Top 20 Bilingual Books for Spanish/English Learners

Posted: September 25, 2020 | Updated: September 25, 2020
Created by: Ms. Sylvia

As an educator, one of the trends in education that I am most grateful for is the growing appreciation for bilingualism and bilingual education. Knowing (or learning) more than one language has incredible cognitive benefits, including to the ability to focus, remember, and make decisions. Bilingualism also correlates with logical reasoning, abstract thinking, and understanding of the construction of language. It has also been shown to improve empathy, increase self-control, and increase ability to focus on the most relevant information. For more information on the benefits of being bilingual, check out this flyer (with research citations!) for early childhood education centers.

Being bilingual is beautiful and these books offer wonderful bilingual stories. They are perfect for children who are already bilingual, for children who are learning either English or Spanish, or for children who are currently monolingual to be exposed to a new language. In this list, you'll find books for a wide variety of ages. Some are completely translated into both languages, some simply use phrases in one language or another, but all share the beauty of language with their readers.

  1. Animal Talk: Mexican Folk Art Animal Sounds in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill
    "Ki-kiri-ki! Cock-a-doodle-doo!" Both of these phrases describe the sound a rooster makes, but see how beautiful and different they are? This board book does a beautiful job of introducing and celebrating the differences in language. It is simple and delightful -- not only for the youngest audience, but for adults too!
  2. Cerca / Close by Juan Felipe Herrera and Blanca Gómez
    What are we close to? Exploring that question in relation to proximity and emotions, this simple book builds vocabulary and starts discussions. Very sweet for the little ones!
  3. Dias Y Dias/Days and Days: Bilingual Spanish-English Children's Book by Ginger Foglesong Guy and Rene King Moreno
    I love the illustrations in this simple book for preschoolers or for early readers! A great choice to revisit again and again.
  4. En Las Piernas de Mamá / On Mother's Lap (Bilingual) by Ann Herbert Scott and Glo Coalson
    Have you ever felt jealous of the attention a sibling gets? If so, you'll resonate with this story. Beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully told, this simple story is a wonderful one to share with young children who are struggling with sharing.
  5. My Colors, My World: Mis Colores, Mi Mundo by Maya Gonzalez
    Filled with vibrant colors and interestingly-styled drawings, Mis colores, Mi Mundo/ My Colors, My World pulls us into another world. It reinforces color names, but in a beautiful and creative way.
  6. Waiting for the Biblioburro/Esperando El Biblioburro: (Spanish-English Bilingual Edition) by Monica Brown and John Parra
    I love stories about books, libraries, and reading, so it's little wonder this is one of my favorite picture books! Based on a true story, this book celebrates literacy and the impact that books and those who care about them can make.
  7. Floating on Mama's Song/Flotando En La Cancion de Mama by Laura Lacamara and Yuyi Morales
    As someone who loves to sing and loves to hear great singing, I love everything about this story that weaves magical realism into an earnest representation of the power of using your voice -- and what is lost when you don't use it.
  8. Dalia's Wondrous Hair / El Maravilloso Cabello de Dalia by Laura Lacámara
    Wondrous hardly covers how amazing Dalia's hair is. Her hair grows and grows, "straight up to the sky"! What can you do with such wondrous hair? Find out in this delightful and fanciful story! The non-fiction guide to creating a butterfly garden included in the book is another gem!
  9. Maya's Blanket/La Manta de Maya by Monica Brown and David Diaz
    What connection do we have to our ancestors? This story recreates the Yiddish folksong "Hob Ikh Mir a Mantl"/ "I Had a Coat" in a new context, by telling the story of a special blanket given to a little girl, Maya, by her grandmother. That blanket becomes many other things over time, but the memories and connection it represents are what is irreplaceable. A beautiful story!
  10. The Storyteller's Candle / La Velita de Los Cuentos by Lucia Gonzalez and Lulu Delacre
    Set near Three Kings’ Day during the Great Depression, this story tells the hope that a great storyteller can bring by sharing the story of New York City's first Puerto Rican librarian, Pura Belpré.
  11. Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match: Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown and Sara Palacios
    Marisol McDonald is a multi-racial girl who loves the things about herself and her life that seem mismatched to others. She celebrates it all and in doing so sends a great message to readers in this joyful, boisterous story.
  12. I Love Saturdays y Domingos by Alma Flor Ada and Elivia Savadier
    Our narrator loves her Saturdays with her White grandparents and loves that she spends los domingos (Sundays) with her Abuelito y Abuelita, who are Mexican-American. This book celebrates the love that's common to all backgrounds and the joy that comes from fully loving and understanding your background.
  13. My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña
    A beautiful story of a little girl's love for her father, who takes her on a motorcycle ride through their neighborhood after work. Though mostly in English, this picture book has phrases in Spanish and is so beautifully told that I had to include it.
  14. Yum! ¡mmmm! ¡qué Rico! Americas' Sproutings by Pat Mora and Rafael Lopez
    Beautifully written and beautifully illustrated... but maybe read it after a meal so you don't get too hungry? Be prepared to have your mouth water at these delicious bilingual descriptions of foods from the Americas!
  15. In My Family / En Mi Familia by Carmen Garza
    This beautiful picture book describes boisterous celebrations alongside quite, special moments in this tribute to the author's Mexican-American family. You'll see family dinners and outings at a favorite restaurant, and you'll meet grandparents, parents, and community.
  16. The Day It Snowed Tortillas / El Día Que Nevó Tortilla: Folk Tales Retold by Joe Hayes (Revised) by Joe Hayes and Antonio Castro L
    The folk tales in this book are full of magic and fun, making them a great read aloud (or solo read) for elementary-aged children.
  17. Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
    Stef Soto, our heroine, is picked up from middle school every day in the family taco truck. She's teased about it and wishes she could have a "normal" ride... but finds pride in the family business as she tries to save it! This is a great book for middle grade readers. You can buy an edition in English or Spanish here on Bookshop, but even the English edition has phrases in Spanish. I would recommend this book for 5th - 8th graders.
  18. Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya
    Cuban-American Emma has ADHD and a passion for welding, computer boards, and all sorts of cool skills, but she is not yet the mujercita her abuela wants her to be. She works in the family auto-repair shop and is also trying to repair her father, who has just returned from deployment and isn't the same as she remembered. I absolutely LOVED this middle-grade story about Emma's amazing family and her community, both of which are changing. Spanish, Spanglish, and English are used throughout the book without any translation. Our job as readers is to meet and understand Emma where and as she is! I would recommend this book for 5th grade and up!
  19. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya
    Another great book by Pablo Cartaya (the author of Each Tiny Spark), this book is the American Library Association's 2018 Pura Belpré Honor Book. 13-year-old Cuban-American Arturo is excited to start working at his Abuela's restaurant, La Cocina de la Isla. He juggles his disappointment at that job being as a dishwasher, his often-embarrassing crush on Carmen, Abuela's illness, and the prospect of losing the 20-year-old restaurant to gentrification. Arturo has a lot going on, but finds strength and courage through the love of his family. I would recommend this book for mature 5th graders and up!
  20. Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States edited by Lori M. Carlson, introduction by Oscar Hijuelos
    This book is intended for a Young Adult audience (that’s 13+, depending on maturity). It tells important stories through poems about what it's like to grow up Latine in the US. Because it’s written by many different authors from many different places, these poems offer a variety of perspectives, with contributors including Sandra Cisneros, Martín Espada, and Gary Soto. I would recommend this collection for 7th graders through high school-- and for all adults, too!