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Here’s the scenario: your homeschool child is studying a foreign language, enthusiastic about it, and hungry to learn more. He’d really like some books to read in his chosen language, but your local bookstore only has a few titles available (or maybe none at all). You’ve checked the library, and while the selection is slightly better, there’s nothing to really fit his interests. So, what are your options? Where can you go to find books in the language that your child is studying?
If you’ve asked yourself that question, you’re not the only one! Unfortunately, finding foreign language books is often not as easy as simply heading to your local bookstore or library or even visiting your favorite online retailer. If the language that your child is studying is not widely spoken in your community, your favorite stores might not even carry any stock in that language!
This has been a challenge that our family has faced as we’ve tried to build a library of high-quality, authentic texts for our boys in Portuguese. As a bilingual (Spanish/English) family, it’s been relatively easy for us to get our hands on Spanish language materials, but Portuguese language texts are much more scarce (and generally speaking, more expensive). However, over the years, I’ve developed a few hacks for finding great foreign language books—and today, I’d like to share one of my favorite tips with you.
Here it is: if you’re looking for high-quality children’s literature in a foreign language, buy directly from children’s publishers and book distributors.
Here are a few ways that children’s publishers (and book distributors) can be a resource to you:
- Their products are clearly organized to help you find texts that match your child’s age and interests. No more wading through endless on-line reviews to find a book that your child might like (who has time for that?). Children’s publishers organize their materials in a way that is accessible to you. Therefore, their sites are often organized by age, proficiency level, and/or topic—and sometimes, you can filter for all three of these. Moreover, some publishers will sell discounted “flights” of children’s books on a related topic, or in the same genre, and that can be a great ways to get a bunch of books at once for your language learner.
- They can be a cost-effective way to purchase imported books. Foreign language books published in other countries often have inflated prices because bookstores must pay for shipping expenses and import taxes. If foreign language books at your local bookstore seem outrageously priced, that may be the reason why. Children’s publishers and distributors, however, because they either print the books themselves or purchase them in large quantities, can sometimes offer better prices than a small bookstore can.
- Finding a publisher that you like can ensure that your child is equipped with good books throughout his/her language learning journey. Signing up for their newsletters can ensure that you are updated when your child's favorite author comes out with a new book, or when the distributor adds to its collection. That means less work for you hunting for new books.
If you’re looking for children’s books in a foreign language, here are some of the publishers and distributors that I recommend checking out:
For French Students:
Albertine, run by the French Embassy in the United States, offers a massive selection of children’s books in French through its Web site. Last time I checked, 8,632 children’s books were available—that’s impressive! Navigating the Web site, however, takes a bit of finesse, as the book descriptions are all in French. If your child is studying French, but you don’t speak it yourself, I recommend developing a list of texts that you’d like to purchase (these recommendations are a good place to start) and searching for them individually on the site. That’s definitely the easiest way to find what you’re looking for.
For Spanish Students:
Lorito Books is an independent distributor of children’s books that also carries a wide selection of audiobooks in Spanish. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I love using audiobooks as a language learning tool, so I highly recommend checking out the stock at Lorito Books. Their website is easy to navigate, with books arranged thematically to help you find poetry, graphic novels, authentic picture books, or anything else that might suit your child’s taste. Our family has read many of Lorito’s rich offerings from Latin America and Spain, although my son’s favorites are the Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman comics. They are a great Spanish-language introduction to the genre that is suitable for native-speaking preschoolers or intermediate-level Spanish students, and just the right length to read aloud as a family (unique for comics/graphic novels!).
For Students of Asian Languages and Other Languages:
This online store is great for those studying Asian languages and cultures. You can search by country or language (or both) to find resources that represents the many different tongues and people groups of Asia: China, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Thai, Tagalog, Vietnamese. Aside from books, the resources available through Asia for Kids include games, DVDs, books, instructional materials, and learning support materials (like posters and flashcards). Non-Asian cultures and languages are also represented in their extensive resource library—so it’s a site worth visiting no matter what language your child is studying.
Do you have other companies that you would recommend to help other parents find foreign language resources? Please comment with your suggestions—the Language Learning At Home community will appreciate it!