Teaching kids Spanish: resources

by Alenka

Me and my son, together, just started learning Spanish. This is an ever growing list of useful resources that I was able to find so far:

Please, please, please add to it via your own comments below or posts on the forum! I am sure that all of us can benefit from more suggestins and favorites!

Websites for Parents

  • Yahoo Education Spanish Dictionary: free online Spanish English dictionary with sound files for many words.
  • Text-To-Speech (TTS) — Our Demo Speaks Your Text: I love this free tool for creating presentations and learning new words that I don’t know how to pronounce. They have different voices: male and female. When I am reading a new book to my child, I often put in an entire phrase to hear how it sounds and, the best of all, I can save it on my computer for future use!
  • Merriam-Webster Spanish-English Dictionary: another free online dictionary. Sound files only for English words.
  • Study Spanish: I use this site for myself, for clearing up rules of pronunciation, grammar, etc. Lots of excellent free information with sound demonstrations.

Websites for Kids

  • Children’s Literature in Spanish : (thanks to Laurie Tiemens for sharing this link!)
  • Stories in Spanish from IPL: (thanks to Laurie Tiemens for sharing this link!)
  • Story Place: (thanks to Haleigh Trusty for sharing this link) stories, with animations in both English and Spanish.
  • NY Public Library books: (thanks to Haleigh Trusty for sharing this link)
  • Jasnon’s Online Reading Resources: (thanks to Haleigh Trusty for sharing this link) – links to variety of animated stories in different languages
  • Palo Alto College Books On Line: (thanks to Haleigh Trusty for sharing this link) – lots of classics. Has text and audio, I don’t know if it is fully interactive.
  • Interactive Spanish Games for Kids: few free simple games to help learn numbers, parts of the body, etc.

Books and CDs for Kids

Of course, there are tons of excellent books for kids in Spanish! But this is a list of books my family became especially fond of or some of you recommended to check out. Many of the books include a CD with the full story and songs, so I’ve combined CDs and Books into one category.

  • La gata perdida / The Missing Cat (Las Aventuras De Nicolas / Adventures With Nicholas) [AUDIOBOOK]: this book comes with a CD. The story is excellent – it introduces colors, questions, food, seasons, days of the week… slowly. With many repetitions of the words and phrases that are already familiar from previous pages. The complexity of the story grows… slowly. And the best part of all: it has a CD, that we listen while we read, that we listen in a car, that we listen absolutely everywhere. I’ve ordered other parts of this series – “A visit to Grandma” and “The Five Crayons”.
    June 30 2008 update: My son is now almost three and his absolute favorite is “The Five Crayons” – colors, rooms, objects… he finds it fascinating. We read it almost every day and often listen the CD in the car.
    Summary: The entire series is remarkable. If there were more books in this series, I’d gladly buy it!
  • I Can Read Spanish: I’m Too Big (I Can Read Spanish): “An elephant and a giraffe are both dissatisfied with things about themselves, until they talk to each other.” Nice pictures, bilingual simple text, body parts, funny book. I’ve seen “Good night everyone” in the same series and it is not nearly as good.
    June 30 2008 update: We have “Puppy Finds a Friend”, “Hurry up Molly”, “I want my Banana”, “Happy Birthday”, “Get Dressed, Robbie”, “Space Postman” – all are very good. We read at least one of them daily, but usually my son just keeps bringing them one by one. “Puppy Finds a Friend”, “Hurry up Molly”, “I want my banana” – are the best, but my son loves them all. The only one I’ve never risked ordering is about a goldfish dying – that topic seemed a bit premature for my son, so we skipped it. Otherwise – another great bilingual series.
  • ¿Eres tu mi mamá?/Are You My Mother?My son is in love with this book both in English and Spanish. I wish we had a CD like this! Again, the text builds up slowly, all objects have corresponding pictures, many phrases repeat.
  • Ve, Perro. Ve!: Go, Dog. Go!: my son loves English version, so this little board book is one of his favorites. Many repetitions, easy to understand words and concepts, fun to read and easy to remember.
  • Let’s Sing and Learn in Spanish, Book and CD Edition by Neraida Smith (Thanks to Leah Jervis for sharing this): “This is good for a child growing up speaking Spanish, various songs and games to go along with it.”
  • Let’s Learn Spanish Coloring Book. Anne-Francoise Pattis (Thanks to Leah Jervis for sharing this): “All kids like to color so might as well have a coloring book in Spanish as well.”
  • Learn Spanish Together Living Language (Thanks to Leah Jervis for sharing this): “This is the Living Language series I talked about that I love! Stickers for the house, 3 activity books and 3 CDs for interactive learning together. You could basically plan some homeschooling type courses almost every day. If I have children I am definitely going to use this with them.” This is link to a casette version. I couldn’t find CD version.
  • (Thanks to Leah Jervis for sharing this): “Below are some books, you’ll see there are some publishers that specialize in bilingual books and you could by lots of them on a
    variety of subjects. They are generally cheap small ones range from 4.99-6.99 a large Dora book may be $10 or so. You can buy a few at a time.
  • 1a
  • Los números / Numbers, Dorling Kindersley Publishing, DK Publishing Staff
  • Las formas/Shapes, DK Publishing Staff
  • ¡Buenas noches bebé! / Good Night, Baby!, Dorling Kindersley Publishing, DK Publishing, DK Publishing, Inc.
  • My Food/Mi comida, Rebecca Emberley
  • What Color Is It? / ¿Qué color es éste?, Pamela Cote, Pamela Zagarenski
  • Los colores / Colors: A Bilingual Book, Dorling Kindersley Publishing
  • Dora’s Book of Words: Libro de palabras de Dora, Thompson Brothers Staff, Phoebe Beinstein
  • Dora’s Opposites: Opuestos de Dora, Robert Roper, Phoebe Beinstein
  • Dora the Explorer: Count with Dora!: A Counting Book in English and
    Spanish, Thompson Brothers Staff, Phoebe Beinstein
  • How Do I Feel? / ¿Cómo me siento? (Good Beginnings (UN Buen
    Comienzo) Series), Pamela Cote, Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries, Pamela
    Zagarenski
  • Easy Spanish Storybook: Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Book + Audio CD) by Ana Lomba and Easy Spanish Storybook: Little Red Riding Hood (Book + Audio CD). My son loves it. The pictures are bright and funny, the text structure is very nicely repetitive (i.e. remembering words and phrases comes intuitively). The CD was a little disappointing. I was hoping for different voices, or sound effects to brighten up the story… may be some music on the background? Nothing of this sort. Despite we listen to different fairy tails in the car all the time, my son doesn’t have the patience to listen to this entire story, and I can’t blame him. The book is still worth it and it is nice to listen to the CD at least once to know how to pronounce the new words.
  • Teach Me Spanish (Paperback and Audio CD): A Musical Journey Through the Day by by Judy Mahoney. This is also a coloring book. My son loves to draw, but he is not old enough to enjoy coloring books. So I wish that this book was nice and colorful. The songs are good and catchy, but a lot of them are performed at two languages at the same time. It should be a good thing… if the verses in English and Spanish would go one after another. Instead some songs are beautifully orchestrated with words in both languages running almost simultaneously! It’s a beautiful musical style, but since I bought this CD not for musical reasons, I wish the words were nice and clear. A lot of songs are performed by a chorus of kids. Again – excellent chorus, but it is so hard to make out the words! One performer is really enough for a beginner.
  • Baby’s First Words in Spanish by Living Language. Thanks to Krista for sharing this: I love the CD “Baby’s First Words in Spanish”. There are songs and poetry. The music is great. It even comes with a 96 page little
    book about raising bilingual children. I have bought several CD’s wanting to teach my children Spanish and they were lousy. This is one you can listen to over and over. I would rate it 5 stars.

Software

  • Rosetta Stone: it is the most highly recommended software. I’ve finally got my own copy – it is remarkable! I am completely in love with it! My hope that we’ll go through it with my 2 year old didn’t materialize – he can’t use it yet, but I use it all the time, I love how intuitive and fun it is, and how quickly it allows to pick up words. The only two donwsides I found were: lack of dictionary and lack of grammar portion. Around lesson 9 I’ve realized that articles and grammatical rules of inflections made a complete mess in my head: I can repeat the phrases I’ve heard, but I am not sure how to compose my own ones, since I am not sure which article definite, which is indefinite, etc. So, in my links to Spanish websites you can find some sites that helped to fill in the blanks. I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

DVDs, Videos, TV programs

  • MUZZY: This cartoon is very cute, but I don’t think you can learn Spanish by watching it. When I was new to Spanish, I found the text they say very unclear. Once I learned those words and phrases outside of “Muzzy”, I could figure out what text is supposed to be there. My son loves the cartoon, but we watch it only occasionally, as a special treat, as an entertaining way to reinforce things we learn. Though my two year old insists on watching only episodes with Muzzy, skipping all the love-drama portion of the story! :)
  • SPANISH 4 KIDS 10-DISK PROGRAM: this is a “home-made” collection of DVDs and CDs, that help adults and kids to learn Spanish. We just started watching 1st kids disk. There are many positive reviews on the product, but my own two year old is not thrilled: the text is mostly narrated by kids, dressed as clowns, talking to hand-puppets, actually talking socks. Even though I am not fond of clowns, I found that they are doing a very good job: the text is nice and clear, the video is very simple, but well-done. But for my two-year old, talking socks are a very boring site. On the other hand, my friend borrowed the disks for her five year old and he is mesmerized! Her own two year old is as indifferent, as my son. So, I guess, this set of DVDs work better for older kids. We tried listening to the CDs, but they are probably targeted at adults: just phrases that are not connected with each other, in English and Spanish. No songs, no rhymes, so even I started feeling sleepy, just a collection of very odd phrases. I started falling asleep. I guess I had to watch all other DVDs for these phrases to make sense, while I concentrated only on kids’ staff.
    June 23 2008 update: I finally tried the adult set of videos! Greatly disappointed! Looks very much like a power point presentation: a slide with some rules (I’ve got to give them credit – well phrased and laconic). Then a slide with one sample phrase and a silly picture. Then a slide with an irregular verb forms. Again, one phrase with one of the forms being used as an example. Everything all over again. The rules appearing on the screen and verb forms, are not being read loud, just the sample phrases. So you have to pay attention the entire time you watch – not something that can be turned on during cooking, or sorting laundry, even though the introductory message is enraging to watch them at least 5 or 6 times. I tried about three times – couldn’t proceed – too boring and, as I said, I couldn’t combine it with anything else. The words in the sample phrases are not repeating themselves (I was hoping if the word “bread” appears in the first phrase, and will repeat itself again later, like it does in Rosetta Stone Computer program, so that I INTUITIVELY remember/recognize it). Honestly, I got very bored. The phrases are not connected – “A guitar has 6 strings.” “A boy is on the island.” It looks like they had some pictures at their disposal and they were matching the phrases to the pictures, not the pictures to the best fitting examples.
    Summary: turned out to be a waste of money for us – my son is still not interested in sock puppet and clowns. I found adult dvds useless.
  • Sing, Watch and Learn Spanish DVD Edition. Agnes Chavez. (Thanks to Leah Jervis for sharing this): “This video is awesome! It has various themes with songs and music of different Latin cultures that teach you basic Spanish words. It’ll help you with your pronunciation when you are reading the books as well as teach the child things they need to know.”

CDs and other audio resources

  • Some of the books that I’ve listed have CDs in them: see Books section.

Toys

  • Bilingual Telly The Teaching Time Clock: very cute clock that tells you the time both in English and Spanish. We play with this toy every single day: my son brings it to my bed to go over all the exciting things we’ll do today, while Telly the clock tells us how this time sounds in English and Spanish (I add Russian version). I like that we are learning Spanish, numbers and even understanding time at the same time!
  • Bilingual English/Spanish Chatterbox Teaching Telephone: this adorable looking phone is tons of fun – it recites numbers and shapes, even allows to play “Find it” types of games. We always have someone “chatting” with it.
  • LeapFrog Read & Write LeapPad: this is one of our most useful learning aids. I’ve bought a few Spanish books for this pad, as well as excellent books on geography, history, science, human body, dinosaurs, music, etc. Our favorite books are by Quantum. My son loves listening to the bursts of information while he points the “pen” to the pages of the book. I just wish that I didn’t buy “read and write” version of this Leappad: my two year old can’t resist the temptation to cover all the books with his Picasso-like scribbles. I’ve removed the “pencil” part of the leappad, but my son still turns, twists, takes the pen apart that results in a wild array of signals to the leappad and even wilder text. I really want to buy a Quantum pad on ebay and put this one aside until my two year old is old enough to distinguish which books are for writing and which are just for reading. Though… those who have older kids complain that books get destroyed very quickly by constant erasing. Non-writing pad is just better, I guess.

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