Picture books with particular characteristics are an authentic and ideal resource for teaching English Learners (ELLs).  The books are organized so that you can select books for ELLs of different ages, different stages of beginner English language proficiency, and for using different language teaching strategies. By clicking on the strategy hyperlink, you will be able to view a description of the language teaching strategy, steps for implementation, other recommended books to use with the strategy, and an example lesson plan. Please click on the link for the Guidebook in a downloadable format. Enjoy! 


There are many lists of books and resources for beginning readers that are rooted in the idea that English is the child’s primary language. What about the children who are learning the English language while learning to read?  This webpage focuses on books for English language learners. Our books focus on helping English Language Learners learn English itself through text-based activities that promote communicative competence.  

Stages of ELL Reading Instruction

Matching texts to ELL stages of language proficiency involves examining the amount and complexity of the book’s language as well as its match to the language in use. First, the books provide ELLs with a social experience in which they absorb the English sound, word, and sentence, and use the system, i.e. English phonological, morphological, syntactic, and pragmatic subsystems. They develop communicative competence, which is the ability to know when, where, and how to use language across contexts. Second, the books provide ELLs with an academic experience in which they are introduced to basic academic language skills.

Early Beginner Stage

Books with a minimal amount of running words and fewer than 20 new words to learn are categorized as Early Beginner Stage books. These books contain salient and simple linguistic elements and patterns characteristic of oral language. These books are short enough to be reread deliberately and with frequent pauses several times in a lesson. The vocabulary consists of basic words, such as numbers, nouns, and verbs used every day. The books often include recurring words and phrases. Early Beginner Stage books act as a “springboard” to learning “here and now” oral language, such as affirming and negating facts, using plural and singular, and following simple directions.  

Intermediate Beginner Stage

Some of the intermediate books have relatively equal linguistic simplicity to those for early beginners but have more running text. They generally contain between 20 – 70 new words that are concrete and word variants. They are meant for emergent readers. The increased length of sentences is often a result of linguistic redundancies, such as repetitive and patterned words, phrases, and text structures. These books build oral fluency.

Other intermediate books have a limited number of running words but are more complex linguistically in terms of the range of vocabulary and sentence structures. They contain devices found across academic texts, such as indexes and labeled illustrations. These books increase exposure to English vocabulary and syntax.

Advanced Beginner Stage

Books for this stage of beginners have more text (a rule of thumb is up to 500 running words) and more complex text (more variety of vocabulary, sentences, and formats) than earlier stage books. An example would be a poem that is accompanied by endnotes. Like all beginner-level books, the content is familiar. These books may contain more written text as compared with the earlier stage books that have more oral text. These books provide a wider variety of language processing. 

This WEB page is organized so that you can find books by the following:

Age-appropriate content

Pre-Reader and Elementary Youth and Young Adults All Ages ELL Teaching Strategies Guidebook