1st Steps of Building Library/Prioritizing Purchases

You can find the catalog of all leveled novels here. It’s an amazing resource.

You can find all these books through Fluency Matters, TPRS Books, or on Amazon. For Amazon, this Amazon Wish List is an attempt to collect all the leveled novels on Amazon in 1 place, which is AWESOME!!! You can find some of the books on other websites such as Walmart, Barnes & Nobel, and Teacher’s Discovery as well, if your school won’t let you purchase from the main three sources listed above.

Disclaimer: I’m a Spanish teacher, so I have the most familiarity with the Spanish offerings. However, most of this blog post is applicable the other major languages taught in the US. Even my book suggestions are still somewhat applicable because many of them have been translated into other languages.

Current total of novels by language: The Number 1 problem with building a reading program is how few books exist that are designed for language learners. In 2030, we’ll have a thousand or more at the current publishing rate, but for now, it’s slim pickings.

Spanish: 179 novels
French: 62 novels
Latin: 50 novels
German: 20 novels
Mandarin: 7 novels

Building a Reading Program is a worthy venture. But lots of teachers don’t have $2000 to plop down on getting multiple copies of every novel out there. So, here’s my recommendation for how to build your library strategically:

Start by buying the beginner books. It’s easy to overestimate what students can do when reading independently because they can understand much more complicated language when supported by the teacher in class. At the beginning, students reading independently should read a number of the easiest books before moving up in difficulty. And the teacher should work with them 1-on-1 during reading time to see if they are succeeding at actually decoding each word, rather than reading for overall gist. It’s amazing how frequently students think they are “reading” when really they’re just looking for key words and making up their own narrative, rather than getting better at Spanish decoding each word.

In my experience the level recommended by the author or publishing company is almost always too advanced. I always add 1, so if they say it’s okay for level 3, I think it’ll become easy enough to read independently for most of my students at level 4, not level 3.

After you get a couple copies of the best beginner novels, I would get ONLY 1 COPY of all the rest applicable for your level of classes before getting multiple copies so as to expand your title offerings as quickly as possible.

Buying Selectively

I hate to say it, but it’s true. Not all books are equally as entertaining to students. At the beginning of building a library, you want to buy the best books first. Later on, you can fill in with book that aren’t on my list below and see how they fair in your classroom with your students.

To that end, below are my top picks from each level. There are many other books, and many of them are also good. But these are my favorite at each level. There are also some books I haven’t read yet, especially upper level books, as I scramble to keep up with the pace of new releases. So there’s probably more, great books missing at the more advanced levels than at the beginning levels; although this is less important, since there are many more, great books at the higher levels than the lower levels.

Super, Super Dooper Easy (authors–we need more of these really basic readers. I don’t think that these books by Terry are literary achievements. I mean many of them have basic grammatical errors, even. But they are super helpful to have because for many of my kids, they’re the only books out there easy enough when we launch a reading program half way through level 1. AUTHORS: Please write more super-duper easy books)

  • A Puerco le Gusta Hacer Selfies by Terry Waltz
  • Mavis Está Triste Selfies by Terry Waltz
  • El Cumpleaños de Hebert by Terry Waltz
  • Gio Quiere una Pizza Especial by Terry Waltz
  • Mildred Quiere un Novio by Terry Waltz
  • Craig y Flaca Ven Películas by Terry Waltz
  • ¿Por qué Llora Egbert? by Terry Waltz

Super Easy (good first read for all but the most illiterate students)

  • Edi el Elefante by Emily Ibrahim

Easy (good first reads for most kids)

  • Renata la Piñata by Craig Klein Dexemple
  • Pablito el Ratón by Craig Klein Dexemple
  • La Familia de Federico Rico by Craig Klein Dexemple
  • Capibara con Botas by Mira Canion
  • La Perezosa Impaciente by Mira Canion
  • Llama en Lima by Katie Baker

Not Super Easy but probably Level 1 for most students (not good first reads, except for students with really strong L1 literacy)

  • Brandon Brown Quiere un Perro by Carol Gaab (the easiest linguistically of the series)
  • Agentes Secretos y el Mural de Picasso by Mira Canion
  • Bart Quiere un Gato by Jeremy Jordan (Sr. Jordan) and Mike Coxon
  • Fiesta Fatal by Mira Canion
  • Daniel el Detective by Rebecca Landor and Niki Tottingham
  • Papacito by Craig Klein Dexemple
  • El Escape Cubano by Mira Canion
  • Brandon Brown Dice la Verdad by Carol Gaab
  • Isabela Captura un Congo by Karen Rowan
  • Carl no Quiere Ir a México by Karen Rowen
  • Noches Misteriosas en Granada by Kristy Placido
  • Piratas del Caribe y el Mapa Secreto by Mira Canion
  • El Día Malo, Terrible, y Deprimente de Ignacio Soria Alarcón by El Tuerto Guty
  • Tomatanza by El Tuerto Guty

Bridging to level 2 / Level 2 for most students

  • Ataques de Hambre by Eric Herman
  • Conexiones by Bryce Hedstrom (Non-fiction, an encyclopedia of Latin America)
  • La Bella Mentira by A. C. Quintero (is the 2nd book in the series. La Clase de Confessiones is the first book, but my students have complained that La Clase de Confessiones moves too slow. And Quintero summarizes the La Clase de Confessiones in the first two chapters of La Bella Mentira, so you really can just read the second book by itself. Students have reported that they like this better.)
  • El Pombero by Craig Klein Dexemple
  • Esperanza by Carol Gaab
  • Superburguesas by Mike Peto
  • Brandon Brown y el Nuevo Houdini by Carol Gaab
  • Felipe Alou by Carol Gaab
  • La Isla Más Peligrosa by John Sifert
  • Rival by Mira Canion
  • Mata la Piñata by Kristy Placido
  • Pancho y las Momias by Rachel Emery
  • Santana by Ben Lev
  • La Llorona de Mazatlán by Katie Baker
  • Cómo Salir de la Zona de Amigos by A.C. Quintero



Most of the books above this level get pretty interesting because expanding vocab helps so much to make books interesting. SO BUY THEM ALL!!!

However, my favorites for advanced students are (in order by difficulty more or less):

  • Billy y las Botas by Sr. Wooly (Many people are going to think that I’m crazy for putting Sr. Wooly’s books at level 3 and up, but it’s true. I’ve observed a lot of my strong level 2 honors kids try to read them independently, and these books are still too hard for them. They struggle through them because they are so awesome, but it’s really a level 3 book in my opinion. They are wonderful, but the text is hard. I require my students to know or look up every word on the page. That’s how they get good at reading in L2, not by skimming for the gist or main idea. And if you require your students to do that as well, you will see that level 2 kids are WAAAAY too reliant on the glossary. The books are wonderful, but harder than one would think based of the graphic novel format.)
  • La Casa de las Dentistas by Sr. Wooly 
  • Victor by Sr. Wooly
  • La Madre Perfecta by Rachel Emery
  • Sueños de la Isla by JJ Hill
  • La Novia Perfecta by Bryan Kandal
  • Atún by El Tuerto Guty
  • Las Tres Pruebas by Andrew Snider
  • Piratas del Caribe y el Triángulo de Bermuda by Carol Gaab and Christine Tiday
  • La Estatua by Jeremy Jordan
  • Vector by Carrie Toth
  • Anabela por Siempre by Christine Tiday
  • El Último Viaje by A.C. Quintero
  • La Puerta al Sahara by Christine Tiday
  • Meche y las Ballenas by Mike Peto
  • Las Aparencias Engañan by A.C. Quintero
    • El Armario (2nd book in series) by A.C. Quintero
    • Las Sombras (3rd book in series) by A.C. Quintero
  • Casi Me Mata el Celular by A. C. Quintero
  • La Rosa de los Vientos by Christine Tiday
  • Capitán de los Vientos by Christine Tiday
  • La Calaca Alegre by
  • Los Sobrevivientes by Bryan Kandal
  • Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha by Anonomous Author
  • Casa Dividida by Chris Mercer
  • La Hija del Sastre por Carrie Toth and Carol Gaab
  • La Guerra Sucia by Nathaniel Kirby



A note on books for Heritage Learners:

Most likely, Heritage Learner classes are going to have a tremendous breadth of reading levels in the L2, possibly from illiterate fluent speakers who have never read a book in the L2 all the way up to college-level readers whose parents read to them diligently in the L2 in childhood and who have kept up a reading habit in the L2 over the years. To meet this need for differentiation, Heritage teachers will have to maintain an even more extensive library than non-Heritage teachers. They will have to buy all the leveled novels to meet the needs of the less-literate HLs, but they’ll also need to buy a bunch of authentic young adult and adult literature for the advanced HLs who are ready for it.

Mike Peto talks about this extensively here and in his book for teachers of HLs called Practical Advice for Teachers of Heritage Learners of Spanish 2nd Edition on pgs. 262-269. And there’s a Facebook group dedicated to teachers of HL here. Mike also suggests many titles for Spanish HLs here.