Winter Reads: A Comprehensive Guide to Engage ESL and ELL Learners

Winter is a magical season filled with snowflakes, frosty landscapes, and the joy of holiday

festivities. For ESL/ELL learners, incorporating winter-themed books into language lessons can

be an enchanting way to enhance language skills. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve curated a

list of winter books specially tailored for ESL/ELL learners, categorized by age and proficiency



Pre-K Picture Books

  1. Winter Wonderland” by Jill Esbaum


“Winter Wonderland” by Jill Esbaum is a captivating picture book designed for Pre-K learners.

As a National Geographic publication, it combines stunning photographs with simple and

engaging text to immerse young readers in the wonders of winter. The book serves as an

excellent tool for introducing seasonal vocabulary, exploring the beauty of snowy landscapes,

and sparking curiosity about the natural world.

Key Features

Vivid Photographs: The book features high-quality and visually appealing photographs that

showcase the magic of winter. These images not only capture the attention of young readers but

also provide a visual context for the introduced vocabulary.

Simple and Engaging Text: The language used in “Winter Wonderland” is tailored to the

developmental level of Pre-K learners. The text is straightforward, encouraging early language

development while maintaining a sense of wonder and excitement about winter.

Educational Value: Beyond the enchanting visuals, the book offers educational value by

introducing basic concepts related to winter, such as snowflakes, winter animals, and seasonal

activities. It acts as a springboard for discussions and activities that enhance language


Seasonal Connection: “Winter Wonderland” helps young learners make connections between

the words they are learning and the seasonal changes happening around them. This connection

aids in memory retention and reinforces language acquisition.

Teaching Opportunities

Vocabulary Building: Use the book to introduce and reinforce winter-themed vocabulary, such

as snow, ice, mittens, and snowflakes.

Observation Skills: Encourage students to observe the details in the photographs, promoting

the development of observational and descriptive language skills.

Discussion Prompts: Engage students in discussions about their experiences with winter,

fostering communication and language expression.


  1. “The Fox Found a Box” by Ged Adamson


“The Fox Found a Box” by Ged Adamson is a delightful and charming picture book that follows

the adventures of a clever fox. Tailored for Pre-K learners, this book goes beyond a simple

narrative by introducing basic vocabulary and encouraging early language development through

a captivating story.

Key Features

Engaging Storyline: The book weaves a captivating story around a clever fox and a box,

making it an engaging and enjoyable experience for young readers. The narrative captures their

attention and sustains interest throughout the book.

Basic Vocabulary Introduction: Through the fox’s journey, the book introduces basic

vocabulary in a context that is relatable and fun for children. This method aids in vocabulary

retention and comprehension.

Language Development: “The Fox Found a Box” encourages language development by

incorporating repetitive elements and simple language structures. This approach is beneficial for

early readers who are in the early stages of language acquisition.

Illustrations: The illustrations in the book complement the narrative, providing visual cues that

support language comprehension. The expressive and colorful illustrations enhance the overall

storytelling experience.

Teaching Opportunities

Vocabulary Reinforcement: Utilize the book to reinforce basic vocabulary related to the

storyline, such as animals, actions, and objects.

Sequencing Activities: Explore the concept of sequencing by discussing the events in the

story in order. This helps in developing narrative skills and understanding of story structure.

Predictive Skills: Encourage students to make predictions about what might happen next in the

story, fostering critical thinking and language expression.


  1. “Snowmen at Night” by Caralyn Buehner


“Snowmen at Night” by Caralyn Buehner is a whimsical and imaginative picture book that

explores the magical world of snowmen. Tailored for Pre-K learners, this book not only

captivates young readers with its charming narrative but also offers opportunities for language

development and creative expression.

Key Features:

Imaginative Concept: The book introduces the imaginative idea that snowmen come to life and

engage in various activities when no one is watching. This concept sparks creativity and

encourages children to think beyond the ordinary.

Rhyming Text: “Snowmen at Night” features rhyming text, adding a musical and rhythmic

element to the storytelling. This not only enhances the reading experience but also supports

phonological awareness in young learners.

Winter Vocabulary: The book seamlessly incorporates winter-themed vocabulary, such as

snowflakes, sledding, and frosty landscapes. This exposure to seasonal words contributes to

vocabulary expansion and language enrichment.

Expressive Illustrations: The vivid and expressive illustrations by Mark Buehner complement

the narrative, providing visual cues that aid in understanding the story. The detailed artwork

adds depth to the storytelling experience.

Teaching Opportunities

Creative Expression: Encourage students to use their imagination and come up with their

ideas about what snowmen might do at night. This fosters creative thinking and language


Discussion of Winter Activities: Use the book as a springboard for discussing favorite winter

activities and traditions. This promotes conversational skills and vocabulary enrichment.

Story Retelling: Engage students in retelling the story in their own words, enhancing

comprehension and narrative skills.


Kindergarten/1st Grade (3 Letter Word Books)

  1. “Winter Fun for Everyone” by Elizabeth Spurr


“Winter Fun for Everyone” by Elizabeth Spurr is a delightful picture book designed for

Kindergarten and 1st-grade readers. This beginner-friendly book is crafted with simple language

and vibrant illustrations, creating an engaging exploration of various winter activities. Tailored for

early readers, the book serves as an excellent tool to introduce and reinforce basic vocabulary

while capturing the excitement of winter.

Key Features

Simple Language: The book is written with simplicity in mind, using age-appropriate language

that aligns with the reading level of Kindergarten and 1st-grade students. This approach

facilitates comprehension and aids in the development of early reading skills.

Vibrant Illustrations: “Winter Fun for Everyone” is adorned with vibrant and visually appealing

illustrations that complement the text. The colorful images provide context to the introduced

vocabulary, making it more accessible for young readers.

Exploration of Winter Activities: The book explores a variety of winter activities, from

snowball fights to ice skating. This thematic approach not only introduces new words but also

allows children to connect language with real-life experiences.

Engaging Narration: The narrative style is engaging, encouraging young readers to follow

along with the story. The rhythmic flow of the text makes it an enjoyable read-aloud experience,

fostering a positive association with reading.

Teaching Opportunities

Vocabulary Enrichment: Utilize the book to introduce and reinforce winter-related vocabulary,

such as snow, sled, and mittens. Discuss the activities depicted in the book to expand children’s

word bank.

Sequencing Activities: Explore the concept of sequencing by discussing the order of winter

activities presented in the book. This enhances comprehension and narrative skills.

Interactive Reading: Encourage students to interact with the book by asking questions about

the illustrations and predicting what might happen next. This promotes critical thinking and

language expression.


  1. “Bear Snores On” by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman


“Bear Snores On” by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman is a charming rhyming adventure

tailored for Kindergarten and 1st-grade readers. This delightful book invites young readers to

join Bear and his friends in a story that introduces basic vocabulary while reinforcing phonics

skills. With its engaging narrative and lively illustrations, the book offers an interactive reading

experience for emerging readers.

Key Features

Rhyming Adventure: The book is crafted with a delightful rhyming scheme that enhances the

rhythm of the narrative. Rhyming words contribute to phonemic awareness, supporting early

readers in developing sound recognition skills.

Introduction of Basic Vocabulary: “Bear Snores On” seamlessly integrates basic vocabulary

into the storyline. From hibernation-related terms to the sounds of a cozy gathering, the book

provides opportunities for language enrichment in a natural context.

Phonics Reinforcement: The rhyming text serves as a valuable tool for reinforcing phonics

skills. The repetition and rhythmic patterns make it easier for young readers to identify and

connect sounds, promoting early literacy development.

Lively Illustrations: Jane Chapman’s lively and expressive illustrations complement the

narrative, bringing the characters and the winter setting to life. The visual elements provide

additional context for understanding the story and the introduced vocabulary.

Teaching Opportunities

Phonics Activities: Use the book to focus on specific phonics elements, such as rhyming

words. Encourage students to identify words that sound alike and discuss how they share

similar sounds.

Character Exploration: Engage students in discussions about the characters and their actions

in the story. This not only enhances comprehension but also encourages language expression.

Predictive Skills: Encourage students to predict what might happen next in the story based on

the rhyming patterns. This fosters critical thinking and active engagement during reading.


2nd-4th Grade (Chapter Books)

  1. “The Snow Day” by Ezra Jack Keats


“The Snow Day” by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic chapter book designed for 2nd to 4th-grade

readers. Set against the backdrop of a snowy day, this book follows the adventures of a young

boy named Peter. Through a combination of evocative storytelling and vivid illustrations, Keats

captures the magic and joy of a winter day, making it a timeless piece of children’s literature.

Key Features

Descriptive Storytelling: Keats employs descriptive storytelling that vividly paints the picture of

a snowy urban landscape. The narrative draws readers into Peter’s world, allowing them to

experience the sights, sounds, and emotions of a winter day.

Universal Themes: The story explores universal themes such as the excitement of unexpected

events, the joy of play, and the beauty of nature. These themes provide ample opportunities for

discussions that enhance comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Cultural Representation: “The Snow Day” is celebrated for its cultural representation, featuring

a diverse main character and portraying an urban setting. This aspect adds depth to the

narrative and allows readers to connect with a broader range of experiences.

Visual Appeal: Keats’ distinctive collage illustrations contribute to the book’s visual appeal. The

artwork not only complements the narrative but also serves as a powerful tool for understanding

the story, especially for readers transitioning from picture books to chapter books.

Teaching Opportunities

Discussion of Themes: Engage students in discussions about the themes present in the book,

such as the joy of unexpected adventures and the beauty of the winter season. Encourage them

to share their own experiences related to these themes.

Literary Elements: Introduce literary elements such as setting, plot, and character

development. Discuss how Keats uses these elements to create a rich and immersive reading


Creative Expression: Encourage students to engage in creative activities inspired by the book,

such as drawing scenes from their ideal snow day or writing short stories about winter



  1. “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen


“Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen is a beautifully written and illustrated chapter book suitable for 2nd to

4th-grade readers. This poetic narrative takes readers on a nighttime journey through the woods

as a young girl and her father search for owls. Yolen’s lyrical prose, combined with John

Schoenherr’s evocative illustrations, creates a captivating reading experience.

Key Features

Lyrical Prose: Yolen’s poetic and descriptive language adds a lyrical quality to the narrative.

The prose not only tells a story but also engages readers on an emotional and sensory level,

making it a valuable literary experience.

Nature Exploration: The book serves as a wonderful introduction to nature exploration,

particularly the nocturnal world. Readers join the characters in the quiet and mysterious woods,

creating a sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world.

Father-Daughter Bond: “Owl Moon” explores the theme of the father-daughter bond through a

shared nighttime adventure. This theme provides an emotional anchor to the story and offers

opportunities for discussions about family relationships.

Illustrative Excellence: John Schoenherr’s illustrations contribute significantly to the book’s

impact. The detailed and expressive artwork enhances the narrative, providing visual context

and aiding in the interpretation of the story.

Teaching Opportunities

Poetry Appreciation: Explore the poetic elements of the book, such as rhythm, imagery, and

metaphor. Encourage students to appreciate the beauty of language and discuss how poetry

differs from prose.

Nature Study: Use the book as a starting point for a nature study. Discuss the owls featured in

the story and explore related topics, such as nocturnal animals and their habitats.

Emotional Responses: Discuss the emotions evoked by the story and illustrations. Encourage

students to reflect on how literature can elicit emotional responses and connections to their own



5th-8th Grade (Middle Grade Novels)

  1. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis


“The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is a classic fantasy novel by C.S. Lewis that takes

readers on an enchanting journey into the magical land of Narnia. Written for middle-grade

readers, this timeless classic provides advanced ESL/ELL students with a captivating narrative

filled with rich characters, moral themes, and complex vocabulary.

Key Features

Captivating Narrative: Lewis weaves a captivating tale of adventure, friendship, and courage

as four siblings discover the mystical land of Narnia through a wardrobe. The narrative engages

readers with its vivid descriptions and imaginative storytelling.

Complex Vocabulary: As an advanced-level novel, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”

introduces readers to a more sophisticated vocabulary. The novel provides opportunities for

ESL/ELL students to encounter and learn new words in context, expanding their language


Moral Themes: The novel explores moral themes such as bravery, sacrifice, and the triumph of

good over evil. These themes offer opportunities for in-depth discussions, allowing students to

explore complex concepts and express their thoughts on moral dilemmas.

Cultural Exploration: “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” introduces readers to a

fantastical world filled with mythical creatures, talking animals, and magical landscapes. This

cultural exploration goes beyond language learning, exposing students to diverse literary


Teaching Opportunities

Vocabulary Expansion: Utilize the novel to introduce and explore advanced vocabulary.

Encourage students to create word journals, discussing the meanings and usage of new words.

Literary Analysis: Engage students in literary analysis by discussing the characters, plot

structure, and themes. This fosters critical thinking skills and enhances comprehension.

Discussion of Morality: Use the moral themes in the novel as a springboard for discussions on

ethics and morality. Encourage students to express their opinions and draw parallels to

real-world situations.


  1. “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen


“Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen is a gripping survival story set in the winter wilderness. Tailored for

middle-grade readers, this novel presents ESL/ELL students with an opportunity to explore

more advanced language structures within the context of a compelling narrative.

Key Features

Survival Narrative: The novel follows the protagonist, Brian Robeson, as he faces the

challenges of surviving alone in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash. The survival

theme provides a riveting context for language learning.

Advanced Language Structures: “Hatchet” introduces middle-grade readers to more complex

sentence structures and vocabulary. The novel’s focus on survival skills and challenges allows

students to encounter specialized terms related to wilderness survival.

Emotional Resonance: Gary Paulsen skillfully incorporates emotional elements into the

narrative, allowing readers to connect with the protagonist’s struggle for survival. This emotional

resonance enhances engagement and language retention.

Nature Exploration: The novel offers an opportunity for students to explore the natural world

and gain exposure to vocabulary related to flora and fauna. Descriptions of the winter

wilderness create a sensory-rich reading experience.

Teaching Opportunities

Vocabulary in Context: Encourage students to understand and use vocabulary in context by

discussing the survival-related terms presented in the novel. Connect these terms to real-world


Character Analysis: Engage students in character analysis, focusing on Brian Robeson’s

emotional journey and the challenges he faces. This enhances comprehension and allows

students to express their interpretations.

Research Projects: Integrate research projects related to survival skills and wilderness

environments. This not only reinforces language learning but also provides opportunities for

interdisciplinary learning.


Winter-themed books provide a fantastic avenue for ESL/ELL learners to expand their

vocabulary, improve reading comprehension, and foster a love for language. By incorporating

these carefully selected titles into your language lessons, you can create a winter wonderland of

learning for students of all ages and proficiency levels. Happy reading!


Have any children’s winter reads to share with the community? We’d love to hear them! Leave a comment below or send us an email!



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