Reading to your child in Spanish is one of the best ways to expose her to the Spanish language. Many libraries have picture books in Spanish and you can also buy them in bookstores and online. These are a few factors to consider as you choose picture books in Spanish to read with your child.
The best book in Spanish to read to your child is the one that interests her, that she will listen to, and that you have fun reading together. Regardless of other considerations, a book in Spanish that is appealing to your child, for whatever reason, is a good book!
Also, all contact with the Spanish language is valuable. If possible, read a variety of books in Spanish to your child.
Books with audio are a wonderful resource if you are learning Spanish with your child, or if you are non-native speaker. If audio is not available, ask a native speaker to record the book for you. Friends may be willing to do this, but you can also hire someone to make recordings for you. If there is a university in your area, the language department can put you in touch with someone.
It is important to read books that use full sentences. A language is much more than vocabulary, and books are one of the best ways to expose a child to natural language. Hearing full sentences a child learns agreement, verb tenses, pronouns and subtleties of meaning. Books that just have pictures with labels in Spanish can be fun to look at together, but your child will learn the Spanish words when they are in presented in context.
Single language texts and dual language texts
Picture books with only Spanish text are a great way to expose a child to the language without the distraction or interference of English. It is important for children to learn Spanish without constantly relating it to English. In addition, for children who read, the different letter sounds can be confusing and lead to poor Spanish pronunciation. The selection of picture books in Spanish in my area was limited when my children were young, so I do have some bilingual books. I covered the English text using sticky notes and that worked well.
Although it is more expensive, having two copies of a favorite story, one in English and one in Spanish, is a good alternative. If you purchase a Spanish language version of a book, you can often find the English in the library.
Young children have extensive vocabularies in their native language, and so the language in picture books is often sophisticated. It is important not to frustrate (or bore) children with books that are incomprehensible. Books for beginning readers have a smaller vocabulary range and shorter sentences. They are great for reading aloud to Spanish-language learners. Repetition and patterns also make picture books easier to understand.
Original Spanish texts and translations
Books originally written in Spanish have cultural and linguistic dimensions that translations do not have. However, when my children were small, those texts were hard to find and the selection was limited. That situation has changed somewhat, but in many areas original Spanish texts are still not readily available. However, there are many beautiful translations available now, for example, those by Alma Flor Ada. Both her original Spanish texts and her translations provide a wonderful reading and language-learning experience.
Reading with children is one of the joys of parenting and teaching. Enjoy the richness of children’s literature in Spanish with your child.