The Best Books to Read for ESL Students
Learning just about any subject involves reading if you think about it! We read textbooks to learn science, math concepts, and history. Learning a language is no different! Yes, this requires a little mastery of the basics but reading books of any kind can have a serious impact on your progress while learning a new language.
If you’re an English as a Second Language (ESL) student, reading is powerful. Reading allows you to find something of interest, and study it in your target language: English! What’s something you enjoy? Do you love cooking? Find a cookbook in English and check out a new recipe. What about graphic novels? The pictures can help you piece together the story, even if you don’t know or recognize every single word. Love a particular religious text? Study astronomy? Enjoy telling funny jokes? Find a book on your favorite subject in English. Romance, mystery, or even a favorite young adult or children’s book can help enhance your language skills.
One other reason? It’s fun. You can find books at almost any level of literacy – from beginner to adult – and get lost in an amazing story or subject.
Reading really has no rules. If you’re reading for enjoyment, there are no technicalities to study or memorization involved – it’s just reading to enjoy a good story or get more information on a subject you love.
Some of these books we’re highlighting today might already be favorites in your library. Some may be new to you. We encourage you to continually expand your horizons and try something new!
Excel’s Top Books (and authors) to Read for ESL Students
Roald Dahl is a beloved author and for good reason. A British novelist, he has short stories of all kinds that will be intriguing for every age ESL learner. The story of Matilda is a classic. She herself is a child, learning to read and finding a true friend in her teacher. With simple text and engaging stories, you can’t go wrong with any selection by Roald Dahl.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
At first glance you might think the book is for children, but it contains an important life lesson certainly applicable to adults (taught by a wise fox!) This is a text originally written in French, but it’s had a significant impact and has now been translated into more than ten languages today.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Mystery? Comedy? A superb storyline? Try Holes by Louis Sachar. It’s far more detailed than the movie bearing its name. Poor Stanley Yelnats is accused of stealing a pair of shoes and sentenced to several months at a correctional facility where the boys must dig holes every day. The twists and turns will leave you guessing until the very end!
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rawling
If reading in English is something you need to work on, Harry Potter is an excellent choice. It’s a story of adventure, wizardry, magic, and friendship. Harry attends the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and is constantly attempting to defeat his nemesis, Voldemort. The book series is written simply, and has become a worldwide phenomenon. Harry Potter is enjoyed by millions because it’s such an engaging tale.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
This short novel was written by Ernest Hemingway, perhaps one of the most well-known American authors. An old fisherman battles a giant marlin in the sea off the coast of Cuba. See if you can figure out the deeper meanings and symbolism at work here between man and fish.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This three-book series by Suzanne Collins was another true literary phenomenon. A suspenseful page-turner with sci-fi futuristic qualities makes the reader wonder what will happen next. The series tells the story of an oppressive regime that becomes increasingly violent (think ancient Roman or Greek culture) and tense. It’s a true fight to the death…or is it? There is no shortage of drama, romance, and action.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
You’ll find this tale included in many a syllabus in the United States. Similar to The Hunger Games, this is yet another dystopian society saga by Lois Lowry following the life of a 12-year-old boy named Jonas. Jonas grapples with how to handle human emotions. Don’t be intimidated by the length of this book; the language is simple enough for an ESL student.
The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
Love poetry? Try a book by Rupi Kaur. Her simple words are profound, and yet beautifully convey some of life’s deepest feelings.