This is a continuation of the series on Light Reading successes and failures:

My Spanish I students love Zoo Books.  I bought a set of Zoo Books ( in Spanish years ago for the students in my beginning Spanish classes.  This was the soft cover set of 60 or so “books”–they actually look more like magazines than books.  This set was advertised as written for ages 6-12 and there are lots of full color illustrations and short articles in each edition.  They are entirely written in Spanish–no translations and no glossing.

Some factors that have helped to steer my students towards Zoo Books are:  1) I like to read about animals so my enthusiasm trickles down to them, 2) I read these to myself in front of students for my own pleasure occasionally during free reading time, 3) They are displayed prominently in the classroom, 4) I hold up copies and talk about them, highlighting cool stuff in different editions every so often, 5) Students can take more than one Zoo Book for reading time in case they don’t connect with the first one or two–that way they aren’t hopping up and down distracting others during SSR.

What amazes me is that students are actually learning content in Spanish from this reading material even though they are just in level one and obviously reading above their supposed level.  The pictures, students’ own prior knowledge and cognates as well as the brevity and the predictability of the articles all contribute to comprehension.  Here are some recent comments from Spanish I students about Zoo Books they read last week:

“I love reading the Zoobooks because I love animals.  I read new ones and learn something different every time.  They also have bright, vivid pictures.  New words:  insectos, canguros, nocturnos, camelidos, cervidos.

“I read about turtles and owls.  Turtles are predators to many small animals.  I didn’t know that.  Owl’s eyes don’t move, so their heads can move all the way around.  New words:  tortuga, tortugas marinas, lechuzas, concha, gigante.

“In the books I read, I learned that crocodiles have been know to kill lions as well as their own young.  Once their babies reach a certain age, they an no longer live in the same area as their mother because she will eat them.  I also learned that zebras come in different varieties.  I didn’t know that.”

“I read about Serpientes.  There are many kinds of snakes; over 2700 species.  They live in all continents except for Antarctica.  Some are deadly and some are harmless.”

“I learned that cocodrilos open their eggs with their noses.  I also learned stomach is estómago.  I learned that sharks have 32 or 33 vertebrae.”

“I learned that moose will feed on shallow floors of a pond for fresh vegetation.  I also learned that seals have different noses based off of their habitat.  Some noses are open and others closed to a point for diving in deep waters and sleeping in them as well.  Words:  sur= south, norte = north, futuro = future, cetaceos = whales.” (My comment here:  I bet most kids don’t know the word cetaceans in English!)

“I read fauna australiana, los hipopotamos, and los insectos.  These books were very interesting.  I enjoyed reading them.  They had lots of information and many cool pictures.  Words = hipopotamo, osos, insectos, canguro, cosas.

Spanish I students reading steadily in Spanish for 15 minutes, interested and learning as they go.  Self-selected, interest-driven reading that supports other content areas too.  I’ll take it.

Materials Preservation Tip:

I bought a set of 60 soft cover Zoo Books in Spanish years ago and they have all lasted because I taped the spine and the corners of the cover of each one with thick, clear plastic tape.  Without the tape, they would have fallen apart by now.