Previously I’ve posted about Japanese children’s stories and also websites intended for Japanese children. At the time I was experimenting with children’s books but the experience ultimately left me a bit frustrated. The vocabulary (both content and the fact it was mostly hiragana) was difficult and the content was a bit juvenile (while stories about shrinking and flying on the back of a bug through a forest may sound interesting, for me I want to read more in depth stories where I get to know characters). And of course the fact that these stories are for five to seven year olds is a bit disheartening – they can read it but I can’t?? type feelings.
But don’t worry. There is something better out there! And easier. Yes, easier. Even though the books are intended for older children, I have found stories aimed at around 10 year olds (guessing from the age of the main characters being around 9 to 13 years old) are actually easier.
Why are they easier?
- More kanji, less hiragana. While you may not know many kanji, it is still ten times easier to read a book with kanji than without. The good thing is that all kanji in books for 10 year olds have furigana – the only kanji I’ve seen without furigana are numbers, and if you don’t know your numbers you probably can’t read the book anyway.
- Longer and more complex stories. How is this easier for you? Well, they take more time developing the characters and setting the scene. This is good because if you can only understand the book at a surface level it is easier to follow the story along. I found my books for younger children dove right into the “action”, things happened, and then it was over. Where are books for older children, you get more of an idea of setting, there is more dialogue (which I find easier than prose having been exposed to a lot of dramas) and the story is more enticing.
- More enjoyable. This goes with longer and more complex stories. I have never been one to enjoy short stories, with few exceptions, and I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that the same is true for Japanese stories.
Another great point is the start seems exceptionally easy because it deals with introductions. While the stories for younger children went right into the action, longer stories seem to start of with a self introduction of the main character, and then early on the character meets new characters which means more introductions. I don’t know about you, but self introductions was one of the first things I learnt in Japanese, and now I’m a pro at it. A self introduction scene in a drama is a scene I understand. Same with books. It is very encouraging opening up a book and understanding it at the start. It is better for your moral for something to start easy, giving you confidence to tackle the harder stuff.
Reading improved my English. I am a big reader and I know that I have a better grasp of grammar and punctuation than most (those who don’t read) even if I leave little evidence of that on my blog! I think that lots of reading will improve my Japanese. It’s harder to get into than dramas because with drams you have so much visual guide to help you. However, the advantages over books is you can go slower, look up unknown words and thus actually understand more than you do of the quick spoken dialogues in dramas. I am excited to finally be able to read REAL Japanese and hopefully soon I’ll be able to move up the age groups and into books without furigana, eventually onto books for adults.
Look out on my blog soon for tips and techniques to get into reading real novels so you can get into it faster than what I have. Learn from my mistakes (or at least, be able to evaluate what I went through and get some ideas on how you can adapt them for yourself!)
Tagsbooks, children's stories, reading, vocabulary, young adult stories