Taking the world less travelled

Books for Japanese Children

Posted by on Dec 4, 2009 in Reviews | 5 comments

grade3 After a bit of conversation in my article about my recent study methods I thought it would be good to get into more detail about the books I’ve been reading! Besides some manga, I’ve been reading books intended for Japanese children. There are a few problems I’ve found reading these compared to graded readers that are intended for beginners to the language. For instance, while children might not have a sophisticated vocabulary like an adult, they still have a large pool of vocab to pull from.

Never the less children’s books are obviously going to be a challenge to read, they are going to be easier than adult fiction, and thus can be a nice stepping stone for those of us who want to get to that stage one day.



This is the first book I attempted to read. It is a collection of short stories. It really is quite good, I feel, in that the amount of kanji is recognisable at least for someone in the upper beginner stage – not too much kanji but not so little that it is painful to read. Everything has furigana in any case. And some words have a little definition under them as well which is very helpful. There are a few pictures through the book, and at the end of every little story is three quick questions which test comprehension of the story.

Over all I think this is a great book, just not right for me. The more I think about it the more I think it is just ill suited to me – I just didn’t realise it at the time which is why it frustrated me. But when I think about it, I had the same “Is that all? Am I missing something?” feeling I get when I read short stories in English.

Although – it is important also to point out that I was missing things. A co-worker had me translate a line into English, which I did, and I was right, but he then explained some nuances that I missed. I think I’ll continue to miss nuances of course until my Japanese becomes more sophisticated. Never the less, I think this also shows that even if you get the basic story line, with these books you can have room to grow with them, perhaps discovering new things every time you read them.

So yes, I recommend these books to you if you think you’ll like the short stories. After all, my problem isn’t with these books, I think they are fantastic, but rather the realisation that short stories and I don’t really gel in any language.

Get this book from Amazon or scroll up a bit to check out the carousel of more books in the series, all the different grade levels.

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This is the next set of books I bought. So far I’ve only read through this grade one book. It was a bit more satisfying in that I understood much more without having to consult the dictionary as much. These are smaller stories than from the other book (although I don’t have the grade 3 one to compare with the grade 3 one I own, so perhaps they are comparable)… There are more pictures in these ones too, and have some poetry which I actually really enjoyed!

The stories do get progressively longer and harder too which is nice. Thumbs are enthusiastically up for these ones as well.


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  1. WC

    :clap: Very nice! I have been wishing I could find some Japanese children’s books and ease my way into real books. I can read manga enough to understand what’s going on, but there is very little grammar in mangas for younger people.

    I tried to find some children’s books myself, but my command of the language isn’t strong enough, I guess. And I definitely wasn’t finding them on English sites.

    Thanks for these links! I imagine I’ll be buying them soon. :)

    PS My current goal is to be able to read the first Harry Potter book, and then I think I can quickly get to the point where I can read the native Japanese books that I -really- want to read.

    • GoddessCarlie

      I don’t know why so many people want to read Harry Potter. It was awful in English, I’m guessing that wont change in Japanese. Although I’ve read great things about the Japanese translation:


      Personally I have some other young adult books lined up to read (that have been translated into English) but I’ll save that for another post…

  2. Carla

    I’m a Japanese student and sometimes I go to a bookstore specified in Japanese stuff, but almost always I buy magazines, because I never know if the book I’m about to buy is understandable for my level.

  3. Jamaipanese

    I really need to get my hands on some books like these

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