Graded Readers - Native Equivalents

Hi all!

So, I am (as many other people on this site are) a big fan of the Ask Graded Reader series! I’ve read a lot of different posts with suggestions of where to go next, easy native material for beginners, and even a native equivalent guide from the tadoku series, but I haven’t seen a list of books that are on the same “level” (aka if you can read this you should be able to manage x) for the Ask series.

It got me wanting to come up with some kind of compilation based on other people’s experiences, so I could hopefully put together some kind of list or guide so that the levels on the back of the books aren’t just in isolation (I believe it says it goes up to N3? But I doubt if you’d only read graded readers and then went to read an N3 level book/manga you’d breeze through it. After all, it’s made specifically for learners and is very catered in its content).

I really enjoy reading japanese books (albeit I haven’t read nearly as many as I’d like yet!), but I know at the start I was kind of disorientated by what it said you knew (if you could read the graded reader volume easily) on the back of the book and what I actually knew (slang, colloquialisms, dialects etc., looking at you yotsubato!!!). It’s obviously fine once you’ve tested the waters, started off (checked the great book resource list), but I still wonder just what native equivalent, if there is one, the Ask series have.

TL;DR: What native material (manga or books) do you think go with the Ask Graded Reader levels, assuming one has only read the graded readers before (albeit extensively)?
eg. Level 3 - [Manga/novel] was fairly easy

I’d be interested in hearing personal experiences!! :grinning:

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I’ve never read any graded readers, so I can’t compare, but there’s not really going to be native equivalents. Native speakers kind of just absorb most grammar, so there’s not really an arbitrary split like with the JLPT. Many easier books will still have some N2 grammar and occasionally even N1.

That said, I think Aria the Masterpiece is a good manga to start reading with. It’s relatively easy and has furigana for all kanji.


Yeah, I knew there wouldn’t be “proper” native equivalents, but I didn’t know what people were able to read (or think others would be able to read at that stage) that was native, in comparison to the Ask Graded Reader series levels. Kind of an general interest I just had since I think the perspective would be interesting. :slight_smile:

Yes, Aria is a very good manga to start with. Plus the art is pretty which always helps to motivate!

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The どんどん読める! 日本語ショートストーリーズ book series are short stories written for people at the N3 level. I definitely think these books can be read after the Level 4 graded readers.
And there’s the Taishukan graded readers which goes up to level 5.

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I picked up the 10分で読める伝記 series (starting from the first one, aimed at 6 year old kids and then covering all 小学 levels :sweat_smile: ) right after finishing the Ask Graded Readers Level 4.

It certainly felt like a step up in difficulty, unknown vocab would be so much more, but grammar wouldn’t trip me as much. Still, I had my grammar reference close (volumes 1-2 brought up many unknown grammar in my case too, though a quick look up and those appearing over and over felt enough to cement them in the long run).

It would be difficult to compare the difficulty in both materials, since the word count for the Ask series is rather low … I saw once a survey of estimated vocab you could take, and it would mention something in the lines of a 6-7 year old japanese kids knowing 4-5k words. That felt more in sync with the native series I went with.

EDIT: To expand my answer a bit, and looking back at the log I’ve kept, after the 10分で読める伝記 series I started my first novel (with the target been kids at a middle school level, 中学生), ペンギン・ハイウェイ, when my vocab was, according to Anki at least, close to 7.5k words.
Then recently reaching 10k words in the same manner I started my first adult novel, sort of in the easy side of the spectrum though, it was コンビニ人間.
In both cases the reading was ok, unknown words still appearing often, but not so much that will hurt the experience or drag the pace too much.
I have no idea where in vocab numbers will the experience resemble reading in english or my native language. I stopped counting anymore… so I guess I’ll never know. :man_shrugging:


It’s common for the all-hiragana stories for very young children to be littered with difficult words, classical grammar, and literary expressions. Because often these are quite old stories.

Even stuff that is written more recently still doesn’t want to sound like spoken Japanese most of the time.

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On the tadoku website they list some books/manga and grade them as “tadoku friendly books”.

By their own criteria, Yotsuba is listed at Lvl 3, and the なせ?どうして? series, which are aimed towards 1st graders and up, can range from Lvl3 to Lvl5.


I read through levels 0 and 1 of the Ask graded readers and just jumped into regular slice-of-life manga. You’re not going to understand every word that you read, but I’ve found that I can follow manga on the level of the forum’s Beginner Book Club.

Mhm, I’d noticed that while reading also. It’s quite interesting how many expressions and forms of grammer one uses at such a young age without realising. Learning another language really reminds you of how so many “basic” things are actually quite advanced (or littered with advanced/niche stuff)

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Yes! I read this! It’s actually what made me wonder if there was a similar thing for the Ask books (and then just decide to ask you guys what you, personally, were reading in correlation to the Ask levels)

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The book clubs here are really a lifesaver if you’re new to reading! Especially since there isn’t that much vocab in the Ask graded readers so it can be very helpful to have a vocab list.

Plus they have so many suggestions, lots of the books I wouldn’t actually have known about if it wasn’t for going through the different clubs lists! :blush:


This information is perfect - I was super curious about just what people were able to dive into after reading some of the Ask books. Vocab definitely was the biggest pit for me, but like you say, the word count in the Ask series is is so much lower so it’s to be expected I guess (and if you’re reading along with a book club it’s not as undoable as if you did it on your own).

What was the first novel you started after the 10分で読める伝記 series?

Your experiences are pretty much in line with mine, it seems that vocab is (when is it not?) the main big step in difference but that basic manga/novels are slightly difficult but doable.


The novel was ペンギン・ハイウェイ

Got halfway through before dropping it though :sweat_smile: … The novel was alright, but now I know that reading pass 150 pages (the novel is almost 400 pages :sweat:) when the plot won’t strike me as interesting ain’t really worth it.
I’m glad I gave a try to another of the recommendations made in the book clubs here soon after (コンビニ人間), I really felt I was reading for pleasure with this one. Now I’m looking for that equilibrium in my next novel, interesting plot without falling into a style or genre that will throw too many oddballs regarding vocab or phrasing. I think I’ve located a few already. I’ll be starting きらきらひかる by 江國 香織 next month.

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Ooh, I haven’t read that one. Might give it a looksie later!

Yeah, if it doesn’t grab you then after a while it can really start to drag, which in turn kinda kills your motivation to actually read more. Especially with books that can be a bit of a step up in difficulty, it can be more tiring than beneficial if you’re not invested.
Nice!! Honestly one thing I am thankful for with the Ask series books is it does inspire a bit of love of reading japanese into you. Even though the vocab step to native is a bit of a gap, once you get going it feels extra nice (at least, to me) reading a story you enjoy in japanese!

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I can recommend as an additional resource.
It is best suited for N5-4 levels, and they provide a good material for reading (and sometimes listening) practice.


Ask are one of the publishers who produce graded readers in line with that Tadoku Supporters organisation, so I would have thought the levels spelled out there would correspond to the Ask books just as much.

Hm! I didn’t know that! Thanks for the info!
Still intrigued as to people’s personal experiences :smiley:

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I have really been enjoying this series.

It’s a mix of Japanese stories and classic Western stories in Japanese.

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Yesss, I love those! (also love how it’s UK based so the shipping fees are more paletable…:sweat_smile:)
Plus the art is :heart_eyes:

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本当にありがとうございます。^ - ^
Just in time for me - I was beginning to freak out because I hadn’t begun reading anything at all close to the +1 …didn’t know where to find something that fit my level… and this is so perfect!!!

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