Most children love to listen to stories read out-loud. ESL teachers can help children become more confidant in learning to read English and help them grow in self-esteem by including bilingual stories within their story times. You can also have bilingual books available for students to read during independent reading times. You don’t need to know the second language in the book for the students to enjoy hearing the stories. Most ESL classrooms have students with multiple language backgrounds so it is not probable that the language of each child will be spoken at the school.
One language group that is represented in large numbers in only three states: California, Minnesota and Wisconsin are Hmong speakers. Since I am from Minnesota and currently living in Wisconsin, I have met and worked with many Hmong children. The Hmong language was not a written language until the 1960’s so there are very few children’s books written in Hmong. Written literacy for Hmong children is complicated by the fact that there are White (Hmoob Dawband) and Green Hmong (Moob Ntsuab) dialects which are related languages but have distinct differences in the reading, writing, and spoken language. Most Hmong children do not know how to read or write in Hmong and many speak a mix of Hmong and English frequently referred to as Hmonglish. The majority of Hmong children in public schools in the U.S. are second or third generation refugees. Most families still use Hmong as the primary language at home with Hmonglish and English close behind. If you are interested in more information about teaching tips for working with Hmong students click here.
Here are some resources for Hmong/English books. These books not only have two or three languages included but many of them also tell stories that are traditional Hmong tales carried down through oral storytelling for hundreds of years. (This post includes affiliate links.)
The first three books listed here are board books intended for use with toddlers to preschool aged children.
Kuv You Hmoob / I AM Hmong by Tus sau Paj Xyooj
Paj Xyooj is the author of I AM Hmong. She has written a series of books for the Hmong toddlers. In this book the simple words and repetition allows the child success in learning to read by practicing their reading skills. This is a reading Level AA. The other books in the series along with this one are wonderful for helping Hmong children feel validated and esteemed.
Are You My Baby?/ Koj Puas Yog Kuv Tus Me Ab? by Kathleen Rizzi
Another toddler book starring a cheerful duck looking for her baby. Toddlers will love peeking under the flaps to discover the different animals as you go through the book.
Tig, Tog/ Hip, Hop by Catherine Hnatov
Another good book to teach different animal sounds to your child. There are playful animal images against a vibrant black and white backgrounds.
Good Night, Little Sea Otter / Pw Zoo Tus Me Ntshuab by Janet Halfmann
This cute story is about a little otter who wants to say goodnight to all the others in the sea before going to bed. The illustrations are vivid and beautifully done. This book is like Goodnight Moon and children love to hear it over and over again.
This is one of my favorite books included in this list. It is a beautiful book written by DIa Cha that chronicles the journey from Laos to Thailand and then to the United States. The story is told by following a story cloth which is a traditional Hmong embroidery form called paj ntaub. This book has wonderful color-filled illustrations which show clothing and items important in Hmong culture.
Grandfather’s Story Cloth/ Yawj Daim Paj Ntaub Dab Neeg by Linda Gerdner and Sarah Langford
This story that allows the reader a look into Hmong culture while at the same time helping children understand Alzheimmer’s disease. This book shows how diseases cross all cultures and so does coping with change and loss.
Liang and the Magic Paintbrush / Liang Hab Tug Cwj Mem Pleev Kws Muaj Siv/Liang Thiab Tus Cwj Mem Pleev Uas Muaj Yees Siv
A Chinese folktale about a little boy who finds a magic paintbrush that brings everything he paints to life.
It Looked Like Spilt Milk / Nwg Zoo Le Mig Nyuj Nchuav by Charles Shaw
A classic simple story with a twist at the end. Children love the surprise ending and so will you.
A Chair for my Mother: lb Lub Rooj Rua Kuv Nam/lb Lub Rooj Rau Kuv Niam (Hmong Edition) by Vera B. Williams
This is one of Reading Rainbow’s Feature selection books translated from English into both White and Green Hmong by the Minnesota Humanities Commission. The goal was to assist Hmong children to learn to read both English and Hmong. This book has sold over a million copies and is a beloved book to thousands worldwide. It is the story of Rosa, her mother and grandmother who have just lost their home to fire. They work together to save money to buy one nice chair for Rosa’s mother.
The Making of Monkey King/Ntuj Tsim Haubtais Liab Retold by Robert Krause and Debby Chen
This adventure story starts off with Monkey King being born from out of a rock. He wants to remain King, so he starts out on a journey to discover the secret to immortality. This book is also sold in bilingual Chinese/English, Vietnamese/English and Spanish/English.
The Ballad of Mulan / Zaj Lus Taum Mulan Retold by Song Nan Zhang
Many people do not know that Hmong people historically lived in China and migrated later to other parts of Asia and particularly Laos. The 1998 hit Disney movie, Mulan, was based off of this story. There is a Chinese bilingual book available as well as the Hmong/English book.
Ming Lo Moves the Mountain/Min Glo Txav Lub Pob Tsuas by Arnold Lobe
A folktale set in China. A wife asks her husband to move the mountain near their home because it is causing them so many problems.
The Empty Pot: Lub Taig Qhuav/Lub Tais Qhuav (Lao Edition) by Demi
Another favorite story of mine. Ping wants to become the heir to the emperor. He decides to be honest with the emperor that he could not do what he was asked to do. The moral of the story is that honesty is the best.
A cheerful book about a knight and a dragon who need to battle each other but are not quite sure how to go about it. Children love the colorful illustrations and the silly tone of this book. Who doesn’t love a good story about a dragon fight?
The Paper Crane: Tus Noog Qej Qawg Ntawv (English and Hmong Edition) Feb 1, 2000 by Mao J. Vang (Translator) Molly Bang
A traditional Japanese tale about a paper crane that comes to life after it is given to a generous restaurant owner by a traveler passing through his restaurant.
A favorite of many moms and dads. This picture book teaches perseverance and trying again. You will read this again and again.
Jouanah-A Hmong Cinderella adapted by Jewell Reinhardt and Coburn with Tzexa Cherta Lee
This book is written in English. The author presents a traditional Hmong story that parallels the Cinderella story many children read when quite young.
Learning about Hmong culture and teaching Hmong children are both fun learning experiences. I hope you enjoy the books listed above. I have read all of these tales and enjoyed sharing them with my ESL students. Please share if you know of other Hmong/English children’s books that you would recommend to other teachers.