The Complete Guide to Choosing Books for EFL Learners (Part 1)

The Complete Guide to Choosing Books for EFL Learners (Part 1)

“Can you recommend a book for my students?” This is the number question we get every day. So we’d like to help make better recommendations. How do we help you find the perfect books?

So many books, so little time!

First, let’s look at all the different types of books there are:

  • Textbooks
  • Guided/Leveled Readers
  • Storybooks/Picture books
  • Comic books/Graphic Novels
  • Novels (Paperbacks/Hardbacks)
  • Special Books


Text books are a combination of vocabulary lists, grammar explanations, dialogues, and reading passages with review questions. Information is presented in a systematic way and follows standards set by publishers or educational institutions.

In China, EFL and ESL textbooks are used in public schools, private schools, training centers and private tutors. Some parents have started to request textbooks from overseas, but we think this is quite impractical as the materials are not designed for EFL learners and the content will not match their current developmental phase. 

When choosing a textbook think about these main things:

  1. How often will you be using books in the classroom? Are they for extra at-home study? 
  2. What’s your budget?
  3. How important is it that you use a well-recognized publisher like Oxford, Scholastic, Longman, etc?
  4. Does the content match the age level and English language level of your students?
  5. Do you prefer British English or American English?
  6. Does it include extras like flashcards, workbooks, audio materials, etc?

Guided/Leveled Readers

A leveled book is a large set of books organized in levels of difficulty from the easy books that a beginning reader might begin, to the longer, complex books that advanced readers will select.

These books might offer some reflection questions or vocabulary review at the end, but some don’t. They are usually not very long. They usually have bright colorful pictures in the earlier levels to help students infer and guess meaning by looking at the pictures. 

There are MANY different leveling systems.

In leveled reading, a teacher listens as a student reads a piece of text at a given reading level. If the child makes two-to-five mistakes per one hundred words, that is considered the “instructional” level. Zero or one mistakes means the book is too easy; six or more mistakes and that level is the “frustration” level. Children are then offered lots of books at their “just right” level on the theory that if they read extensively and independently, language growth and reading proficiency will follow, setting the child on a slow and steady climb through higher reading levels.

They are very different from story books because they lack the natural and native language that parents or teachers would use for native children. 

There are also readers that are based on Sight Words lists or Phonics. 

These type of books are best for students who want to practice reading skills and become independant readers. 

Storybooks (also known as Picture books)

These type of books are usually read by a teacher or parent to a student or child.  For younger learners from ages 2-5 the contents are usually based on daily objects, colors, numbers, animals, alphabet, opposites, etc. For ages 4-8, the content starts to include stories. Higher level of storybooks still include pictures but may also begin to include longer sections of text. 

They are great for teaching many things. However, it will not be similar to the English found in textbooks, so we DON’T recommend using storybooks for teaching students to read. We DO recommend you use storybooks to increase creativity, and problem solving, and to hear the rhythm and flow of the language. Storybooks provide a way to introduce different cultures and vocabulary. But most of all, use them to teach students to love the language! 

Here at TeachersHouse we seperate them into 3 levels:

Level A Beginners – one word or short sentence per page

Level B Intermediate – two to three sentences per page

Level C Advanced – paragraphs on one page, picture on the other. 

Level A Storybooks COULD be used for learning to read, BUT usually when we tell stories it happens in past tense. Young learners aren’t often introduced to this in public schools or training centers until much later grades. 

Level B Storybooks are usually rhyming books, kids are usually pretty good at remembering these and even reciting them if you read them a lot. They are great for performing in a short show. 

Level C Storybooks would be best for English corner activities, or for listening practice at home. I’ve even used them with higher level students and adults! Many adults I teach have children at home, I encourage them to read storybooks and translate and explain to their children. 

Workbooks & Activity Books

These are books where students can write inside or color. Some textbooks offer them as a set, others are sold individually to practice certain skills. 

Board Books

These are picture books printed on hard cardboard for younger learners (ages 1-3) So that the child can hold the book and learn how to turn pages without much damage to the pages. Best for parents and teachers to read together with the student.

Comic Books & Graphic Novels

Comic books are like a magazine that tells a story in several parts in the form of a comic strip, typically featuring the adventures of a superhero. Some are for younger kids, but most are not! Graphic novels tell more complex stories but using a comic strip format and aren’t necessarily about superheros. 

They are available in different levels. They are perfect for relcutant readers and middle grades. 

Novel (Paperback or Hardback)

A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, normally in prose (not poetry) and published as a book. They are general sorted by genre.

Fiction, Non-Fiction, Classic, Young Adult, Etc. 

Special Books

This includes all type of interesting books! Cloth books, pop up books, lift the flap books, AR books, sticker books, and many more!

No matter which type of book you need, we’re more than happy to help you find exactly what you’re looking for! Join our shopping group today to get personalized recommendations.


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