Are children's books good for language learning?

I found the following argument very interesting.

In this episode, I react to the never-ending belief that children’s book are good for language learning.
In Today’s Episode:
Why I’ll never recommend that adults should use kids’ books for language learning:
• The vocabulary is NOT high-frequency
• The grammar is NOT simple
• The content is NOT interesting or relevant

Listen to 274: The nonsense of reading children’s books to learn a language from I Will Teach You A Language | Weekly Motivation and Language Learning Tips to Help You Become Fluent in Any Language in Podcasts. ‪

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Olly Richards mentions the following three aspects.

  1. The vocabulary is NOT high-frequency — I agree.
  2. The grammar is NOT simple
  3. The content is NOT interesting or relevant — I tend to agree.

Do you think that the grammar used in children’s books is simple?

"Nearly ten years had passed since the Dursleys had woken up to find their nephew on the front step, but Privet Drive had hardly changed at all. The sun rose on the same tidy front gardens and lit up the brass number four on the Dursleys’ front door; it crept into their living room, which was almost exactly the same as it had been on the night when Mr. Dursley had seen that fateful news report about the owls. Only the photographs on the mantelpiece really showed how much time had passed. Ten years ago, there had been lots of pictures of what looked like a large pink beach ball wearing different-colored bonnets - but Dudley Dursley was no longer a baby, and now the photographs showed a large blond boy riding his first bicycle, on a carousel at the fair, playing a computer game with his father, being hugged and kissed by his mother. The room held no sign at all that another boy lived in the house, too. "
(An exerpt from “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. (Joanne) Rowling)

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“Once upon a time there was a poor widow who lived in a little cottage with her only son Jack.
Jack was a giddy, thoughtless boy, but very kind-hearted and affectionate. There had been a hard winter, and after it the poor woman had suffered from fever. Jack did no work as yet, and they grew dreadfully poor. The widow saw that there was no means of keeping Jack and herself from starvation but by selling her cow; so one morning she said to her son, ‘I am too weak to go myself, Jack, so you must take the cow to market for me, and sell her.’”
(Jack and the Beanstalk)

"I have called this book the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, placing the emphasis on the prefix general. The object of such a title is to contrast the character of my arguments and conclusions with those of the classical theory of the subject, upon which I was brought up and which dominates the economic thought, both practical and theoretical, of the governing and academic classes of this generation, as it has for a hundred years past. "
(“The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money” by John Maynard Keynes)

I think that in the case of very simple kids books, for age say 3 to 6, even a beginner will quickly grow bored of the “storylines” and somewhat repetative word use. If we take the Harry Potter series as an example of kid’s literature, I would say from personal experience that it is quite hard to read those books with all the colorful vocabulary and varied content. When I was enrolled at a japanese university and took technical courses in japanese I still had difficulty with even some simple children’s books.

I’ve actually recently been reading some Harry Potter in Chinese here on Lingq , and my experience is the same as last time. Even though I can function pretty well in Chinese during daily conversations and technical meetings, each chapter of Harry Potter has around 200 new words and the same number of Lingqs, so I’ve still got a lot of vocabulary left to be able to understand a book that a native middle-schooler would have no problem with.

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''Children stories ‘’ are meant to be easy in the sense of the concept . It is intelligible , children can read it as well as adults . Young children will be able to follow the story flow and understand the plot . Meanwhile something like a light novel or fiction- novel will be more difficult to comprehend , but both of them use the same level of grammar and vocabulary . So It is a matter of complexity .

Do you think that children’s books are less “complex” although they use the same level of grammar and vocabularly? Could you be more specific?

Olly Richards thinks that the grammar in children’s books is not simple and the vocabularly is not “high-frequency”. Are children’s books good for language learning?

I think that J. K. Rowling’s novel is grammatically not less complex than John M. Keynes’ treatice for not-so-high-level adult learners of English as a foreign language.

Indeed , i think that children’s books are less complex although they use the same level of grammar and vocabulary .

The different is that ‘’ children’s books ‘’ does not require much of mental ability unlike something such as - ‘‘Death Note’’ which does - Death Note is a Japanese manga series written by Tsugumi Ohba - , on the other hand you have something like Yotsuba - Yotsuba &! (よつばと! Yotsuba to!) is an ongoing Japanese comedy manga series by Kiyohiko Azuma - which does not require much of mental ability to enjoy it .


Yotsuba&! - Wikipedia!

‘’ Are children’s books good for language learning? ‘’
It depends on your level and your interest .

Children’s literature includes: (1) picture books for children who do not yet read (ages 2-6), (2) simple stories for beginning readers (ages 6-9), and (3) stories and non-fiction for children who are already reading on their own competently (approximately ages 8-12). The span of grammar, vocabulary, and and overall literary quality is great.
(1) The first category includes simple grammar and repetitive vocabulary. Yet children in this age group already know orally and correctly use basic grammar (e.g., simple verb tenses, common expressions) and vocabulary pertaining to their immediate life experiences. They can handle new words about things not yet experienced (far off kingdoms) because they are receiving explanations from their parents who are reading to them. By contrast, adult beginners don’t have this “base” from oral speech so all of the grammar and vocabulary is new. In general this level of children’s books is too hard for an adult learner just starting out. (Children’s books which just show individual words with a picture – e.g., colors, animals – although relevant, are boring for most adults.)

(2) The second category includes the simpler grammar and vocabulary that adult learners need but the subjects – about animals and fanciful characters – may or may not be that interesting for adults and still may not be than common (high priority). In Russian, the books at this level contain accent marks which IS really helpful.

(3) This category includes a broad spectrum of plot lines and sophistication. Some, like fairy/folktales, are classics and interesting but they use vocabulary and grammar that is not basic for modern adult learners. Depending on the plots, adults at a high intermediate level or higher may find them useful.

In general, children’s books are not teaching basic vocabulary and grammar since children get that information orally from family and friends. Rather, the plots are vehicles for talking about values, traditions, social norms, behavior, and emotions in ways that the child will find interesting and instructive. This is characteristic of traditional stories, legends, and myths cross-culturally, whether spoken or written.

Personally I have taken out children’s books at various levels in Russian from the library and found the picture books helpful when I reached an intermediate level but I still find Harry Potter too difficult to read comfortably.

Instead what I have found to be the most helpful are popular magazines in the foreign language. They have loads of pictures so one can even learn from the advertisements and they talk about contemporary subjects. Moreover, one can copy an article from their website online and paste it into LingQ, turning it into a lesson. Magazine articles were too difficult for me at the beginner level but are comprehensible for me at the intermediate level and generally are easier than newspaper articles.

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It seems to me that Keynes economic theories are definitely much more understandable than children’s stuff!

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Are you kidding ?

It is about how difficult is the grammar not how complex is the text in the sense of the concept .

And certainly it’s a matter of interesting content,not super easy to find into children’s books!I would add,though,that if someone thinks reading children’s novel or whatever is a good strategy…why not?

I totally agree that ‘’ children’s stuff ‘’ are too tedious .
The thing is does the grammar level is different from something like Keynes economic theories written materials ?

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i really don’t know pal…if you compare the parts of books reported…to my mind,as a non native speaker,as a guy that is trying to improve his English I might say that there are not so important differences in terms of difficult.

Of course I was joking…the meaning of your question was absolutely clear…

well , you see the topic of this thread is ‘’ Do you think that the grammar used in children’s books is simple? ‘’ nevertheless i would like to know what kind of material you usually use to read .

Well if you are talking about some books(let’s say for young adult)I really think they are not so easy in terms of grammar.Sometimes is difficult finding something compelling and interesting…Could i be interested to read Harry Potter’s saga?yes I could…but I could not…It depends…if you are keen on literature(as I am)you might get lots and lots of pleasure by reading Jack London…and the demanding work required could result more simple to manage…Otherwise if you choose a toddler’a book with a few sentences and some pictures I would say…Yes I think I could handle it…Personally I only read about arguments(books,blog,etc.) that I find interesting…Yesterday,for instance,I picked a book about neuroscience written by Manoted Spitzer…and I certainly cannot say that I can read through it with ease…but for my it’s very enjoyable because I love the topic.

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As I noted in my previous post, “children’s literature” is comprised of texts for a wide range of ages and abilities. Lumping them all together is not useful in discussing their value for language learners at various levels…

While I cannot speak about the scope of children’s materials in other countries, I will note that the US and Britain has been a long history of classic literature for children: e.g., “Peter Rabbit,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Winnie the Pooh,” “Charlotte’s Web,” all books by Dr Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Roald Dahl, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the list goes on and on – thousands --and includes picture books and novels at a broad range of reading abilities. There are also classics from all time periods. Some I read as a child and in turn my own children loved. One of my favorites was in English, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” which my mother read to me in a $.19 cardboard edition. I loved the pictures and the prose precisely because it was repetitive. I did not realize that it was in fact written by Dostoyevsky until a few years ago when I started to learn Russian. I tried to read it in Russian but could not as a beginner. It was only when I delved into Russian history and culture that I realized that the illustrations in the book of my childhood depicted a Russian log house in the woods and how culturally situated the story was! These details greatly increased my appreciation of the story AS AN ADULT.

The best “literature” – that is, quality, fictional narratives – weaves together characters, plots, and the rhythm of language to evoke and express issues about human relationships and conditions that transcend the specific plot details. That is why some authors “stand the test of time” and their works become “classics.” This occurs in “children’s literature” as well as in adult literature. To dismiss all “children’s” stories as “tedious,” reflects a poor understanding of the breadth, richness and scope of “children’s literature.” Are you aware, for example, that “Alice in Wonderland” was in fact a parody of British politics by its author? It was – and still is – hardly “childish” in its underlying themes.

Of course not all children’s materials are of the same quality or even need to be. Moreover, some adults like science fiction which is no less fantastical than some children’s stories. As Yukata pointed out, this thread is about the relative grammatical and lexical utility of “children’s materials” for adult language learners at different levels. There is no need to denigrate the subject matter of what you yourself choose not to read.