Read in French: 10 French Reading Tips, Resources and Exercises
Do you read in French? If you’re learning French, I hope you do! And I’m here to help you find more French reading material.
I’ve searched the web for a variety of reading resources that will help you learn French more quickly. The best part is: they won’t cost you a penny!
And in case you’re wondering, “to read” in French is lire.
Now, here are the French reading resources I’ll be sharing in this article:
Table of contents
- Apprendre à Lire – French Phonics Lessons
- The French Experiment – Children’s Stories in French
- Children's Books Forever – Children’s Books in French
- LanguageGuide – Short French Texts
- The Works of Guy de Maupassant – Short Stories in French
- Ebooks Libres & Gratuits – Free French Ebooks
- Amilova – Graphic Novels and Comic Books in French
- Cuisine à la Française – French Online Cookbook
- Test Yourself: French Reading Comprehension Quizzes
- 5 Tips to Learn to Read Better in French
- You’re Ready to Read in French!
Apprendre à Lire – French Phonics Lessons
Level: Absolute Beginner
Apprendre à lire means “learn to read” in French.
Apprendre à Lire is incredibly useful for absolute beginners in French. The site is meant to teach French children how to read, but there’s no reason why you can’t use it too!
It covers virtually every French sound, including those not found in English. There are several exercises for each letter, so you can choose the ones that you find most helpful.
Apprendre à lire teaches you:
- how to read sounds
- how to use them in real words,
- how to pronounce them.
This is handy for beginners! Although the French alphabet is identical to the English alphabet, many of the letters sound very different.
The site is all in French, including the instructions for each exercise. But don’t worry! They’re relatively simple. If you struggle with them, plug them into Google Translate to get the gist with an OK English translation.
The French Experiment – Children’s Stories in French
The French Experiment offers some of the most popular children’s fairy tales in French.
Stories like The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood and The Ugly Duckling are translated into French on this website and accompanied by an optional audio recording. Since you’re probably already familiar with these stories, you’ll pick up the vocabulary more quickly than you would reading a brand new story.
Plus, you’ve got the option to see each paragraph’s English translation right when you read!
You can find even more fairy tales in French on The Fable Cottage. Even though the video and audio versions are not free, you can still make the most out of the text and translation!
Children's Books Forever – Children’s Books in French
Children’s Books Forever was created by Hans Wilhelm, an author of children’s stories.
After Wilhelm’s most popular book series went out of print, it saddened teachers, parents, and children. So Wilhelm decided to upload all of his books on a free website to allow children across the world to still enjoy them.
Wilhelm’s books are available in 12 languages, including 13 books in French. They come with pictures and can be read online or downloaded.
I absolutely love their presentation!
Some of the stories also have an English translation you can use if you need some help.
LanguageGuide – Short French Texts
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
LanguageGuide is a superb website that provides a simple, condensed way to learn the basics of vocabulary and grammar for many languages.
It is one of the best sources I’ve found for beginner to intermediate French reading comprehension.
The French section features several reading samples, each accompanied by a spoken recording. The more difficult words are highlighted, letting you hover your mouse over them to see the English translation.
You can also see the English translation of entire sentences by hovering your mouse over the punctuation mark at the end of each sentence.
If you want pure reading practice without the audio, just click the pause button any time to pause the recording and focus on reading.
The Works of Guy de Maupassant – Short Stories in French
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Maupassant.free.fr is a great place to find French short stories. If you want to expand your knowledge of classic French literature, this is one of the best places to start.
Guy de Maupassant was a famous French writer who wrote more than 300 works of fiction during the late 19th century. He is often considered one of the fathers of the modern short story, and for good reason!
The website contains nearly all of de Maupassant’s short stories, most of which come with an English translation. Each of his stories is only about 3000 words long, but is remarkably captivating. I haven’t yet read one that I didn’t like.
This is definitely one of the more advanced resources in this list, but don’t let that scare you. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself! You’ll learn more quickly if you don’t just stick to books where you know all of the words.
Plus, the English translations are always there to help you if you get stuck.
Ebooks Libres & Gratuits – Free French Ebooks
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Ebooks Libres & Gratuits is an absolute goldmine of free French ebooks.
You can choose from hundreds upon hundreds of free, complete books. They’re available in almost every file format you could hope for: from Kindle, Kobo and Sony e-reader formats to PDF and HTML for reading on your computer.
Ebooks Libres & Gratuits has dozens of masterpieces such as Le Petit Prince(“The Little Prince”) and Alice au Pays des Merveilles (“Alice in Wonderland”).
Some ebooks even have full-colour illustrations!
If you’re a beginner, go to the search box at the top of the page, and select “Jeunesse” (“youth”) from the dropdown menu next to “Genre”. This will show you all of the books for children and young adults.
Amilova – Graphic Novels and Comic Books in French
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Amilova is a huge online community for graphic novel enthusiasts. It contains almost a thousand high-quality stories in their entirety, available to read online for free.
Comic books and graphic novels aren’t just for kids and geeks anymore. You wouldn’t believe the variety of genres that are available today, for every taste imaginable: horror, romance, drama, parody…you name it!
The big advantage of using graphic novels to help improve your French is that many of them are strongly dialogue-orientated. This means you get to read a lot of everyday spoken vocabulary that people use in real life.
Instead of reading the purely classical literary form, you’re improving your spoken informal French skills and reading an engaging story at the same time.
Tip: Be sure to click the flag in the upper right corner to change the language to French. That way you’ll only see the stories available in French.
Cuisine à la Française – French Online Cookbook
Cuisine à la Française has a database of nearly 2,000 classic recipes alphabetically or by category.
I don’t normally recommend cookbooks to help improve your target language, but I’ll make an exception for French. After all, French cuisine is one of the most popular and influential in the world. It was added to UNESCO’s intangible world heritage list because of its global reputation.
If you ever visit France, you’ll notice immediately how big a role the cuisine plays in everyday life. It’s a good idea, then, to read as much as you can about French cuisine while you’re studying the language.
You’ll learn practical vocabulary to use when visiting France, eating at French restaurants, or when talking with native speakers. You’ll get valuable insight into an essential aspect of French history and culture and learn to cook delicious recipes.
Cuisine à la Française is the perfect place to start your reading on French cuisine.
Be sure to click on the “Histoire de la Cuisine” tab to learn all about the long and fascinating history of food in France, from 12,000 years ago up to modern day! Also check out “Recettes Anciennes” (”ancient recipes”) at the bottom of the page. You’ll find authentic French recipes from hundreds of years ago.
Give French cooking a try yourself, and improve your French reading comprehension in the process!
Test Yourself: French Reading Comprehension Quizzes
Instead of just reading in French, why not test yourself to see how well you understand what you’re reading?
This page on Thoughtco.com provides you with several excerpts in French that you can read and then do a quiz to check your comprehension.
For each excerpt, first click Lire (“read”) to read the text, then click Étudier (“study”) to see a list of key vocabulary from the excerpt along with the English translations. Finally, click Passer l’examen to do the quiz related to the excerpt.
It’s useful to open Passer l’examen in a separate window so you can see the test questions and the text at the same time.
Bonne chance! (“Good luck!”)
5 Tips to Learn to Read Better in French
Written French is very different to spoken French, and the differences can trip you up.
- silent letters, like in dehors (“outside”) and parfait (“perfect”),
- the words written in different ways but that sound alike, such as sang (“blood”) and sans (“without”),
- the liaison that makes separate words sound like one, as in les oiseaux (”lez‿wazo”, “the birds”).
So, before you leave, let me give you a few of my best tips to help you read in French:
- Read according to your level and preferences. If you read something too hard or that you don’t like, you’ll be more likely to drop it.
- Don’t translate everything. Instead of getting stuck and looking up every word, try to understand the words you don’t know based on the concept.
- Take notes. It can be of the vocabulary you’re learning or of a special sentence structure. The point is: make sure you can come back to study them.
- Be consistent. Read every day.
- Accept mistakes and make them a part of your learning process.
You’re Ready to Read in French!
Choose one or several of the resources from this post, follow these tips, and you’re all set up to work on your French reading!
But remember: to learn French faster and better, you have to focus on both written French and spoken French.
If you want to work on your spoken French, check out some of my favourite resources from all over the Internet. Some of the most amazing tools on there is Preply (our review is here): it helps you find native speakers to have conversations with!
Bonne lecture ! (“Happy reading!”)