In this post: We share favorite Korean children’s books - from baby board books and early vocabulary books - to books introducing early conversation and early story books. We include both monolingual Korean books, along with bilingual Korean and English children's books. Finally, we list sites where you can buy (or borrow!) Korean books for kids.
Korean Children’s books: I can never have enough
Books are one of my guiltless purchases, favorite things to give, and a staple on any outing whether it’s a quick errand or a long trip. When our family decided to incorporate Korean in our home, books were also the first resource I turned to. But finding and choosing Korean children’s books was more challenging than I expected. But, over the years I have been able to find some favorites. I hope my trial and error can be helpful for you!
Table of contents
- Favorite Korean series for babies
- Favorite Korean vocabulary books
- Best Korean books to introduce conversation
- Favorite Korean story books for older toddlers
- Favorite Korean bilingual books (Korean & English)
- Where to buy Korean children’s books
My Favorite Korean Books for Babies
초점 그림책 First Focus Picture Board Book Series
Babies love bold shapes and high contrast. That’s why this My First Picture Book Set is perfect from day one. The set includes “My First Words,” “My First 123,” “My First Shapes,” and “My First Colors.” Each book is 10 pages with simple bright pictures and shiny foil accents.
The text is in Korean only, so you need a grasp of Hangul to read these. Given their simple nature, the vocabulary is easy and straightforward. And, the numbers book actually doesn’t have any Korean in it. So, you might choose to opt out of a purchase like this. But, for us, they were popular and stood the test of time. We’ve saved them for future siblings and other friends and family who might want to focus on teaching their kids Korean.
My Favorite Korean Vocabulary Books for Kids
These “My Little Library” books are great for introducing words and new vocabulary. I’m a huge fan of the graphic illustration style and playful colors.
There are a variety of books in the series, each focusing on a specific topic. We have “food” and “English.” (I like buying Korean books to teach English because bilingual learning works both ways!) So, for most of the titles, you need to be able to read Hangul. For the “English” book, the Korean appears alongside Hangul making it a wonderful “bilingual learning” book.
Another great thing about these is that they also teach a bit of culture. The foods that are highlighted reflect popular dishes or ingredients used in Korean cuisine. Or, you’ll notice small Korean details like the police uniform or “119” instead of 911. It’s wonderful to show that different places have different ways to do the same thing.
Each one is about 20 pages with around 100 vocabulary words and make a great addition to any library. These hardcover books have sturdy board pages and have survived any wear and tear my son threw at them.
Best Kids Books to Introduce Conversational Korean
말 배우기 그림책 Learning to Talk Picture Book Series
I am so grateful I stumbled upon this series focused on teaching children specific phrases surrounding an emotion. The format is so easy to digest. And, I absolutely love the soft drawings accompanying the story.
We have four of the five books, each focusing on a theme and what you would say in those settings. They are truly a wonderful way to introduce and talk about these situations and the feelings that might pop up day to day. For language learners, it’s also great to say and hear the phrases because they are perfect for everyday application.
The stories are spread across sixteen pages in a sturdy board book format. Once again, reading them requires you to read Hangul. The stories are short and basic, but these are some of my son’s favorite books. I think he likes that he can relate to what the characters are going through and experiencing.
My Favorite Korean Story Books for Older Toddlers
사계절 소풍 Seasonal Picnic Series
These delightful seasonal picnic stories are perfect once your little one gains more of an attention span. My son absolutely adores these and asks for them pretty often. They are silly, which kids love, and they also do a great job of highlighting how things are different each season.
The format of the stories are similar. A group of animals sets out with a goal, comes up against an unexpected hurdle, and then are usually met with an even more unexpected solution. I love to point out that seasonally there are different activities, settings, weather, clothing, etc. The cats in the summer book are all decked out in beach attire and sunglasses. The arctic foxes in the winter book have scarves, hats, and sweaters.
There is a lot to explore in the pictures and (Korean-only) text across the 32-36 pages. Alongside the main story, all the characters do a lot of talking. 김지안 Kim Ji An, the author and illustrator, does a wonderful job building vibrant worlds for these playful characters. I love rotating these at the start of each season.
My Favorite Bilingual Korean Kids Books For Every Age
Korean Versions of English Children’s Classics
While my son was happily looking at “배고픈 애벌레” (Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,”) my husband remarked, “Are we going to start buying doubles of every book?” I laughed it off, but secretly thought, “I wish!” Having the target language companion to popular favorites is a fun and easy way to learn.
This can be a little bit tricky because they are often not direct translations. So, if you are looking to use them to compare vocabulary or grammar, it will most likely fall short. Also, be prepared for the translated versions to lack the same rhythm or snap of your English favorites. (“Brown Bear, Brown Bear” just isn’t the same in Korean.) But, if you’re looking to expose your child to more Korean through a familiar story, this is a great way to do it.
As you can see, there can be a lot of options to buy Korean kids’ books, but it can be frustrating and expensive. A lot of shops wrap the books in plastic so you can’t get a peek inside. And, if you can find what you want online, you might end up paying a fortune in import markups. Or, if your family is mixed like mine and not everyone can read Hangul, the Korean books create a sad sense of exclusion for other family members.
That’s a big part of why I created Cadamini Books. By including Korean, English, and Romanized Korean, they can be enjoyed together by anybody. Let’s Clean Up, Fun Opposites, and Fun Numbers feature 24 pages of bright colors and playful characters alongside practical words and phrases. My favorite part of these books is how they can bring families together regardless of culture and language.
Of course, no bilingual book list would be complete without my all time favorite Habbi Habbi books. (No exaggeration.)
We love how thoughtfully they are designed. And, I really love how they are inclusive for every type of family and child. My favorite (so far) is “I Love My Body.”
My son lovingly runs for his “welcome” Wand and books regularly. It’s priceless watching his eyes light up as he listens along and happily bops to the music when he taps non-text.
My husband’s family speaks Chinese so we have the Mandarin set and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Korean series!
Where I Buy Korean Kids Books
Finding Korean books is tricky (and expensive). It’s hard to avoid paying extra for imported goods or international shipping. Luckily, I’ve found a few great workarounds.
If you’re lucky to live in an area that has a Korean population, you might have access to a local Korean bookstore. This is the first place I look for Korean children’s books. If you find something online you want and they don’t have it, chat with the manager. They might be able to order it for you. Bundling it with their other purchases might cut back on shipping and import costs for you. And, you get to support your local small businesses. Sometimes Korean grocery stores can help with this, too.
Used Books from the Community
There are a lot of great groups you can join for support and advice whether through Facebook or a local gathering. I’ve seen Korean parents posting books their kids have outgrown. If they’re not in the area, a lot of times they are happy to arrange shipping. Everyone can relate to the struggle of finding and buying quality Korean books for kids.
This isn’t a place to buy books, but the library is one of my favorite places to bring my son. Ask if your library has a Korean children’s assortment. If not, put in a request. A lot of times, libraries only get funding for books that have a record of interest. If you’re lucky enough to have a library with a broad offering of Korean books, they might also sell them after a certain period of time. Get friendly with your local librarian to make the most out of this wonderful resource!
I happened upon this website a while ago and it has been one of my main sources for getting Korean books directly from Korea. The shipping is pretty fast and the prices are decent compared to other Korean shopping sites (GMarket Global, etc.) They also offer deeply discounted shipping if you’re willing to wait for the books to arrive “by boat.”
Unfortunately, it is only in Korean. So, you need to be able to read and understand (or have a lot of patience with an online dictionary.) There are a few guides out there that help navigate the pages, including one I made.
Another great thing about Aladin is that they offer a wonderful assortment of second hand books. I love buying used books because, well, the environment, but also because it is a great way to get imported books close to their original Korean price. You can set your filter to “best” or “good” quality and a lot of times, you can end up with books that are like new for 40-60% off!
If you liked this, you might also appreciate the following articles
- How I use Korean food to teach language and culture
- 5 easy, practical ways to build a bilingual environment at home
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Check out more bilingual resources from Habbi Habbi
We have lots more (fun stuff!) here at Habbi Habbi. You can explore our free resources such as bilingual printables, resource blog, and audiobooks. Of course, we also have our much loved magical Reading Wand, bilingual books, puzzles & flashcards. Our tools are currently available in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Korean, and Hindi.
About our lovely guest Contributor: Katie
Katie Cadamatre is an illustrator, mom and transracial Korean adoptee. As a new mom, Katie was frustrated by the lack of accessibility and affordability in Korean resources her family wanted for her son. She launched Tigerboom Creative to fill the need for engaging bilingual content for diverse families like hers. And in 2020, she founded Cadamini Books, publishing thoughtfully designed books that expose children to Korean culture and language in a simple, fun, and inclusive way.