French immersion students need exposure to a lot of different books, but more importantly, they need to be offered highly interesting texts that make reading fun! Not all kids love to read, but we know that reading is an amazing way to acquire new vocabulary and see grammar and idiomatic expressions in context. By providing students with appropriately leveled texts that they want to read, we are helping them gain fluency and confidence.
Want some French reading comprehension strategies? Read this post.
Below are some of my favorite books to read with middle school French immersion students.
On a volé le Nkoro Nkoro – Thierry Jonquet
This is a fun, short book that is great for kids who might not be excited about reading. It’s only got six short chapters, so you can take time to explore the vocabulary. I also like that the author uses the imparfait and passé composé together as opposed to the passé simple, so kids get more exposure to the tenses together. The characters are also over the top, so it adds some humor.
It’s the story of two class clowns who get a magical gri-gri from Africa that suddenly helps them do well in school. Their teacher, Mme Camife, is not a kind woman (at all), and they definitely paint the image of her in the text. The boys are already at odds with their teacher. When they mysteriously start doing really well, she finds out their secret and steals the lucky charm from them. The boys get into some mischief trying to get the Nkoro Nkoro back from her.
L’oeil du loup – Daniel Pennac
This is one of my favorite books for 5th-6th grade French immersion! It’s the story of a young boy who meets a wolf in the zoo, and through looking into each others’ eyes, they tell their life stories. It’s great for adding vocabulary that might not come up in other classes. It also provides great discussion topics such as animal rights, children’s rights, kindness, empathy, and friendship. The chapters aren’t too long, so it’s accessible for students who are still developing reading skills. The text is complex enough that more-advanced students will benefit from the new vocabulary and idiomatic expressions, but I found that it offered just the right challenge for all of my students with a little bit of support for the less-advanced readers.
La balafre – Jean-Claude Mourlevat
I absolutely LOVE his books for young adults (and even to read on my own as a grown-up!) The stories are beautifully written, and they are challenging enough for more-advanced classes. There are big ideas to discuss, meaning you can bring a lot of your own ideas into your novel studies.
La balafre is about a young boy whose father is transferred to a new town. Upon moving there, a dog from a neighboring house begins to terrorize him. He later discovers a four year old girl at the house. No one believes him, because the house has been abandoned for decades. Obsessed by these visions that no one else believes, he begins to do research into the house that takes him back to 1941 and the German occupation. It’s full of history, but since it’s told through the eyes of a middle-schooler, it’s accessible enough for teenagers.
I read this once with 6th grade and found I needed to provide a LOT of support, mainly because they didn’t have the historical background to understand everything. I tried it again a few years later in the second semester of 7th grade, and it was great! We looked a lot at WWII and the occupation. We had a lot of great discussions about why people don’t stand up and do the right thing. Overall, there is so much you can bring to your class with the ideas here.
L’assassin de Papa – Malika Ferdjoukh
I loved this book, and my students did, too! This roman policier is the story of a boy, Valentin, and his dad who live in Paris. They are homeless and live on an abandoned barge on la Seine. The police are trying to find a man who has killed several women. Although Valentin’s father thinks he has seen the man, he doesn’t want to go to the police for fear that they will take Valentin away.
The book is great for discussing issues such as homelessness, education, and responsibility in a way that middle school students can understand. The language isn’t too hard, the chapters are short enough to assign a few a week, and the story is cute. We added in a service project by collecting toiletries for food pantries, and the students really got excited about this.
Le voyage de Mémé – Gil Ben Aych
I read this one with my seventh graders, and I really liked it. The true story takes place in 1962, and it details a day on foot across Paris that a young boy takes with his Algerian grandmother. The family is moving to another neighborhood outside of Paris. Everyone else in the family uses some form of transportation to get to the new home. Mémé, however, refuses to take the metro, the bus, or a car, so her grandson spends the day walking the 20 km with her.
The text is not too hard, and it allowed us to talk about some important topics that are still pertinent today, including immigration, misunderstandings between generations, and cultural differences.
À l’aube du destin de Florence – Karine Perron
I really love this book! It is written from the viewpoint of a 15 year old Canadian girl whose best friend moves away. I love that it uses vocabulary specific to Quebec, and the book discusses so many things that are really prevalent in the lives of teenagers today : bullying, feeling alone, wanting to fit in, feeling pressure to act a certain way. Be aware : there is a suicide in the book, so this might not be the right choice for everyone. In the end, the story rewinds a bit to rewrite itself, so that character is alive at the end of the book. However, I did want to point this out if this is a subject you’d rather avoid.
Les fantômes de Spriritwood -Martine Noël-Maw
This is another book from Quebec. It’s a fun read that’s full of everyday speech that kids use. I particularly like that it is very focused on dialogue, and the majority of the story is told through the characters’ conversations. It makes reading it a bit like reading a play, helping kids work on different comprehension strategies.
This book is maybe not one I’d read as a whole class, because it talks about ghosts (obviously from the title 😉). Depending on your students and/or school, you might not feel comfortable with the supernatural topics in this book. If this book interests you, I think it would make a great book to add to a class library that kids could choose. The back cover says for 12 years and up. The topics and language are a little mature for 6-7th grade, so in my opinion, this one would be better suited for 8th graders.
I hope you find some books for French immersion that your students will love!