Book Review: Japanese Graded Readers
Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
The Japanese Graded Readers Series is aimed at providing a fun and informative way to practice basic Japanese vocabulary and reading/listening comprehension.
All booklets from Level 0 through the Level 4 are written in hiragana, along with the appropriate level of kanji mixed within the text.
The feeling you get from being able to read actual Japanese text yourself is a powerful one for beginners.
Even if you only know every third word/kanji, you’re reading in another language and that’s pretty amazing I think.
Each level has several volumes (Level 1 is available in three volumes), which come in multi-booklet packs and as the level number increases, the booklets add more vocabulary, kanji and more complex grammar.
The Level 1 booklets feature a 350 word vocabulary and each story at this level has between 400-1,500 characters.
If you’re currently studying at the N4/N5 level, these booklets are an ideal starting point for you.
Basic grammar is covered with conjugations ranging from the -masu, -te and tai forms through to present and past tense, desu and several others.
The five illustrated stories included in the first volume of Level 1 are:
- おんなの子 – The Girl
- ハチの話 – The Story of Hachi
- ジョンさん日本へ – John goes to Japan
- 浦島太廊 – Urashimatarou
- 笑い話 – A Funny Story
An added bonus is the free CD, which includes the text from each booklet being read by a native speaker, which is a perfect way to improve listening comprehension while reading along with each story.
When I first started the series I ripped the CD and then listened to the booklets while reading along with the text from the booklets.
Having the audio with me wherever I went enabled me to practice my listening comprehension at any time of day.
As you move through the booklets, any new vocabulary you find in a booklet will repeated multiple times throughout the other booklets to reinforce their use and meaning in context.
I found this of particular use in quickly building my arsenal of Japanese words in the early days.
I know I bang the “no romaji” drum quite a lot but it is something I feel strongly about and that’s what I enjoy about these booklets as they are 100% Japanese and therefore there’s no option to cheat yourself with romaji or English.
If you don’t know the hiragana or kanji then you’ll need to look it up and memorise it. It’s a powerful motivator.
While the Japanese Graded Readers Series will introduce you to new words and help to maintain your current reading and listening abilities, I think the biggest plus is to keep you thinking and reading in pure Japanese – there are no crutches whatsoever.
With it’s colourful illustrations and easy to read text, the Japanese Graded Readers Series sure beats the heck out of wading through boring lists of vocabulary and grammar.
BTW check out Harvey’s views on Level 0 of the Graded Readers Series over at japannewbie.com