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I’m a sucker for picture books, I have WAY too many, and I just ordered more this morning :-D. Reading books and singing is key to language development, and it’s the same for teaching English. I’ve been working as a professional ESL teacher and nanny for more than six years, and here are the 15 books I use the most.

The Wheels on the Bus – This song is so loved by my students and also by my son. I have no idea why, but the children love it so much that it’s the book I usually start with whenever I have a new group of little learners. For crafts and teaching idea, check out this post.

We’re going on a Bear Hunt – This is another favourite. The children love it when I read the book, but they also love to listen to the audio on their own. The text repeats throughout the book and the pictures are fantastic. I’m not sure if a book+audio is currently available, but try to get one if you can. I have a free printable BINGO game to go with the book here, and a post with teaching ideas, crafts and games here.

Five Little Ducks – A great song to sing, easy to remember and you even have the advantages of teaching how to count backwards from five. This book and CD combination is really a great deal. I backup all of my CDs on my computer, then I can loan out the book+CD to my little students for a week at a time. This is one of the most popular items borrowed. Here’s a post with teaching ideas and links to crafts. Also there’s a free printable duck puppet template in my TPT store here.

Five Little Monkeys jumping on the bed -another rhyme/song that is also a book. It’s a great one to sing or chant as you walk or ride in the car. Little children especially love shouting the doctor’s line “NO MORE MONKEYS JUMPING ON THE BED!” There’s a free printable monkey puppet template in my TPT store here.

Down by the Station -If you have a child that likes trains, buses, trucks and things that go then this is a good book for him/her! It’s also a catchy toon you can sing as you read or other times throughout the day.

Five Green and Speckled Frogs -Another classic song that has been made into a book. Count backwards from five as the frogs jump into the pond.

Is Your Mama a Llama? -Riddle rhymes and six lovable baby animals help Lloyd the llama discover just what kind of animal his mama really is. My little ones love to try to guess the mama animal before we turn the page.

Orange Pear Apple Bear  this book has sweet illustrations and only five words: applepearorangebear–and there. Emily Gravett creates clever variations on this theme by rearranging the words. Although it’s simple, children enjoy it. The pictures are wonderful and inspire questions and conversation.

Monkey and Me -also by Emily Gravett and perfect for the ver youngest of learners. A little girl and her stuffed monkey act out different animals, which encourages children to try to guess which animal they are portraying before you turn the page. It also uses a repeating text which children quickly begin to chant along with you as you read.

Dear Zoo  -With bright, bold artwork, flaps to lift, repeating text, and a whole host of favourite animals, Dear Zoo is a must for every child’s bookshelf, but especially for the little ESL learners! It’s currently my one year old’s favourite book.

The Napping House  -In the napping house there is a cozy bed piled high with a snoring granny, a dreaming child, a dozing dog, a snoozing cat, and a slumbering mouse. All is at peace until a flee bites the mouse. This is a great book because it repeats but also introduces tons of descriptive additives! The artwork is also fantastic. Audrey and Don Wood are some of my favourite artist/authors! You can’t go wrong purchasing any of their books.

Quick as a Cricket  -Another book by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood. A young boy describes himself as “loud as a lion,” “quiet as a clam,” “tough as a rhino,” and “gentle as a lamb.” A great way to talk about emotions, feelings, opposites, and even adjectives. Little children enjoy looking at the animals, and older ones can appreciate the rhyming and the emotional comparisons.

Down by the Bay  -This friendly book that you can sing along with depicts wonderfully amusing creatures such as a “bear combing his hair”, a “goose kissing a moose”, and a “whale with a polka-dot tail”. The rhyme, rhythm, and repetition will delight little learners and the tune will be stuck in your head. 😉

I am the Music Man -One more book that you can sing, because in my opinion, you can never have too much music in your learning environment! Anyone can be the Music Man in this joyful adaptation of the classic nursery song, and everyone can join in making music together! Children love this traditional rhyme and singing along.

There was an Old Lady who swallowed a fly -Ingenious die-cut holes bring this nursery rhyme to life, and Pam Adams’ fabulous illustrations lend humour to the traditional rhyme. I like this book for children starting in kindergarten or first grade, because the die-cut holes can easily rip, and the final verse is “There was an old lady who swallowed a horse… she’s dead of course” which younger children can be a bit upset by, but older ones understand that it’s just a silly story.

Update – extra book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar – my bilingual two year old son is IN LOVE with this book. I have to read it multiple times a day, but I don’t mind because he’s starting to say the words on each page. It’s bright and colourful and the text repeats in a rhythmic way. The whole family will be quoting it very soon! Also, I created a photo Bingo game to go with this book, you can get it from my TPT store here.

Happy reading, singing and learning everyone!


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