The best resources to practice reading in French

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Contrary to a popular myth, you don’t need to live in France to successfully learn French.

The key is to expose yourself as much as possible to French, and to try to find ways to be totally immersed in it.

In addition to honing your listening skills by doing things like watching French TV and listening to everyday conversations, one of the best ways to get your daily dose of French immersion is to read French books, newspapers, and other texts. 

What should you read to improve your French?

A stack of books, seen from the page side as opposed to the binding side. Each cover is a different color so we get a little glimpse of color around each group of pages.

Read something you enjoy

When it comes to improving your French, the most important thing is to be interested in what you’re reading.

You shouldn’t fall asleep while reading in French. Otherwise, you’ll do everything to avoid reading in French and quickly give up.

So, think about what you like to read in your native language and look for similar texts in French.

Remember that these don’t have to be “intellectual” books or articles, if that’s not what you like. Read a French celebrity gossip magazine, a French romance novel, or French comic books if those are what you like. Whatever you choose, you’ll be practicing and learning French.

Read something that’s slightly above your level

In addition to reading something you enjoy, you need to find the sweet spot between content that’s too easy and content that’s too complicated.

Choose something too easy and you won’t make any progress, but choose something too complicated and you’ll quickly give up.

By reading a text you mostly understand, you get to expand your vocabulary and grammar knowledge, while enjoying the subject or story.

You’re also more likely to enjoy reading because you’ll feel a sense of progress.

Unfortunately, this means your reading choices are restricted by your level.

That’s why I highly recommend you to use tools like Readlang that make reading French much more enjoyable.

3 Tools that make reading in French easier

A person in a cozy gray sweater and lace-up brown suede shoes sits on a sofa with a few throw pillows, reading a tablet. We see only their torso, hands, and legs.

Depending on how you like to figure out new vocabulary, there are different tools that can make reading in French easier. Here are three that I like.

Google Dictionary

Have you ever been frustrated by the enormous amount of time it takes you to read in French?

I used to have this problem when I read in other languages. My reading was so slow that I would give up, tired of always having to open the dictionary. Luckily, there are extensions for a few browsers, including Chrome and Firefox, that can make reading faster and ultimately more effective.

Google Dictionary is my favorite language learning extension. Thanks to it, I’m able to read so many more articles in foreign languages than before.

Every time you click on an unknown word, Google Dictionary automatically looks up the definition in different dictionaries and provides you with a translation in your native language. If the word refers to a place or a person, the extension will often show you the Wikipedia page.

The advantage? You don’t have to open the dictionary any more; one click is enough to translate unknown words. However, the translations aren’t always perfectly accurate since the plugin uses Google Translate most of the time.

Download Google Dictionary (free)

French print dictionaries and dictionary apps

Having a dictionary that will translate words from French into your language of choice, and vice versa, is extremely helpful for your French reading.

There are several good print French-English dictionaries if you like the feel of pages beneath your fingers, and otherwise, in addition to extensions like Google Dictionary, there are lots of helpful dictionary apps you can download to help you quickly look up words.

You can even synchronise some French dictionaries and apps to your e-reader, allowing you to define a word as you go, simply by highlighting it.

You can use our list to find the perfect French print dictionary or dictionary app for you, or do an online search to explore even more options.

Fluent

The core idea of the Fluent Chrome browser extension is that you shouldn’t have to set aside time to study French. To help you accomplish this goal, this nifty extension shows you the translation of some French words on the pages you’re browsing.

This free extension also lets you listen to the pronunciation of each word and allows you to review the vocabulary you’ve learned, with mini tests that are available for select words.

French reading practice for all levels

A young woman with dark hair, bangs, and glasses, sits on the floor of a bookstore or library and reads among the bookshelves

Before showing you my favorite French reading resources for your level, here are a few resources you can use no matter what your level is. 

These sites and apps offer authentic French texts on various subjects and in various genres, and also have helpful features like translations, audio, and more that allow learners of any level to enjoy them and learn from them.

Readlang

Readlang is both a browser extension and language learning site.

The Readlang website features transcripts of many videos and songs, as well as lots of texts you can read.

The Readlang extension allows you to easily see the definition and translation of words, as well as review them with a flashcard system. 

Readlang also seems to use Google Translate for its translations, so be aware that they may not always be completely accurate. That said, Readlang is a great resource even simply for the texts it provides on its site.

Readlang is available for free or in a premium version for $5 a month. The premium version offers unlimited phrase translations, while the free version only allows ten per day. Otherwise, both plans are the same.

Lawless French

You can find many different French texts on Laura K. Lawless‘ website. These include classic French books as well as texts from modern-day French websites and news items. A great feature is the side-by-side English translation by paragraph, which can be hidden if you prefer.

LingQ

LingQ is a language learning app that was created by the polyglot Steve Kaufman.

It’s a sort of one-stop-shop feel, with lots of different resources, as well as tests, flashcards, and more. One of the most helpful for our purposes is the large collection of French reading resources that are available and connected with these other tools.

You’ll find lots of texts with audio and easily see the translation of any word by clicking on it.

And you can review the words and sentences you learned with a flashcard system similar to the one I describe in the ultimate guide to learning vocabulary.

LingQ also lets you communicate with other language learners and find a tutor, but that’s another story.

Unfortunately, unlike most of the other French reading resources on this list, Lingq isn’t free – the app offers several membership plans.

The French Experiment

French learning site The French Experiment offers a selection of fairy tales in French with audio and paragraph-by-paragraph English translation, for free. Some of the stories include slow audio, which is especially helpful for beginner and intermediate learners. 

The Fable Cottage

Run by the creators of The French Experiment, The Fable Cottage features French fairy tales as well as other French short stories, which include both paragraph-by-paragraph translation and audio.

Some of the stories and resources are accessible for free, while others require you to purchase a membership.

French comic books, graphic novels, and mangas

Comics (bandes desinées), graphic novels (sometimes also called bandes desinées or romans graphiques), and mangas are immensely popular in France, and, in the case of the first two, have been for more than a century!

One of the advantages of reading French this way is that you get images with the words, often giving you context and helping you learn vocabulary, including some specific and fun vocabulary, like French onomatopoeias.

Because of their importance in French and European Francophone culture throughout the 20th century and up to now, bandes dessinées also give an excellent insight into things like French humor and pop culture references. And of course, they’re often a lot of fun to read!

One of the most popular bande dessinées in France right now is Mortelle Adele, a series about a cynical, morbid little girl and the mayhem she wreaks on those around her (think Wednesday Addams in a normal French family, with a more colorful palette).

You can find lots of other popular French bandes dessinées – many of them iconic – in our article on French comics. When it comes to reading level, some of these are a bit more difficult than others, so before you buy an album (comic compilation/book), be sure to look at a few preview pages or strips by doing an online search.

Mangas, translated into French but often kept in the traditional Japanese orientation for reading, are also incredibly popular in France today, especially among teenagers. While these won’t give you as much cultural insight into France or other Francophone European cultures, they can still be a good way to practice French, if you’re a fan of the medium.

You can find French comics, graphic novels, and mangas, at online bookstores like BookShop, and even possibly at your local bookstore or library.

“French Poem Readings” on French Today

If you’re a poetry fan, French Today’s site has more than 40 French poems accompanied by explanations, translations, and audio, accessible for free. 

Easy French reading practice for beginners

A woman with silver-painted nails reads a book at a table that might be shared with students. There is a sheet of printed paper in front of her but we don't see it clearly. We see only her hands, arms, and chest-length straight brown hair.

As a beginner, you need easy French reads, which immediately excludes most books written for native speakers.

But you also want authentic French, because you want to learn French you’ll actually use.

You may think a solution would be to start by reading French children’s stories, books, and magazines. To a certain extent, that may be true, but be aware that just because a French text is meant for children, it might still contain a lot of vocabulary or obscure cultural references that could be confusing for beginner French learners.

Considering this, your best bet is to read material created for French learners.

Here are my favorite French reading resources for beginners.

The French Together app

The French Together app features easy,high-quality dialogues you can use to learn everyday French. They make for easy reading practice and cone with audio recorded at slow and normal speed.

Language Guide

Language Guide contains several French texts and jokes for beginners that you can read and listen to at the same time.

You can also see the definition of complicated words, although it’s easier to just install a plugin for this.

French Stories on French Today

French learning site French Today offers a large selection of French articles and stories with paragraph-by-paragraph English translations. Although some of these texts  might be closer to intermediate level, in general they are easy and short reads and the translations will help you discover new vocabulary.

French reading practice for intermediate and advanced French learners

Seen from behind, a brown-haired man sits at a table with a tablecloth in what seems to be a restaurant or bookstore turned restaurant. He is reading a book.

Intermediate French learners will find a lot of resources that at times might be a little too easy and at times might be slightly difficult. It’s usually best to opt for the latter – remember what I wrote previously about how this will allow you to learn more vocabulary and grammar while also being able to basically understand what you’re reading.

Some sources, though, are well adapted for intermediate learners, and I’ve included some of them on this list.

If you’re an advanced learner, Félicitations ! You should be able to read most texts in French. But remember that there will always be challenges – maybe some vocabulary words you don’t know or an author’s writing style that you find particularly difficult. This is completely normal and remember that it could even happen to native French speakers!

I’ve grouped French reading resources for intermediate and advanced learners together because some of these might have both advanced texts and texts that are a bit easier.

Children’s Library

Children’s Library contains 59 French children’s books you can read online or find in your local library.

Many of these books also exist in English, so you can open both the French and English version and compare the translations.

Children’s books and stories in French

As I wrote before, children’s stories and books in French aren’t necessarily the easiest things to read, since they sometimes have very specific vocabulary and turns of phrase. But they’re a great idea for intermediate learners (and of course advanced learners, too).

You can find some good French children’s books for learners on our list.

You can also check out BookShop if you’re looking for other French children’s books.

Always remember to read a preview of the book, if you can, to make sure you like it and that it’s the right level for you.

Français Authentique

Johan regularly publishes podcasts that come with a transcript so you can read and listen at the same time. His Facebook page is also an awesome resource to get your daily dose of French.

Check out our list of the best French podcasts to find other podcasts that include transcripts.

French news websites

If you’re interested in current events, you can start reading news websites. Some feature articles only, while others include video and/or audio with transcripts that will be helpful for your reading practice. 

Here are a few French news websites:

Looking for more ways to read the news in French? Click here to discover 18 French newspapers! 

And here is our list of French magazines, including news magazines.

French short stories and fairy tales

Some French short stories and fairy tales are easier than others, but the sheer variety of them means that you should be able to find some that are perfect for both your level and your interests.

You can find some French short stories and fairy tales – many of them available for free – on our list.

French books

It’s hard to recommend a particular French book for all French learners, since  the best French book for you is one you’ll enjoy reading. 

To find that book, you could start by looking at our list of French novels.

And here are a few websites where you can find French books.

Pro tip: Most books published before the 1920’s are often in the public domain, which means you should be able to find a copy of them for free online.

You can find free works by other classic French writers on sites like Wikisource and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France’s portal, Gallica, or by doing an internet search for their name and seeing what comes up.

Your local library may also have some French books you can check out, so be sure to look for those the next time you’re there.

If you choose to read books from an older author like Maupassant, don’t forget that these books were written more than 100 years ago, so many words are no longer used. That said, French has changed a lot less than a language like English, so a lot of how things are expressed, turns of phrase, etc., are still in common use today.

Wikipedia

That’s right! Wikipedia is an excellent (and free!) French reading resource. You can look up just about anything that interests you and read about it in French. Because many articles also have an English version, you may be able to use those to check the definitions of certain terminology or test your comprehension in general.

Wikipedia is is particularly useful if you’d like to learn the vocabulary of a specific field or subject area.

Where to find more free resources to practice reading in French

A man in stylish retro white pants holds a book with a blank cover. We can only see his arm, hands, and waist.

Thanks to the internet, including the availability of public domain works, blogs, and other free reading material, the world is your oyster when it comes to finding reading material in French!

For a start, you can find more ways to practice reading in French on our list of free French resources. Or do an online search for whatever you’d like to read or read about in French and see what comes up as a result!

Bonne lecture ! (Happy reading!)

Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here, or feel free to stop by her website.

24 thoughts on “The best resources to practice reading in French”

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    • Short Stories in French for Intermediate Learners by Olly Richards. But the book allows you to get access to the audio for a nominal cost. Also, Bien-dire and Bien-dire Initial magazines have audio options available.

      Reply
  1. For the past three years, I’ve been translating a book by the French archaeologist Jean-Louis Brunaux called Nos Ancetres les Gaulois ( it’s a mixture of history book/archaeological findings/historical and current popular opinions on the Gauls/their civilization and their influence on modern France https://www.amazon.com/Nos-anc%C3%AAtres-Gaulois-Jean-Louis-Brunaux/dp/2757853120 )

    This is admittedly a difficult and cumbersome process that I don’t always have time to dedicate to fully ; I copy a sentence in a notebook in the original French, then I look up each individual word, or any words in the sentence that I don’t already know, in a Merriam-Webster’s French-English dictionary, any words I can’t find or that I think might have other meanings not listed I look up in Google Translate, and if I can’t find it there or the meaning seems wrong for the context or statement I use an online dictionary in French, copying the page and pasting it into Google Translate, such as L’Internaute.fr or Larousse.fr, and when I think I understand the sentence relatively well I double check by typing the whole thing in to Google Translate and then I write the sentence in English under the original French. But I supplement my French learning with Easy French Step By Step by Myrna Bell Rochester https://www.amazon.com/French-Step-Step-Myrna-Rochester/dp/0071453873 , French With Vincent at Youtube and, of course, the French Together website.

    Happy learning, fellow students!

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the tips. I’ve been trying French for only 1 year and have been struggling to find materials I can read and hear at the same time.

    Reply
  3. Amazing, Benjamin.

    I love your articles and look forward to your e-mails always.

    I’ll check these out and see where they take me in my journey to knowing and speaking French

    A bientot

    Reply
  4. For educators there are great sites such as Newsela that adapt real newpaper articles and make them available at different reading levels. That helps a teacher differentiate the source material for different reading abilities within the class. Is there something equivalent that you know of in French?

    Reply
  5. I highly recommend finding a French translation of a book you know well. I taught myself to read French when I was in 9th grade French2. My dad went on a business trip to Québec and brought back a French copy of my favorite Harry Potter book. I had it practically memorized, so I could get the gist of unfamiliar words and kept my American copy nearby just in case, though I rarely used it. Bonus, the paperback French copies of that series are bound better than the hardback American ones, so no more losing pages! I read other things in French now, when I can’t my hands on them. If you like comic books, check out Astérix. It’s available on Kindle, now!

    Reply
  6. Lingua.ly sounds like a neat extension. Unfortunately, it is only available for Chrome, and I am a Firefox user. It would be a bit cumbersome to switch between browsers. I hope Firefox has a similar extension? But I haven’t found any yet.

    Reply
  7. Hi Benjamin,
    I am currently learning french and find this very interesting. I am looking for argumentatives articles where I could practise to summarize for university, but can’t find anything. I don’t want news, just maybe a magazine or website which has these kind of things?

    Reply
  8. Hi Benjamin,
    I really love your site! It’s wonderful to read more about French than just textbooks. It really has necessary tricks and suggestions. So thank you for that. I will definitely check out these resources for reading, but would you know any fashion blogs/lifestyle sites for practicing French reading as well?
    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
  9. I would ask your point of view on that issue: the orthography change in French language.

    https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/jesuiscirconflexe?source=feed_text&story_id=1058458480883304

    This is something that could add some troubles to me.

    In many cases is not like I can consciously remember the majority of the pronunciation “rules”, indeed I tend to associate directly one word with the way I heard that one has been pronounced.
    Maybe it all will end up by learning two ways of writing the same word. (A little bit like to have to know how an English word is slightly differently written in US English and in UK Englis)
    But I would like to hear from you, your point of view, advices and the like.

    Reply
    • To be honest I didn’t spend so much time reading about this change. But from what I read, it’s not even an official change, but rather a suggestion.

      I honestly believe it’s not going to change anything. For now, I’ll keep writing and speaking French the way I have always done it (and so will most people) and I recommend you do the same.

      For me what matters isn’t what the best way to write is, but rather how people use the language. And in French as in English, the correct way is rarely the most common.

      So my tip for you is not to pay attention to it for now.

      Reply
  10. Je suis un professeur de yoga . Je suis abonné à un magazine de yoga en français. Il est plus facile à lire parce que je suis bien informé sur ce sujet.

    Reply
  11. i totally agree. Too many people rely on Google Translate and this can considerably slow down their learning.

    While I do agree that literal translations can be great, I think there are cases when a non literal translation is better. In the case of idioms for example.

    P.S: I edited your comment to mention you wrote the books you linked to.

    P.S2: I would love to review your book

    Reply
    • Hi Benjamin, yes so the interlinear books I edited (not the author) are literal and the translator added the non-literal translation as well, for example in the most common case:
      il y avait
      it there had
      (there was)
      The software e-reader has the same word-for-word info, as pop-up, and adds spaced repetition practice options.
      With (over-abundant) graded readers you “have to” read a million words to become fluent (or rather, to be able to start reading your favorite French book in French without relying on a dictionary too much). Assuming you can’t learn most words from context you’ll have to look them up in an index complementary to the graded reader, or with a dictionary. Say you’ll have to memorize 5000 words (of which about 2000 headwords) while reading those graded readers, and assuming you’ll have to look up words more than once before you memorize them (few people have photographic memory), it means for example that you spent 5000 x (on average) 10 times looking up x (on average) 10 seconds, is 500,000 seconds looking up words to “get fluent”. Or even if you only have to look up 2000 words on average 5 times with 10 seconds look-up time, it’s still 100,000 seconds “look-up” time (breaking immersion) that is avoided with (correct) pop-up or interlinear format.
      The idea is that with interlinear books (re-reading them to memorize the difficult words in the text), and especially the pop-up e-reader with immediate pop-up translation (literal and idiomatic) available, and with integrated software helping you memorize low freq words, you’d be able to read independently much faster (40 hours, I did so with Hungarian).
      It would be interesting if you could review the products. We just started so it’s all still flexible.
      Here’s a quick preview link of both formats. I can imagine that something indicating the low freq words in Interlinear format, or a practice schedule based on SRS, would help memorize them as the software would.
      https://www.learn-to-read-foreign-languages.com/blogs/forum/83166470-learn-french-with-pop-up-translation-and-interlinear-e-books

      Our ideal is to do this for every language. That you can learn to read and understand (it’s with audio) fast, and then go on reading French books independently, and learning to speak and write much easier as well, as you’re already reading and your passive vocab is much larger.
      Let me know please where to send the download link for any review material!

      Reply
    • Salut Red!

      You can use linguee.com, a great site which will give you translation of expressions you type, or their counterparts in English.

      Wikitionary has quite a lot o expressions explained too.

      Reply

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