Recommendations for Graded Readers🙏

Hi y’all cool crabs and alligators,

Thanks to you all WaniKani-ans, earlier this year, I published Japanese Books For Upper Beginners. Seems like Tofugu readers have been enjoying the recommendations from their fellow Japanese learners.

This time, I’m planning to write an article to introduce graded readers to absolute beginners, and I’d love your recommendations! I’ve created a survey for this, so please tell me about your faves.

Here’s the survey link:

Graded Reader - Japanese Graded Readers for Absolute Beginners Survey :closed_book:

Before starting the survey, please read the following:

What level of beginners am I asking about?

I am thinking beginners around JLPT N5, Tadoku L0-L1, WaniKani Level 1-10. Beginners who are not quite ready to read native content, but want to start getting familiar with reading Japanese text with graded readers.

What kind of graded readers am I asking for?

  • Graded readers designed for second language learners of Japanese.
  • Doesn’t have to be a “book.” It can be online content/apps, etc.
  • When you recommending a series of graded readers like にほんご多読ブックス series, please also be specific about which volume/story/episode(s) that you’ve enjoyed the most as many graded readers are a collection of a bunch of short stories.
  • Submit more than one if you have multiple favorites :heartbeat:

I’m planning to keep this survey open for a couple weeks at least, and see how things go! Let me know if you have any questions. Thank y’all!


Of the things I’ve tried I keep going back to Clay and Yumi

They have complete beginner to more advanced, and are good at marking it so you know (also a very affordable price!) but what they have that many don’t is a translation with detailed notes so you get to learn new words without tediously looking up (and adding details that might not be covered in a dictionary anyway)
You get the text as a whole, so can read it without distraction, then do the notes, and read it again to see if you understand more.

Sometimes I’ve left with “did I really understand that right?” from other readers.

Edit: Sent a recommendation for Frank and the Obaasan, as that is the one aimed at the complete beginner level=)


I must say though, this one gets a special mention cause of reasons :wink:


I know 庭には二羽鶏がいる ー にわにはにわにわとりがいる (there are two chickens in the yard) but this is my first time hearing about the ワニ version!:joy::crocodile:


Graded readers fitting in wordplay. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


I just checked the results and I am not getting too many responses so far😠!

Are people not reading graded readers? Or would bribing some special Durtle help?:thinking:

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Doesn’t it always?

On a serious note, I haven’t read any graded readers so I have nothing to contribute, sorry.

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I was looking for and reading this kind of content about a month ago and my attitude at the time was “I want to consume whatever I can find as long as it’s easy and gets me out of typical learning materials”. I ended up using some of the ones listed at Learn Natively were so trivially short, simplistic, or questionable to the point I would never wholeheartedly recommend them on an individual basis (the collection as a whole is nice for the low price of free though!) The other problem I had was that I had bookmarks and links to similar materials, usually hosted on a site that felt more annoying/intimidating/difficult to navigate than the actual readers. So I chose to study more instead.

Maybe if I had something that was more nicely produced like the book above I’d care a bit more, but I could never buy myself to buy that. It’s not just a matter of me being a cheapskate, but going a step up or two in difficulty would open up things like folktales or legit picture books that look gorgeous on the coffee table. The graded readers just don’t feel like something I would enjoy in a more permanent sense, they’re only satisfying at the time of reading/studying and even more relaxed learners will grow out of them somewhat quickly. I could bring up something like Crystal Hunters, but even that has its issues.

Overall, I just feel like this category is such a specific niche that curation is almost more trouble than its worth.

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It does seem hard to generate recommendations for graded readers, since by nature they seem made for you to read one series of them and then never really think about them ever again.

Like I really enjoyed the Ask Books よむよむ文庫 ones, so I put in a survey entry just now, but now I’d have no need for any others, so I can’t really speak to whether they’re better than other options (especially for the price). And even though I felt like I got a lot out of them, I didn’t feel any urge to go back and read them again or keep them around, so I gave them to a friend.
Whereas with good beginner-level regular books I’d be happy to read them anytime even if they’re easy to me now.

The window of usefulness is just a lot tighter than other media, I guess. While you’re in that window they’re pretty great, and I did really like the one set I used though!


Well in the same spirit, the KANI one is also good :smiley:

(But it’s a level 2 so maybe a bit difficult for the intended purpose)

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After having tried out Crystal Hunters, amongst others, I concur. I haven’t found any that make you want to enjoy the read so much as they want you to just read the content. I can’t see why it can’t be both.
If the pictures were gorgeous and the stories were mildly interesting, they would be much easier to recommend. Of course, some say that when you don’t know much grammar, it’s hard to make something interesting. I disagree. There’s no real reason a graded reader can’t use slightly more difficult grammar and add well-written notes. Here’s a revolutionary idea: if a graded reader is an educational tool, how about making it… Educational?

In English? The whole point is to be reading exclusively in the target language.

That said, I agree with the idea of making the stories more interesting, though there are always going to be cultural and personal differences regarding what constitutes ‘interesting’.

@TofuguKanae, my readers were packed up in boxes several months ago and I am only just getting around to unpacking, so I may be able to begin reviewing them in the coming week.

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Different language, but here’s a decent example. These were the sort of examples we had even jn textbooks in school. The format is pretty standard, the text has more grammar points than one would expect for a beginner text, and the notes at the end help lift the fog.


I’m surprised (but happy) I understood it all! :sob: I took some German classes about 15 years ago and haven’t really used it since.

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To my big surprise, there are quite a lot of errors in this short text :flushed:
In text+questions, I counted 4 outright errors and 4 formulations that I find doubtful… I hope the authors of Japanese graded readers do better in that regard :sweat_smile:

Calling it a “decent example” was a reflection of the layout and structure, not the content of the text :sweat_smile:

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This is why I recomended Clay and Yumi books :slight_smile:

Parts of chapter 1 in Frank and the Obaasan that I recommended:

It starts of with the story in Japanese, a quick vocab list (with «please use sparingly») and then notes explaining grammar and phrases.
Even though it is aimed at the beginner, I’ve both found it enjoyable and learned from it. It gets progresively longer and more complicated, so starts you of easy.

I enjoy my graded readers, but find I push through most for the sake of having read them. I usually find some in each box that I enjoy, and some in each box that I don’t :stuck_out_tongue:

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Do you mean grammatical errors or also factual errors?
I can only find one phrasing that I just woudn’t use… “Ihre Mutter kommt aus der Arbeit”. :sweat_smile:
And factually speaking, a cold isn’t cured within 3 days using medicine. And a doctor wouldn’t speak informally to a patient unless they’re a child. So, what errors did you mean? I thought my German was all right :sweat_smile: (considering that I’m native, but you’re never done learning and I might just be overlooking the mistakes)

I missed this topic and I am probably replying a bit too late but here is my most extensive list of graded readers :

I am personally working on a project that aims to provide content to read to absolute beginners. It is here :
There are about 60 stories but only the first 27 have been proofread by a native speaker. As written somewhere else on this forum, throughout the stories :

Words are introduced using Emojis and others are derived from the context by the reader. They are then repeated as often as possible to act like a natural SRS. The idea is that if you keep reading, you assimilate easy words and learn new ones on the way without having to stop to check the meaning of a word in a dictionary.