Picture books for ESL Young Learners & little Yogis

I am a fully qualified TEFL teacher and I have just completed a specialist module to certify me to teach young learners. I am also a children’s yoga teacher and I feel like both qualifications go hand in hand and compliment each other well and one day in the future I will be looking to work in a school teaching English and perhaps cute yoga classroom sessions too? For those of you who read my blog you also know I am an avid reader and I adore picture books as well. Children’s picture books are inspiring since in my free time I enjoy creating art and illustrations and I hold a BA Honours degree in Fine Art. Sometimes I do treat myself to a picture book simply because they bring me joy, to revel in the beautiful illustrations and it may inspire me to create my own one day?

I could spend a life time researching and reviewing millions of gorgeous picture books but I’ve kept it to my absolute favourite ten books I think are well suited for an ESL young learners class and if you are a kids yoga teacher looking for new and inspiring stories to create a yoga session from.

Franklin’s flying bookshop By Jen Campbell

Franklin’s Flying Bookshop tells of a dragon (Franklin) who loves books and reading to people but sadly people don’t often love him. That is until he meets a young girl called Luna and the best bookish friendship begins. This is a very adorable story with themes on friendship, being kind, sharing and the importance of reading books.

The illustrations are beautiful and children will instantly be intrigued and engaged in the story.

Lesson plan ideas: Help the children make dragon masks or have a pre-made Franklin painted on the wall and encourage the children to draw and paint their own book which they can stick around Franklin.
You can purchase it here: Franklin’s flying Bookshop


Whose Moon is that? By Kim Krans

This book is about a cat who wonders to whom the moon belongs, and various animals and natural resources respond — the trees, bird, ocean, wolves… and the moon responds. The cat sleeps, and when it wakes up, it wonders, to whom the sun belongs. Lovely use of line and color in these illustrations which will capture your pupils  attention.

A brilliant book to incorporate into a themed lesson about nature and the environment. Encourages children ponder life and how things work.

Lesson plan ideas: Turn the story into a mime dance. Have the children move about and make noises like the many animals in the book as you read the story out to them.
Purchase the book here: Whose Moon is that?


There is a tribe of Kids by Lane Smith

A boy sets off on a journey alone and encounters all kinds of creatures along the way. There is a tribe of young goats (kids). There is a colony of penguins, a pod of whales, a flight of butterflies, and much more. He also sees different groups of objects like a formation of rocks, a family of stars, and a growth of plants.

This book is filled with collective nouns. There is one after another that manage not only to show children the beauty of the language of collective nouns but also move the story ahead. They form into a cohesive journey for our young hero to embark upon.

A lovely book that teaches children about collective nouns, finding your tribe (family), the concept of home and loved ones and understanding that animals on our planet also have families and homes too.

Lesson plan ideas: Split the kids up into small teams and each team gets an animal. It’s a race to stick back together pre-made animal parts. Each child picks up a body part and runs to the other side of the classroom to stick it on the wall decorated in a forest-like theme.
Purchase the book here: There is a Tribe of Kids


A cat learns to listen at Moonlight School by Simon Puttock

This is such a delightful story about a serious subject – listen to what you’re told and don’t wander off!

“Miss Moon is taking her class on a magical moonlit nature walk to see what interesting things they can find. Mouse finds a special starry leaf, Bat finds a swirly snail and Owl finds a swirly stone that LOOKS like a snail. But then Cat follows a flittery firefly and suddenly . . . she’s lost! Luckily, she has left behind lots of clues for her friends to follow, and they soon find a very relieved little Cat, who wished she had listened properly in the first place.” Perfect story for a Halloween themed lesson or a lesson outdoors! Lesson plan ideas: Fancy dress! Have the children make their own witches hats and wizard wands!
Purchase the book here: A cat learns to listen at Moonlight school


Tell me a Dragon by Jackie Morris

Tell Me a Dragon is a supremely imaginative list of dragons that in some ways is simply an excuse for Morris’ gorgeous art, but the art is worth it. Translucent watercolors fill the pages with dragons both oversized and tiny, both beautiful and fearful. The last page is what sold me on it for my storytime though as it ends with the phrase, “Tell me about your dragon.” Here you can go around the room and ask each kid what kind of dragon they want. This book could inspire a great a writing or art prompt, but also as a browsing treat for the fantasy obsessed kids.

A briliant story that teaches children about individuality, how everyone comes in all different shapes, sizes and colours. Lesson plan ideas: Ask the children to draw what their dragon looks like and teach them a song about dragons!
Purchase the book here: Tell me a Dragon


The Book of Dreams by Shirin Adl

A colorful and imaginative journey through the night, with lots of different kinds of dreams, funny, fantastic, wish-fulfilling, exciting.Dreams come in many different shapes and forms. Some dreams are nice and simple, some dreams are confusing – and some are scary. But even these can be exciting!

The book includes bad dreams as well as pleasant dreams, but ends on a positive note, looking forward to bedtime and the next night’s dreams. The pictures have a dream-like quality, with lots to discover and explore. This is a beautiful and unusual picture book for sharing.

Lesson plan ideas: Teach the children about collage making to create their own wacky and textured dreamscapes.
Purchase the book here: The Book of Dreams


The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na

A wonderful quirky story about an elephant and an umbrella. There is much pondering and speculation about the capabilities of an umbrella … and equally its limitations.

The illustrations are childlike, with lovely embellishments in unexpected places. At first glance the umbrella is simply bright red, however if you take a moment to look you’ll see that there’s a design of swirls, raindrops, and clouds on it. It’s the little touches like this that make the illustrations so fascinating.

Lesson plan Ideas: This is actually a great story to read young learners in a vocabulary lesson, just like the elephant they get to learn what the word ‘Umbrella’ is and what it can and can not do. Bring an umbrella into the class as Realia and you can create a mime/drama lesson asking the children to act out what it is or they can pretend it is something else entirely!
Purchase the book here: The Thingamabob


Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher by Becky McCain

This beautifully written story highlights an important element of Native American culture, and exhibits the special relationship a young girl has with her grandmother. After the girl in the story continually has bad dreams, her grandmther shows her a way to avert them by making a dreamcatcher. Her grandmother explains to her the Chippewa story behind the dreamcatcher, and helps her granddaughter construct it after they go out to collect the items they need from nature. I was touched by this book because of the striking illustrations and vivid language, and I am reminded of my relationship with my own grandmother. It showcases how a grandmother’s love and know-how can make everything better, and I love the way it incorporates Native American heritage.

Wonderful story that touches on importance of family, love and home.

Lesson plan ideas: With the help of the book, teach children to make their own dream catcher to take home with them. This would be a wonderful thing for them to show their parents as they tell them what it’s used for and what culture it is from. A great way of teaching kids about other people’s way of life.
Purchase the book here: Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher


The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson

The Snail and the Whale is a heart-warming story about how friendship can come about in the most remarkable way.

A snail stuck on his rock yearns for adventure and to see more of the World. The whale who is passing by offers the snail a chance of adventure and together they set sail seeing: towering icebergs; far off land; huge waves; the enormous sky and so on. The snail is awestruck by all the things he sees and feels his place in the World is very small. That is until the whale gets beached after becoming too curious about some jet-skis and getting to close to land. The snail has to use his ingenuity to rescue the whale and in doing so realises that it doesn’t matter what size you are, you can still help your friends and be recognised in the World. Together the snail and the whale return to the rock they started their journey from and collect all the other snails to go on another adventure. This is a story that teaches about friendship and kindness.

Lesson plan ideas: Have a pre-made whale on a board and pre-made little snail that is sticky and for the children to hold. Blindfold the children and have the take turns in trying to stick the snail on the whale- an adapted version of pin the tail on the donkey!
Purchase the book here: The Snail and the Whale


I don’t want Curly Hair by Laura Anderson

This book is about a little girl with the craziest of curls and her quest to straighten them flat. She doesn’t like what she has and tries many different ways to tame her mane, including hanging upside down, flattening them with a pile of books and even tying balloons to the ends and hoping they pull her air straight. She comes across some obstacles as she tests all her theories which children will find this highly entertaining.

What I loved most about this book was the lesson it taught. As subtle as it was, it beautifully teaches boys and girls how to really appreciate what they have been born with. Straight hair or curly, just love the skin you’re in.

Lesson plan ideas: Take the time to reinforce the message this book gives in the end. I think it’s so important in this day and age, no matter how small, to tell the next generation of kids that beauty comes in all colours, shapes and sizes. Follow up this story with a quick and simple vocabulary activity of going around the room and encourage your pupils to tell their friends the colour of their hair and eyes, showing each other how different, yet unique everyone is.
Purchase the book here: I don’t want Curly Hair

If you are an ESL English teacher or kids yoga teacher reading this and have book recommendations too, please do share. I also hope one day to be able to share my lesson plans using these books in both blog post and PDF format so you may download them for free or pin the blog post to a pinterest board. If you would like me to review a children’s book please do contact me via my contact page.

Here are some more book reviews of a similar theme:
Children’s fictional novel: The Girl of Ink & Stars
Review of three Beautiful Children’s Books
Book Review on the children’s picture book ABC Dream by Kim Krans
Book Haul on Art Therapy Books
Book Haul on more Art Therapy Books

Here is my READ Blog Category where you can read all my book reviews if you wish.

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