Where to go after Graded Readers?

Hello everyone.
I’ve been relying in the comfort of Graded Readers since I was able to pick the first ones about 3 months after starting learning japanese.
All the way I’ve found they have provided a terrific way for me to keep reading alongside learning kanji and grammar. I’m reading the Level 3 stories so far, and still I’m left with Level 4.

Out of curiosity I’m looking for what to read next, and to make sort of a plan on what kind of reading should I do after I’m done with the whole series.

I’ve found this blog, from someone doing extensive reading in japanese. After going through this blog and some other comments from more advanced learners I’m getting the impression that the level I’ll end up after finishing with the series will only allow me to read very basic (albeit childish) native content.

A more advanced reader gave me this links, as for me to try native content and decide where my level would be now. Given it’s child stuff It’s ALL HIRAGANA :exploding_head:

This first one I founded to be above my current level.

This other one I can read it just fine.

In both the all hiragana text it’s painful to read. I realize how much kanji helps (weird thing to say).

Does anyone here has made the transition from graded readers to native content. What kind of reading did you do by then. Did the content suffered much (fairly adult oriented content to childish tales)?

I would love to read any recommendation :+1:


I never read Graded Readers, though I did read some fairy tale collections (specifically イッキによめる). These can definitely be fun to read and they’re usually pretty short (a native speaker is supposed to finish one in 10 minutes or something, after all). My favourite here was いばら姫, because I hadn’t actually read it in my native language.

Any native material that isn’t for very small children is going to be hard as balls, especially in the beginning. One recommendation I could give, is to start with manga, specifically 日常 types, or those with high school settings (ie not sci-fi or fantasy). These use mostly common vocabulary and modern day speech, and since you have pictures you’ll get plenty of context help. If you’re OK with not always getting 100% comprehension you can get a pretty good reading speed while still learning and reinforcing a lot.

If you’re dead set on reading an actual short story or story, the absolute easiest I have finished (aside from short fairy tales) is 時をかける少女, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone wanting to start reading real native materials. It’s not super long, but it’s a very well-written and interesting story in my opinion (the anime is different, btw, in case you’ve seen it).

I’ve found that the most important part is to 1) not get too frustrated and 2) read something you’re at least somewhat interested in. I’ve dropped books that I could read with some effort because they were boring. If the resistance is too high, just toss it and pick up something else. Keep in mind by the way, that you can 立ち読み ebooks in lots of places (eBookJapan for instance), so there’s no need to stick to something like 青空文庫 if you don’t want to.

EDIT: There’s also hybrid books like “Read Real Japanese” that could be a good fit if you want a challenge. I found them quite difficult but they have full English translations and explanations.


Maybe have a look at Roy Miller’s “A Japanese Reader”. It’s another graded reader, but it goes from very simple right through to native-level extracts from literature, the press and technical writing. It moves quickly, but it’s very comprehensive, and the best kind of graded reader - one that moves forward, with a variety of fiction and non-fiction content.

EDIT: It also introduces kanji as it goes, which is really handy. There’s also the Satori Reader site, which links to your WK progress and uses the kanji that you’ve already started learning (or native-level kanji usage, if you want - with or without furigana).

I have still only read through Level 2 of the Graded Readers, so I’m not sure how I would find Levels 3 and 4, but I think that part of the key is realising that when you make the switch to native material it is simply going to be harder.

The philosophy behind the Graded Readers (and I think it’s a good one) is to read lots, easily. Once you are stuck with native material though, it becomes extremely hard to find anything easy enough to read, so you have to accept the ‘slog through it’ approach! Children’s books are often still difficult, because being child-friendly is not the same as being ‘foreign language learner friendly’ - they tend to eschew kanji a lot of the time, focus on simple concepts, and use relatively complex grammar, because children pick up an innate understanding of grammar and this is therefore not such an issue for them.

I second the manga suggestion - it can have more slang, which is unhelpful, but the sentences are much shorter and the pictures aid your understanding with context.

I managed to grind my way through the first volume of Flying Witch way back last year by accepting that I would have to look up lots of words, and I’ve now read the second volume as well by taking a more “ignore what I don’t understand” approach. Yotsuba was easier, and I’d imagine things like Shirokuma Cafe and Chi’s Sweet Home are more on that level. Otherwise I’d also recommend slice-of-life stories, if you won’t find them too boring, because they don’t tend to have too many niche words.

I’ve also got several bilingual books of Japanese folk tales, which are pretty good practice but maybe not for you if you’re looking to avoid childish content. Tuttle publish quite a few.

I would also suggest looking at the picks read through by the beginner book club, because there are often vocab lists available in the associated threads, and your questions may have been asked and answered in the past.


Thanks for all your responses :ok_hand:

I was just looking at those. Maybe I could come to terms with my inner child and go with those. No funny all hiragana madness in there ??:sweat_smile:

I’m thinking about that too. Actually there’s one that I really want to read, but I’m getting I’m not there yet (夏子の酒). I was thinking finishing Japanese the Manga Way (as there’s many explanations very useful related to mangas) and give it a try… :man_shrugging: Any particular recommendation?

My concern about it is about being graded material too, I feel while it’s very motivating to understand progresively more interesting content, I will benefit from going into native content. As the options will be much more after what I’m guessing it’s going to be a cold turkey period.
how do you compare it to native material? does it strike you as you could move from Satori Readers stories to native without much trouble?

didn’t knew about this one. Will search more.

Yeah, I guess It will be a change. And getting 100% from everything I pick won’t be much a of option for a while…

About that, how often you find yourself looking into the english translation??
I’m unsure about having english as a crutch. It will be a change from the cousyness of Graded Readers… so I may take the cold turkey way right from the start… I think it will pay off after a while.

Hmm, I’ll take another look this evening, but I think it depends a little on the book. The one I have which is a collection of stories groups the Japanese and the English into really quite big chunks on separate pages, so it’s not particularly easy to flick between the two, as it’s hard to find the specific place.

I have two which are individual stories, and I think I found myself flicking to the English much more with those, as the paragraphs are shorter and I think the text is sometimes on the same page.

I can take some photos this evening. I quite like the collection, because it’s readable while still challenging for me, and the dense text makes it more like a ‘real book’ (though it’s left-to-right horizontal).

As I said though, I managed to get through Flying Witch, so the cold turkey approach is absolutely doable! I just like them because the level is manageable.

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If you’re not quite at a level where you can read any graded reader fairly easily, I think a lot of native material would probably result in you having to look at a dictionary for half the time. The benefit of graded readers isn’t that you will be immediately reading native language - it’s to inch you there bit by bit. Reading lots of level-appropriate stuff is probably better than jumping in at the deep end and floundering, especially if it means you can read without referring to a dictionary too often, and if you have something that gets you to progress.

Definitely have a look at Miller. It’s a pretty old-school book, with a bunch of romaji, but the readers are great.

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I was just looking at those. Maybe I could come to terms with my inner child and go with those. No funny all hiragana madness in there ??:sweat_smile:

Here’s a terrible cell phone picture of two pages of くもの糸

As you can see, it does use some kanji (with furigana), and also explanations in simple Japanese next to difficult terms (though they’re difficult to read in the picture since it turned out so blurry).

I don’t think there’s anything that wrong with reading short fairy tales as an adult. :slight_smile:

I’m thinking about that too. Actually there’s one that I really want to read, but I’m getting I’m not there yet (夏子の酒). I was thinking finishing Japanese the Manga Way (as there’s many explanations very useful related to mangas) and give it a try… :man_shrugging: Any particular recommendation?

Funny you should mention 夏子の酒, because that’s one I want to read myself at some point. I used Japanese the Manga Way and loved it, the only bad thing about it is the romaji. As for manga recommendations, personally I have a soft-spot for shoujo manga and there’s a ton of simple high school romance stuff out there. Right now I’m reading one called 王子とヒーロー for instance. 神様がうそをつく & 人魚王子 are two one-off mangas I really enjoyed that were not super difficult, and had quite simple stories. Contrast this to something like 魔法使いの嫁, which contains a ton of made-up and advanced vocabulary, and is something I would recommend against unless you’re willing to really buckle down.

I’d once again recommend that you 立ち読み stuff that you think may be interesting. If it seems doable; keep reading. If it doesn’t (or isn’t interesting), just drop it and go to the next one. I dropped 出口ゼロ after 1,5 volumes, not because it wasn’t readable, but because I wasn’t enjoying it.

If you’re not quite at a level where you can read any graded reader fairly easily, I think a lot of native material would probably result in you having to look at a dictionary for half the time. The benefit of graded readers isn’t that you will be immediately reading native language - it’s to inch you there bit by bit. Reading lots of level-appropriate stuff is probably better than jumping in at the deep end and floundering, especially if it means you can read without referring to a dictionary too often, and if you have something that gets you to progress.

To add to this, a lot of it comes down to frustration and how much of it you can take. Having to sit with your nose deep in the dictionary gets old FAST, and unless you’re REALLY motivated (like, really REALLY motivated) you may get burnt out.

At the same time, whenever you do start reading native materials, you’re going to have to look at a dictionary a lot at first. There’s really no getting around it, unless you’ve somehow managed to learn tens of thousands of vocabulary words without reading anything other than Graded Readers.

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Great advise everyone!!

I think a fair mix of graded readers has still a role to play, and given those pics form くもの糸 looks quite ok, I will go whit that series as well.

I said I was left with level 4 (Ask Graded Readers). But I’ve found another series that goes up to level 5 , so that well has not dried yet :smile:

does it strike you as being much more difficult than the rest of your recommendations?

About that, the amazon sample pages don’t show much. a lot of hiragana and vocab lessons. Anyway I went by your recommendation and bought it, there’s lot of people that praise it in the reviews.

was your nose in the dictionary much? I might try that one too.

Aside from what’s been mentioned so far, have you looked at NHK or NHK Easy? I know it’s not books, but it’s still material to read from, and can also give you some insight into the culture of Japan, since it’s one of their news corporations.

Another option could be this:

Has articles organized by JLPT level, N5-N3.

I know that the translations might not be the most accurate, but English books rewritten for Japanese might be of interest to you? I know a popular one is Harry Potter, but there are others too. I currently have HP1 and Holes in Japanese. There is plenty of kanji, since all us WKs now hate pure hiragana, haha, but also some furigana on a few of them. I haven’t read them yet, but I’ve pegged them to be around at least halfway N3 level.


does it strike you as being much more difficult than the rest of your recommendations?

Haven’t tried reading any of it yet, so I don’t know :slight_smile: I’d imagine there could be some issues with older language, but that’s just a guess.

Okay, I have some images!

Yuko-chan and the Daruma Doll

Fairly typical page. The English is large, often quite close to the Japanese, and paragraphs of equivalent text are always close to each other.

I wouldn’t particularly recommend these unless you find other material too difficult.

A Treasury of Japanese Folktales

This one has much more content compared to Yuko-chan. The text is much more dense, and they don’t break up the two languages so much. You can see from the image that there’s much more Japanese on this page, because they don’t bother to align the translations much, so you can read it more continuously and I really only end up looking at the English to check specific things.

It does make the process a lot less painful than having to look in the dictionary every other word.

My nose was in the dictionary a fair bit, yep, but I read Flying Witch before I’d started WaniKani even, so my kanji knowledge was terrible, and I hadn’t read the Graded Readers or anything either, so just didn’t have much practice in general.

It does have some niche vocabulary, despite being slice-of-life, because it talks about things like witchcraft and agriculture, but at least I’m now equipped to read Kiki’s Delivery Service with my knowledge of the word for ‘broom’!

Have you seen the anime? The manga follows it pretty religiously, though out of order, so you could watch that as a primer, or use it if you get really stuck.

Flying Witch

From the first few pages:


You might check out this book: https://www.amazon.com/Breaking-into-Japanese-Literature-Classics/dp/1568364156/

It is basically a graded reader, but it uses various pieces of modern Japanese fiction as the source material, with a dictionary of new words along the bottom of the page and an English translation on the right-hand page. You can cover the right-side and try reading the Japanese text without assistance for as much as you are able. The stories are organized into three levels of difficulty, increasing as you progress through the book. The same author has also composed a second bilingual book “Exploring Japanese Literature” which provides additional works by Japanese authors.

If you are interested in Japanese literature, this is a great place to start. It will be more grammatically challenging than a children’s book or light manga, but the additional resources should make it more approachable than if you picked up the original Japanese and tried to read it on your own.

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I haven’t bought any of the Ask Publishing graded readers past 0 but it looks like getting past 4 puts you at low N2? You could probably do almost anything at that point. I’m roughly N4ish in grammar and so I’ve just been tackling bilingual manga, because I can pick up vocabulary and typical writing conventions without a lot of fatigue of having to look everything up. My favorite is a pub that was recently put out in bilingual form - ふしぎの国のバード - I actually found this super straightforward grammar wise but there is a ton of vocab. Only downside is that there is no furigana, but not sure if that’s too much of an issue for you since you’re kind of pretty far along in WK.

I’ve also picked up digitally a lot of the classics in simplified form - the 10歳までに読みたい世界名作 series - because I know the plots to a lot of these and aren’t too bogged down by grammar since that is definitely my weak point here. I started with Anne of Green Gables - because I love the Anne series and it’s a nice way to ease myself into reading native content. Alternately there are a bunch of other short story types (10分で読める伝記 , なぜ?どうして?科学のお話, etc) that are set by school grades to see where you are. I have the same problem as you - a full page of hiragana is hard to read - so you might want to start at the 5年生 and up to get a feel for where you’re at.

And the above posters mentioned NHK Easy News, which I also do, but that’s basically a daily assignment from my teacher, to read one article a day there.

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I’m not aiming at preparing the JLPT, so I don’t know about the actual meaning of every JLPT level. But I doubt it’s aplicable in that way; maybe some JLPT N2 content it’s used in the last level of the series , but I don’t think understanding the book would mean being capable of passing that exam.

This is the graduation used.

So, I’m guessing a controlled 1300 setting would not resemble N2 passing requesites. :sweat_smile:

And this a sample page of one of the stories from Level 4.

Kanji learned so far has proved to help with graded readers… but still I’m not even halfway there…Is there a place so see some kind of WK > japanese school grade comparision?

Reading news? :open_mouth:
I’m a bit surprised some of you mentioned this. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself somewhat educated, and I read them in my language from time to time. But struggling through a new language and the rewarding feeling after finally getting there it’s something I never thought could be related to news reading.
I mean, even In my language I read the news about topics I really I’m into.

Good thing about the website it’s greatly structured for learning :sweat_smile:

I saw the example pages, and while the selections seem quite in the order of what I would like to aim to, it’s a really irreproducible construction, as it has all the aids to understand, wheter I’m able or not.

I think it’s not in my level for now :man_shrugging:. I would end up cheating my way through. Maybe when I’m there I would benefit from having the definitions, translation and audio available.

Anyway I think I’ll continue with graded readers as long as I can and I still see progress. But will check what 小学一年生 are reading these days :nerd_face:

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:open_mouth::open_mouth: there is an anime !!

I’ve already get myself the subs and the anime. :face_with_hand_over_mouth:
sentence review with this while reading the manga should be a great practice…


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I’m exactly in the same situation as yours Ncastaneda. I’m halfway into Japanese Reader Level 4 and investigating what to read after that… But no luck so far, every native material that I tried is so hard that it just kill the pleasure of reading.

NHK easy news is actually perfect, level-wise, I would say the difficulty is a close match to JGR level 4 and sometimes a little harder. But unfortunately, as you pointed it, being news, it’s quite boring to read…

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I’m not a huge fan of shoujo, but I can second it as a good place to look for accessible, conversation-heavy material and the best stories are, like anything else, good at holding interest and appealing to people outside their core demographic.

となりの怪物くん has been pretty easy to read for its first two volumes and it’s fairly engaging. However, you’ll need to do dictionary lookups for terms related to school-activity-type things or guess and retroactively infer meaning from what you’ll see a page or two later. There’s also a bunch of kanji that WK won’t teach you 'til the mid-30s, but it’s also common stuff you may already know and be able to recognise from the furi. Grammar-wise, high-N4 to low-N3 (e.g., finished Genki II and made some limited progress reading simple native material) should be enough to avoid any confusion.

It’s a popular enough series that you might be able to pick up an English-translated copy of the first volume in a local used bookstore for use as a way to avoid getting stuck on some of the harder, internal-monologue phrases.

Ask publishing also lists the grammar level of the stories as well: 採用情報 – 英語編集部 – アスク出版 and it states low N2 (not passing, just beginning N2) by the end of level 4. I was assuming that it was both grammar and vocabulary that went into determining the JLPT level. Although to be honest, that first page you linked me didn’t seem very complicated grammar wise so it’s a little bit hard to say.

The https://www.wkstats.com site has it? Under Joyo Kanji in both Items and Charts.

I guess this gets to our different learning goals? I want to learn Japanese partly so I can read newspaper articles. I find it enjoyable. But I work in fixed income research and that requires reading news pretty much all the time and if I didn’t enjoy reading news I’d absolutely hate my job. But putting that aside, I find it useful to be exposed to a variety of writing styles since they tend to have specific idiosyncrasies for each - a newspaper article is written differently from a child’s story or a light novel or a research paper.

But yeah, to echo the others above, manga is generally a lot easier to drop into natively than books. If you continue graded readers, Let’s Read Japanese series might work? I think their Level 3 is harder than Ask’s Level 4, but could be totally wrong. Here’s samples of their 2 [Level 2] books (http://www.syndicut.com/Posts/Brookes-University/Lets-Read-Japanese) (which I’m also reading).

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Dish, where’d you get these books from?