Difference between books for 一年生 up to 六年生? (Searching for the right book to read)

Hi everyone,

after a long absence I’m trying to get back on track, especially with reading.
I’m thinking about getting some new books and while searching for material within my level I looked up the なぜどうして books on amazon. I liked the one that was read in a book club here and there seem to be more (or this one), that I missed.

With the upcoming book, I had to notice one thing: All of these are books for 二年生 children and are part of a series that seem to start at 一年生 level up to 六年生level. A quick glance at the inside on amazon.jp didn’t really make it clear to me what the difference between the levels was? Is it “just” the use of kanji and/or furigana? Are the sentences more difficult within the higher levels? Is the vocab used more difficult? Why are mostly the 二年生 books are chosen for the book clubs? What am I missing? :see_no_evil:

My point is that I want to choose a book (level) that I can read without much difficulty or having to look up too much. I partly read the にゃんにゃん and わんわん books with the book club and even started to read Kiki, but I have to look up soooo much vocabulary that it’s not much fun after a while (thus me stopping to read altogether sigh). Then again I don’t want the book to be too easy, so that I won’t make any progress with it.

Aside from the book club choices I tend to choose books that are too difficult for me right now (meaning, I am able to read them, but I have to look up A LOT). So I’m trying to kind of “start over” and build a better vocabulary foundation. The なぜどうして book seem to be a good starting point.

Please help me, I’m kinda feeling lost here :sweat_smile:

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There’s a huge difference between 1st graders and 6th graders in all kinds of senses. These are 6 year olds and 12 year olds. The 6th graders can read about 1000 kanji, but they also understand much more complicated subject matter. I don’t have much experience with these books directly, but it seems obvious if you’ve been an elementary school student at some point :slight_smile:

My guess for why 2nd grade books are commonly selected is because they have a decent amount of kanji while still being pretty simple I guess. A novel for a 6th grader could easily be challenging for even someone with N2 or N1.


Of course you’re right, but that was not quite what I meant. I’m sorry for not being clear.
My question was more about the difficulty in reading these levels as a non-native adult learning the language. I don’t expect to have much trouble with the subjects of a 12 year old, but maybe I’m going to have trouble understanding the language that a 12 year old already knows without having to think about it.

Well, that was part of what I was implying by more complicated subject matter. There’s more nuance, and thus, more words you need to know.


These are all synonyms, but they probably will get used at different levels of books. 6th graders have a vocabulary that surpasses most people with N1, I would say. Someone with N1 probably knows more kanji though.

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Sorry for the misunderstanding!
Now I get what you meant; thanks for clearing it up :blush:

The 一年生 books use so little kanji, many people find they become more challenging to read. A lot of beginners will describe this as a “wall of kana”. So the 2nd grade readers have been a better choice for book clubs.

I’ve read most of the absolute beginner book club books, and found I had to look up a fair amount of vocab in all of them. I think this is inevitable in books not specifically designed for foreign learners. I read today that an English speaking 6 year old already has a receptive vocabulary of 20,000 - 24,000 words.


Oh, wow. That is a lot!
I don’t know how to build my vocabulary knowledge other than by reading native material (and of course learning through textbooks), but with that number there is no wonder I have to look up so many words. Kind of frustrating though.

Funny enough, texts with kanji are really more easy to read now. I wouldn’t have believed that in the beginning of my studies. :laughing: That was why I thought about buying books that are for a higher level and therefore may use more kanji than the second grade books.


I know your question was about this particular series of books aimed at native Japanese speaking children - but if you wanted a step down to get started you should look at graded readers. I read one of these recently and found the vocab and grammar to be better suited to an early learner, less time spent looking up vocab and more time just enjoying reading.

There’s a book club for that too:


Thank you for pointing the book club out for me, but I have already looked into graded readers and unfortunately don’t really like them. It is difficult to find something to practice reading that also interests me. I can’t really bring myself to read something just to practice reading and so I jumped to the kind of books that I want to be able to read (and enjoy) sometime in the future.

I may be already “able” to “read” these books (as in understanding the grammar), but I have to look up so much words, that I can’t enjoy it. That’s why I thought about how to build a better vocabulary foundation with the なぜ?どうして? books - the one I already own is fun and kind of interesting. I don’t enjoy kids books that much, and would like to read stuff for an older audience, but well :sweat_smile:

I also read through a manga series (暁のヨナ), but have the same problem with having to look up a lot of vocabulary - even eight volumes into the story sigh. I do know the anime, so I could follow the story without looking up so much, but I don’t feel like I’m really learning anything from it then.

I’ve heard that if you just chug along and look up stuff as you follow a series, you need to look up stuff less and less as you get through it. I’m not a big fan of that either though.
EDIT: just reread your post saying even 8 volumes in… dang yeah that’s definitely not an enjoyable reading experience…

You should try reading a story/manga you’re familiar with already so you aren’t as worried about missing out on the story experience, and it’s easier to guess the meaning of words you don’t know if you already are familiar with what’s going to happen. Then with a couple of those under your belt, it might be easier to read something new.

EDIT wow I just didnt read your post apparently, you said you are familiar with the manga

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That is exactly the case with 暁のヨナ - I started reading the first volume and looked up a lot of vocabulary. With the third volume I stopped looking up that much and just read on because I know the anime and they are very alike; so even without knowing much vocabulary I understood (remebered) what was going on. But I didn’t feel like I learned something from this kind of reading. So now sometimes I’m looking things up and sometimes I don’t. But I believe after finishing volume eight, the story continues to what happens after the anime, so that won’t be possible anymore and I have to look up much again.

I kind of get the feeling that reading is supposed to be a pain in the beginning…
It didn’t feel that way when I was learning English and began reading on my own outside of school. I tried reading Harry Potter in my third year of studying English in the classroom, but couldn’t really understand a thing. When I tried reading it again in my fifth year of studying in school, I could read it without many problems. Of course I didn’t know all the vocabulary, but I could read it just fine nonetheless. With Japanese this seems to be different (and I didn’t even try Harry Potter, yet :laughing:)


Yes! It just takes a ton of practice unfortunately. I think Japanese is just way harder because there is sooo much different about it than English. It’s pretty easy to learn basic/intermediate Japanese, but I’ve had such a hard time getting over the upper intermediate bubble, and I think a lot of people feel this way. Once you really get into the natural language there are so many nuances and things that are implied… I think this is the most difficult part of reading and listening. I always feel like I’m missing something even if I look up the words themselves.

I think what you might be looking for are parallel texts. Have you used one before? I was experiencing the same issues you are with having to look up so many words, and these books are actually pleasant to read because the translation is right on the other side of the page. It is also nice because they are good at explaining and translating phrases that probably shouldn’t be translated literally. They also have further info in the back of the book on certain grammar structures, etc.

I like this one… the stories are actually really good and interesting, and the difficulty level increases from story to story. And the fact that they’re short stories makes it a little more digestible and easy to re-read. The only thing I don’t like is that they put furigana on all the kanji, so it’s not very useful for kanji reading practice, but the vocab/grammar practice is there at least, and it’s easier to look up kanji you don’t know if you have the reading.


I might try this one, thank you for the recommendation! I haven’t used parallel texts yet.
And it also has a CD - that’s great. :smiley:

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