic ideas, thank you. I am starting to teach primary in a couple of weeks after a few years of being a full time mum. I'm very excited-I love teaching and exploring new ideas and ways of helping students learning while really enjoying it. I teach Spanish and wonder if you have a similar list for Spanish as it would be a great starting point for me. I've order quite a few materials, and not always, they are as good as I thought... Thank you so much, Ana

  4. Thanks for the comments and recommendations!

    Ana - your wish is my command -


  5. I'm new to blogs, but have just discovered this one and find it full of such good ideas. I'm teaching French to all Primary , with some Spanish/ German to Year 6 and am always on the look out for ideas to liven things up!Thank you

  6. Having used books in Primary French for too many years to count!... it's interesting to see that, from the great recommendations above, certain classics still hold sway (although I'd like to add 'Une Histoire Sombre' and 'Chapeau' to the list).

    I've tried in the past to analyse why we return to some books again and again and wanted to propose 5 key factors for the success of a book with KS2. I have used these to find new titles that really do work, gathering strange looks as I sat on the floor of children's sections in French bookshops glancing quickly at new titles as I piled them into : oui, non and peut-être!

    (1) Timeless and not too babyish illustrations that will still appeal to 7-72 year olds (eg the fantastic pencil techniques in 'Une histoire sombre';the humorous and fantastical hats in 'Chapeau'; the growing and disappearing face in 'Grand Monstre Vert')
    (2) Small amounts of text per page whose meaning is clearly illustrated eg Je m'habille/Uki. This meant that I never had great success with some original purchases eg Arc en Ciel/Rainbow Fish, unless I massively reduced the text.
    (3) Frequent repetition of key phrases (which could be quite grammatically complicated) to give a sense of rhythm, comfort and familiarity to the listening children with a potential for active participation where children learn, internalise and re-enact the book eg: the refrain in 'La Chasse à l'Ours'.
    (4) Textual theme(s) so that the key vocabulary or grammar in the book (colours, animals, prepositions, adjectives etc.)can allow the book to complement other classroom resources/approaches...and be used again and again as each of these themes is introduced eg: Grand Monstre Vert has colours and features (early KS2?) but also adjectival position and agreement (upper KS2?). La Chasse à l'Ours could be learned and acted out in Y3 and returned to for adjectival agreement, cognates, verbs, phonics, onomatopeia in Y6.
    (5)(Older K2 especially)Creative potential to adapt pages of the book for their own texts : eg making their own page for 'Chapeau'(or adapting it to 'Manteau'?) but still using a conditional phrase. Changing 'Une Histoire Sombre' to 'Une Ecole Sombre'?.

    I found I needed at least three out of five of the above criteria for a book to be a success...and my all-time best books have all five! Do yours?

  7. Thank you so much for taking the time to contribute such useful comments, Joan. It definitely gives a lot of food for thought. You are right that in an ideal world we need to go and camp out in a bookshop in France. When you buy online it's often hard to tell just how useful a book will be.