In today’s article we’re going to go over the series of kids picture books published by Apricot. Picture books are an essential tool for any English teacher that has young children’s classes. They are great way to introduce new vocabulary, phrases and basic questions. They are also a great way to calm down an overexcited or chaotic class. Simply said you need a good series of picture books.
The Apricot series of picture books has 10 different books. Each book is around 30 pages long. Each book also has a CD. Each CD has recordings of a native English speaker reading the stories. The books are all colorfully illustrated. You also have a choice of sizes for the books. There is a “regular” size, around 20 cm x 20 cm and there is a “big” size that is around 40 cm x 40 cm. They offer workbooks and CD-ROMs for each book. I can’t really talk about how good these are because I’ve never used them but for reasons I’ll talk about later I’m a little skeptical on how useful these can really be.
Student Age Range: from 15 and up
Author: Mikiko Nakamoto
I’ve bought and used a lot of ESL kids picture books over the years. The problem I found with ESL picture books is that there such a wide range of quality. Some picture books are really well made and very useful in classes. Others are next to worthless. If you’re lucky enough to find these at a local bookstore then you can take a quick look inside them and determine how useful they would be. But today most people order their books online and most publishers do not allow you to see all of the pages of the books. I can say without a doubt that Apricots picture book series are some of the best I’ve used over the years. Not only do I like using them but my students love them and look forward to me reaching into my bag because they’re anticipating one of their favorite stories. So let’s talk about what makes these books good.
First off, the stories are interesting and very often funny. The way the stories were created tends to create a feeling of anticipation in the students. My students like to guess what is going to come on the next page or if they’ve heard the story before they like to scream out what’s going to come.
Second, the English that was chosen to tell the stories is perfect for a kids class. For the most part the vocabulary phrases used in the stories are easy for the students to remember. The author also repeats various key vocabulary and phrases within each story to help the students remember the new words and phrases.The illustrations are very colorful and bright and are very good at keeping the students attention on you while you read the books.The CDs that come with the books are generally of a good quality and could be very useful if you are a non-native teacher. The CDs also have songs and chants that you can use in your classes. To be honest I have never used songs very much in my younger kids classes. It’s not that I don’t find them useful is just that they never really fit with my personal teaching style.
When I’m looking for a new ESL picture book the most important thing for me is that the books have interesting and fun stories that use basic vocabulary words and phrases that young students can remember and understand. When I read one of the stories, for the most part the students are laughing out loud, not only repeating but also remembering the key vocabulary and phrases. For this reason alone I recommend these books to any teachers.
There is no doubt that this series of picture books are very well made and can be very useful in your classes. But that’s not to say that they are perfect. Some stories work better than others. Titles such as “Tiny Boppers”, “A Beautiful Butterfly”, “Who Stole the Cookies?” or “My Pet” are perennial favorites in all of my kids classes. When I sit down to read a book the students call out for me to read their favorite. One student might say “The cookie book” and another might say “Tiny Boppers”. These titles are close to perfect. Other titles are not bad but I would just give them a “good” rating. For example, “Our Sweet Home” is a book where the Key Point is teaching the basic phrases “What is this?”, “What is that?” And “It’s a ______.” The illustrations are beautiful but I found that some of the vocabulary used is a little too specific. I would have preferred that they use more basic and general vocabulary words. Another title such as “Pal the Parrot” aims to introduce basic sentence structures such as “My name is______” or “Nice to meet you” through a story of Bob and his pet parrot that mimics everything Bob says. The idea is great but when you actually read the book very often the children are slightly confused. You generally have to read this book a couple of times for the children to “get it”. Another book titled “What can you do?” starts off very well and normal with phrases such as “I can swim, I can run, I can climb a tree” but towards the end of the book starts using much more complicated ideas such as “We can learn from our past”, “We can make each other happy”, “We can even make weapons and start wars but only we can stop the war” to preach world peace. My main problem with this is not the preachiness of world peace but rather the vocabulary and sentence structures used to express these ideas are much more too difficult for young learners. Second, for an English teacher in a foreign country they should try to stay away from anything that could be even remotely sensitive politically or socially in their classes. If you want to talk about war and peace in an adult class by all means go ahead but when teaching five or six-year-olds it is best to stay away from that topic.
I’ve never used the worksheet and CD-ROM that’s offered so I can’t tell you if it’s good or bad. But I imagine that most of my readers are going to be English teachers who have children classes that are relatively large. Mostly I use these books in my kindergarten classes. In class I couldn’t see any reason to use workbooks because you really want to stay away from sitting down and writing and reading with these younger students. Second you’re never going to be handing out homework at this age. Third I can’t imagine any kindergartens willing to purchase 20 CD-ROMs for one class. Perhaps if you have a private kids class then they could come in handy but for the most part I can’t see how they could be very useful.
This series of picture books is one of the better ones that I’ve used in my 20 years of teaching. I use these books in almost all of my kids classes. Not only do the kids love them but they really do learn a lot of vocab and basic phrases from them. I highly recommend these books for anyone who has any kind of kindergarten classes or young kids classes.