As I have previously written umpteen times, I volunteer as a reader of kids’ picture books for my son’s former elementary school.  This semester I go and read once a week, so each class will get one book read by me in English.

I always think long and hard about the book I will do for the semester.  Something not too difficult, but age appropriate.  I saw this book at the library in Japanese and fell in love with it.


For every book I read aloud, I make about eight vocabulary cards with words from the book.

It’s the story of Jane Goodall’s childhood.   So I ordered it in English (used) from the internet.

Once I received it, though, I thought more about it.   Jane Goodall is completely unknown to kids in Japan.  So this book doesn’t have the same impact as it has on kids who are already familiar with her.  (And part of me feels like:  Why should they know about Jane Goodall?  After all, typical western kids don’t know any famous Japanese scientists.)

Also, I am not happy that the title in English is not the same as in Japanese.  (In Japanese the title is:  “I Like Animals.”)  So I introduce it as “Me…Jane.  I Like Animals” in English, then explain in Japanese it is about a girl named Jane.

I decided to do the above book only for the upper grades (fourth through sixth).  For the lower grades and the developmentally delayed class, I chose a different book.


Don and Audrey Woods (a husband/wife team) create the most wonderful books.  Although this is actually a toddler’s bedtime book, it makes a great ESL book for little kids because the vocabulary is so very simple.  Lots of easy and important words in this book.  Lots of repetition.  And did I mention the illustrations are darling?   The details in the illustrations are small though, so after reading the books we walk around the room and let the kids see the illustrations close up.

So the “Piggies” book works well for the younger kids.  It’s a great book.  I recommend it.

You might be wondering about the flashcards shown in the photo. I make eight flashcards  (picture with English words from book, Japanese equivalent word on back) for each book. Since I use the same book several times, I make these flashcards once in a blue moon.

I actually do consider myself quite a decent artist, at least when I was a kid.  Not stellar, but decent.  However, my tactic when making these flashcards is to do them as quickly as possibly.

I am NOT a perfectionist.  This is volunteer work, not for submissions to an editor.  So what I do is, with a pencil, I go through and draw the pictures.  I don’t erase.  If I make a mistake, I keep going.  Then I go through and trace in black pen.  If I made a mistake earlier, I just correct it with the pen to how I want it.  Then I go through and (unless I forget!) erase the pencil marks.

Do the pictures look pretty good?  Yes, I think so.  In an “I did it my way, Dammit” kind of way.  Not a lovely artistic way.  Very cartoony.

I asked my son if the kids make fun of my flashcards.  He said, no, not at all.

To tell the truth, the kids are this school don’t get any special attention from foreign teachers (ALT’s) or any special English classes, so I know they really appreciate the English book reading.  It’s the little bit I can do, and I like helping these kids get a leg up in the world.