Picture Books on Learning English

March 14, 2013 | Debby

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Public libraries are a wonderful place to discover many different books on a variety of topics. The picture book format may have been written for children, but these valuable books can also be enjoyed by people of all ages. 

Learning the English language has it's difficulties and there is no shortage of books and stories that highlight these frustrations. The following is a small list of picture books that underline and focus on the distress and irritations in learning a new language.


Carmen Learns English by Judy CoxCarmen Learns English by Judy Cox is about Spanish-speaking student, Carmen, who has newly-arrived in the United States from Mexico. Carmen is apprehensive about going to school and learning English, until friends show her new English words. 

I Hate English! by Ellen LevineI Hate English! by Ellen Levine is about young girl, Mei Mei who moves to New York from Hong Kong with her family. Mei Mei finds it difficult to adjust to school, while learning the alien sounds of English and does not understand the need to learn a new language.

 In English of Course by Josephine Nobisso
In English of Course
by Josephine Nobisso is about Italian-born, Josephine, who tries to tell her new American class about her life in Italy, in English of course. Through multicultural miscommunications, Josephine makes herself understood.

 Marianthe's Story, Painted Words and Spoken Memories by Aliki 

Painted Words by Aliki is a book of two stories. One is the telling of Mari's starting school in a new land, and the second describing village life in her country before she and her family left in search of a better life. Mari's paintings are used as the medium for her narration as she struggles to understand a new language at school.


Uncle Rain Cloud by Tony JohnstonUncle Rain Cloud by Tony Johnston is about young Carlos, who tries to help his uncle, frustrated and angry at his inability to speak English, adjust to their new home in Los Angeles.


My Name is Yoon by Helen RecorvitsMy Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits is all about Korean-born "Yoon" who dislikes her name written in English, and refers to herself as "cat," "bird," and "cupcake," as a way to feel more comfortable in her new school and new country. As she learns the meaning of her Korean name, she begins to accept her place in her new home.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is about new student, Unhei, and her name that nobody can pronounce. After Unhei moves from Korea to the United States, her new classmates help her decide what her name should be by putting their suggestions into a jar.


All these books and more are available at the 98 Toronto Public Libraries throughout the city. For more information on where to locate these books, please click on the book image or visit our main page at www.torontopubliclibrary.ca

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Also have a look at one of our New to Canada blogger's post on Discover Canada in Children's Picture books for more picture book choices!

What's your favourite picture book?