If your language level is still too basic to read beloved Italian classics like Cuore by Edmondo de Amicis, what other alternatives are there?
Perhaps you have never heard of graded readers. Italian graded readers are books tailored to your CEFR level (A1, A2, B1…) up to C1. There are many stories to choose from to cover all levels and tastes!
They are also a lot of fun to read, as they usually have full audio recordings, are packed with wonderful illustrations (useful if you like to gamify your learning), and exercises.
And after getting your feet wet with graded readers, don’t miss my lesson on how to read any book in Italian.
In this article, we will see why graded readers are so effective for language learning and which Italian graded readers you can find on the market. Let’s get started!
How do you translate “graded readers” into Italian? Letture graduate!
Why are Italian graded readers a great resource?
They allow you to learn one step at a time
Graded readers will never overwhelm you with too many unfamiliar words because they are written for your level of Italian.
Suppose you are level A2 and want to try Harry Potter e la pietra filosofale, the first book in JK Rowling’s fantasy series.
The writing style sounds pretty simple in your language, so you shouldn’t have much trouble reading it in a foreign language, right? Wrong. You will soon discover that even this writing style is out of your A2 league.
You’ll have to stop so often to look up words in a dictionary – even if you’ve already read the book in your native language – that you’ll get tired and frustrated. And you will end up closing the book.
Italian graded readers will never make you feel that way because they are designed with the learner in mind. They are accessible. If you are an A2 learner, you will never come across words that you will need at more advanced levels such as B2 and C1.
They offer audio recordings of all content
Typically, Italian graded readers include native audio recordings of all the content in the book. These recordings are of high quality and you can listen to them as you read.
This will not only help you learn to pronounce Italian on a broader level (many sentences one after the other), but will also help you learn the structure of the language without effort, because reading Italian graded readers is fun.
When reading is fun and engaging, learning is a breeze.
They involve all language skills
Italian graded readers are basically simplified bundles of audiobooks + book + exercises.
Repeating aloud every sentence you hear in the recordings will improve your speaking skills and, of course, your listening skills. The exercises you’ll find in most grader readers take care of your reading and writing skills by asking you questions about what you’ve just read.
Graded readers are also a great tool for learning vocabulary through context. They will also teach you vocabulary that is useful for your language level. If you’re about to take a B1 language exam, it’s no use knowing how to translate “deoxyribonucleic acid” in Italian, is it?
They are just the right length
We like to complete tasks. We feel accomplished when we get a job done. You should congratulate yourself on a job well done when you reach the end of a book.
If you are a beginner, it will take you much longer to read 100 words than it will take an advanced learner to read 200, so in order to avoid frustration, you need to read books that are bite-sized for your language level.
Italian graded readers take into account your reading speed as well as your level. For example, A1 readers are usually 500 words long, while B2 and C1 readers can go up to thousands of words.
How to pick up the best Italian graded readers
First of all, children’s books and fairy tales don’t count as graded readers. You might think that since these types of books are aimed at a younger audience, you would have less trouble understanding them. Well, no.
Children’s books may be easy to read, but they are very, very boring for a teenager or an adult. And definitely stay away from fairy tales, especially Grimm’s fairy tales, because they use outdated language and expressions that are no longer in use. Think about it: do you use thou and thee IRL? Also, they are written in the passato remoto tense, which is almost never used in spoken language.
Make sure you don’t choose a graded reader above your current level. This will frustrate you. Italian graded readers should not force you to rely on an external dictionary. If you don’t know what level you are at, take a proficiency test.
Also, pick a story you like and stick to it. If you like crime, pick a crime story. And a paragraph a day is better than a page a week. If you come across a word you don’t know, just write it down for later and keep reading.
That said, here’s a handy list of…
The most common graded readers in Italian
Easy Readers catalogue (it’s huge!)
Lernkrimi (Italian graded readers for those who speak German and like crime stories)
Other Italian graded readers for beginners
Short Stories in Italian, Olly Richards
20 Italian Short Stories for Beginners, Lingo Mastery
12 Italian Short Stories for Beginners, Giorgio Mills
Italian Short Stories for Beginners, Talk in Italian
Italian Short Stories for Beginners, Learn Like A Native
Other Italian graded readers for intermediate learners
Short Stories in Italian for Beginners, Leonardo Mancini
Italian Short Stories for Beginners, Language Guru
Intermediate Italian Short Stories, Manuel Maria Di Gioia
10 Intermediate Italian Short Stories, Lingo Mastery
Short Stories in Italian for Intermediate Learners, Olly Richards
Phew! Those Italian graded readers should give you reading material for quite some time.
Buona lettura! Happy reading! 🙂