No More Boring Textbooks! Top 5 Spanish Books for Beginners
Tired of boring textbooks speaking about the technicalities of learning a language? Why not challenge yourself in a new way with some good Spanish books for beginners?
Leer un libro is a wonderful way to slow down and study at your own pace. You have the opportunity to read and re-read sentences to make sure you understand them and look up any vocabulary that you don’t know. This builds a strong foundation that will improve your speaking and listening skills.
Plenty of amazing Spanish authors exist in the world of literature, such as Miguel Angel Asturias, Isabel Allende, Pablo Neruda, and Gabriel García Marquez—it’s impossible to choose just one!
What Will You Find in This List?
Spanish Books Suitable for Beginners
The books in this article are for beginner reading level Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) A1-A2, which is a “Basic User” level. At this level, a Spanish Learner can understand familiar words, read short and simple texts (such as advertisements, posters, and menus), recognize some vocabulary, understand basic questions, or form simple sentences in Spanish. If you are unsure of your CEFR level, find out what it is in our article on CEFR and how we use it here at HSA.
Compelling Topics You’ll Love
In the suggestions below, you will discover the legend behind the famous Yerba Mate drink and find out what Antigua, Guatemala looks like through the eyes of The Little Prince, whose author recovered after a brutal plane crash in this charming town (where Homeschool Spanish Academy resides, also!). Maybe you want to keep up to date with the latest Latina fashion or politics. Whatever your interest, there is a recommendation for you!
Before we get to our list of the Top 5 Spanish books for beginners, I’d like to give you some pointers to make your reading journey that much more satisfying.
Build Fluency With These Reading Tips
1. Find a topic that interests you
Choose a book that appeals to you. Similar to reading in your native language, you will be more likely to start (and finish) a book that you enjoy on a topic that holds your interest.
2. Choose a book that’s not too long
You’ll want to accomplish the task of finishing your first Spanish book for beginners, so start with one that’s a good length and not too overwhelming. Something you can easily fit into your schedule.
3. Find the “just right” book that’s challenging but not too difficult
In Spanish, you’ll want to find a good difficulty balance—not too easy, not too hard. Using the Five Finger Rule (what elementary students use when learning to read in English) is a good idea.
- Choose your book and read a random page
- Hold up a finger for every word you don’t know
- If you have held up 5 fingers before finishing the page then the book is too difficult.
- Likewise, if you have held up only 1 finger, the book is too easy. You want to find the ‘just right’ book which is 2-4 fingers.
Finding the right book will encourage you to engage in the story while building confidence and challenge you just enough.
Useful Tools for New Learners
Consider Spanish and English “Side-by-Side” Text
Have you ever read a paragraph in Spanish and you’re pretty sure you understood its meaning, but there was that one word, or phrase, that left you questioning if you really got it? This happens to the best of us when reading in a foreign language. One way to self-check is to read the Spanish text, and then verify you are on track with the English translation. Side-by-Side bilingual books are perfect for reading in Spanish and then testing your comprehension by reading the English section.
On a side note: I would recommend these text tools for your first few books, but then move on to Spanish books for beginners without it. You don’t want to rely on the translation and inhibit your immersion into the Spanish text.
Consider the Tense
Spanish is a complex language with many tenses. At beginner level CEFR A1-A2 you are most familiar with present, preterite and imperfect Spanish conjugations. Choose a book with this in mind so you can reiterate what you know.
No More Boring Textbooks—Let’s Find a Spanish Book for You!
These Spanish books for beginners will engage, challenge and support your learning goals. ¡Empecemos!
This book is different from side-by-side text, as it presents the story only in Spanish. However, then it provides a summary of what you read in Spanish and then in English. This allows you to check and see that you are on track with your comprehension. It also has two sections after each story, one to review key vocabulary and another short quiz to test your knowledge. Excellent choice for beginner readers!
2. Stories from Latin America/Historias de latinamérica by Genevieve Barlow
This book consists of 16 folk legends written as short stories. The authors are from Central and South America, and the stories are presented in side-by-side text. Each folk legend comes with word-for-word translations in English and Spanish on the same page. The stories deliver cultural insights as you begin to uncover tales such as the origin of Yerba Mate!
Prepare yourself for real-world conversations with this helpful book. Six people in a fictional Spanish town are conversing about various topics – you’ll be learning as you follow the story’s gripping plot! You will improve your Spanish by learning how it’s spoken en las calles. The introduction to each story is provided in English so that you get the basic context, then the conversations/dialogue are presented in Spanish along with a quiz and vocabulary list.
This is a fun read since you have most likely already read the English version and are familiar with the story. It is in simple language since it was originally targeted towards a young audience– yet has become a classic for all ages.
Did you know that the author drew inspiration from Antigua when his plane crashed in Departmento de Sacatepéquez? A department is equivalent to a United States state?
One blogger who writes about the author Antoine said that,
“There are many theories on the places that inspired De Saint Exupéry to write The Little Prince: one is that Asteroid B – 612, Little Prince’s home, is Antigua Guatemala, where he spent time in recovery from his accident …But the truth is that there are details of the asteroid that match with Antigua, for example: The Asteroid had two active volcanoes and one inactive.”
5. Ya está el listo que todo lo sabe: Una curiosidad para cada día del año by Alfred López
Mr. López is recognized as one of the best Bloggers in Spain and has won awards for his blog on answering curious questions and using historical anecdotes. He answers all sorts of fun questions, such as “why is the most famous perfume called No.5?” or “Why is a newlywed vacation called a ‘Honeymoon?’” Learn Spanish in a fun and new way with this book.
Don’t Forget About Magazines and Newspapers
Did you know that on average magazines are written at a 9th-grade reading level, and newspapers are written at a 9th-11th grade reading level? This makes these options a great choice for reading in basic Spanish. You can find a magazine that suits your interests online, or go to a local mercado and see what they have available.
There are so many books out there. If you’d like to discuss them with a native Speaker in real time, try a free class at Homeschool Spanish academy, on us. ¡empieza a mejorar tu español en este momento!
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I began studying Spanish at age 11 and have been interested in language and culture ever since! While at university, I studied abroad in Spain and Costa Rica and got a B.A. in Environmental Economics with a minor in Spanish. After spending over a decade in corporate America, I now enjoy the simpler things in life. ¡Pura Vida!
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