Learning two languages is no easy task, especially for kids. If you want to raise a bilingual child, you need some help, and there’s no better help than books! I speak English and Spanish and I can say that the absolute best thing I ever did as a child was learn to read in both languages. So to help you and your child learn Spanish as a second language, I present a list of English/Spanish books for kids.
Heads up, the entirety of this list contains bilingual books. This means that each page or so has the English text on it, and then the Spanish translation (or the other way around). This is great, because you can directly compare the translations and get a sense of what the words really mean in the other language. Plus it gives children more understanding of the story. The categories listed here overlap a bit, so keep in mind that different kids require different books depending on their own reading level. So without further ado, here are 15 English/Spanish books for kids.
Picture books are great for younger children because they rely on illustrations to tell a story. They help toddlers learn how to read and they are targeted for children ages 2 to 8.
Dalia’s Wondrous Hair / El cabello maravilloso de Dalia by Laura Lacámara
This book is about a girl whose hair grows to Rapunzel-like lengths overnight, looking almost like a palm tree. In a whimsical turn, her hair sprouts butterflies the next day, delighting everyone around her. With a beautiful focus on nature, this book has vibrant illustrations and short paragraphs that help tell its story. You can also listen to the author narrating the book in Spanish!
My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz / Me llamo Celia: la vida de Celia Cruz by Monica Brown and Rafael López
This is the story of Celia, a singer who moves to the U.S. from Cuba and creates a new type of music! The beautiful, slightly surreal images by renowned Mexican illustrator Rafael López drive the story home. My Name is Celia is a fun story, told in short paragraphs, to read to your children at nighttime. You can even listen to the author tell it in English and Spanish!
My Diary from Here to There / Mi diario de aquí hasta allá by Amada Irma Pérez and Maya Christina Gonzalez
Written like an actual diary, this book is about a family’s journey across the border. One night Amada hears her parents say they will move from Mexico to the U.S. and that’s when she begins writing about what she dreams her life will be like, her hopes and fears. This book also uses short-ish paragraphs to tell the story, but with room to enjoy the illustrations by themselves. It’s a nice story about family, love and weathering change.
Hairs/Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros and Terry Ybáñez
This is the first picture book in this list that has a small amount of text in each page, focusing instead on the images themselves. If you like Sandra Cisneros you’re in for a treat, because this book is actually one of the chapters of The House on Mango Street! But it has these beautiful illustrations that really drive the fragment of the story home. If you haven’t read the book, this chapter talks about diversity and how everyone in the family has different hairstyles and skin tones. So this book is exactly that: a wonderful bit of prose that celebrates diversity and the little details that make us us.
I love Saturdays y domingos/ Me encantan los Saturdays y los domingos by Alma Flor Ada and Elivia Savadier
This book also has a shorter amount of text than the others (but a bit more compared to Hairs), and the format is a bit different. It doesn’t have the English/Spanish translations on the same page. Rather, it follows the narrator on her visits to her grandparents. With her paternal grandparents, she speaks English, but with her maternal abuelitos she speaks Spanish (they are Mexican American). Both visits show the differences between their cultures and heritages, both in the language and in the way they celebrate her birthday. This is a fun book, with beautiful watercolor illustrations, that shows the differences between families and the thing they all share: their unyielding love for their loved ones.
Emerging Readers are the books for children who are learning to read by themselves! They come in a wide variety as they can change depending on the age group. But it usually targets children from ages 5 to 9. They’re kind of like a gray area between picture books and chapter books, depending on the level of difficulty.
Rabbit and Turtle Go To School/Conejo y tortuga van a la escuela by Lucy Floyd and Christopher Denise
This is a simple retelling of “The Turtle and the Hare” of Aesop’s Fables. But in this case, they race towards school, one on a bus and the other running. It’s a very simple illustrated story meant for young kids who are starting to read on their own. That’s why it’s a level 1 in the Green Light Readers series.
Catch Me If You Can!/¡A que no me alcanzas! by Bernard Most
As a dinosaur kid myself, I would’ve loved this book. The illustrations are simple but cute and you get to see the almighty T-Rex in action. It’s about the biggest Tyrannosaurus and how all the other dinosaurs run and hide from him, except one: his granddaughter, who knows just how sweet he can be. It’s a short book, with a small amount of text but slightly more complex language. That’s why it’s a level 2 in the Green Light Readers series. It’s a very sweet story about family and appearances.
Daniel’s Mystery Egg/El misterioso huevo de Daniel by Alma Flor Ada and G. Brian Karas
This is another book with a simple storyline. After Daniel’s class finds an egg, they have fun letting their imagination run wild with possibilities. What could be inside of it? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s probably not the second one! Whatever it is, kids can learn a good amount of vocabulary with this book, especially as it mentions several animals in both languages. Fun, short, and simple, this level 2 in the Green Light Readers series can help kids learn a ton of new words!
English-Spanish First Little Readers: Guided Reading Level D pack by Liza Charlesworth
This one’s a bit different. For starters, it’s not one book, but a box with 25 eight-page books. It’s written to use as a Guided Reading Level D (first graders, more or less) so it’s not as challenging as other books. But, again, that is completely subjective and it depends on each kid. It also comes with a short parent guide. All the books in the box are bilingual too! So children will have plenty of stories for when they’re just beginning to read.
Chapter books are an excellent middle point for children. They have illustrations and longer texts than picture books and focus a bit more on the stories they tell than on the illustrations. They are recommended for children ages 7 to 9 as the language can be a bit more complex.
Upside Down And Backwards/De cabeza y al revés by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
This short book has six stories that show different quirky scenarios like strange neighbors or mystical science projects. At their core, all stories celebrate strong relationships with people, whether they are friends, family, or teachers. It also turns ordinary circumstances into extraordinary adventures that any child will love to read! All stories are short and they have some illustrations sprinkled around, which help kids form a mental picture of the story.
Lemon Grove is such a unique book! For those who don’t know, this is nonfiction and a great way to teach kids not only a second language but some history too. It follows Roberto, a kid who helped desegregate his school! Long story short, in the 1930s there was a school that wanted to segregate the Mexican American kids because of language “handicaps.” The community fought back and won the case against the court, thus bringing the children back to school. This is actually the first case of desegregation in the U.S.! It’s definitely worth reading.
In My Family/En mi familia by Carmen Lomas Garza
This book is a sweet, loving tribute to the author’s family. It’s full of vibrant pictures and descriptions of moments in the author’s life. Like making empanadas with her family or cleaning nopales. Reading it feels like going through an old family photo album. It’s a great book for kids to read because it not only teaches them a language but it gives them quite a unique glimpse into the life of a Mexican American family!
Middle Grade Books
Middle Grade books tend to have a more developed plot and next to no illustrations. They are intended for children ages 8 to 12 who mostly read by themselves. The stories are longer, with characters that are around the same age of the reader.
The Day It Snowed Tortillas / El día que nevaron tortillas, Folktales told in Spanish and English by Joe Hayes and Antonio Castro
This book of folktales tells the magical stories that the villages of New Mexico have passed down through generations since the Spanish arrived in the continent. It is a collection of easy-to-read short stories that kids won’t have trouble understanding as they gain a deeper knowledge of the cultural heritage of the area. Some stories include La Llorona (you may know it as “The Weeping Woman”) and the title story, in which a woman convinces her husband it had snowed tortillas that night.
This is one of the more advanced books in the list. For starters, it’s middle grade so it has more of a plot than the others. It follows an 11-year-old wrestling (or lucha libre) aficionado who one day discovers his connection to a renowned wrestler called the Guardian Angel. Fun adventures follow of course! It does have illustrations, but they don’t contribute much to the story. Nonetheless, this book is full of action, adventures and a story children can enjoy from beginning to end.
Letters from Heaven/Cartas del cielo by Lydia Gil
This book follows Celeste, who after the death of her grandmother receives letters from her, along with some recipes that she used to cook. But that’s not all—Celeste also has to deal with issues like loss, bullying, and financial difficulties in her family. So the letters help her cope with all that is going on in her life. It is a sad but hopeful book that teaches children about Caribbean culture with the recipes that are included in the book, and at the same time how to deal with the pain of loss and overcoming hardships from growing up.
If you’re looking for more Spanish books for toddlers, we have some recommendations! Practice your Spanish with this handy dandy list of English/Spanish board books, too, try listening to Spanish audiobooks!