Review of よむよむ文庫 レベル別日本語多読ライブラリー レベル ２ (Reading Collection: Graded Japanese Extensive Reading Library Level 2)
Total: 111 pages, 3,190 words (est.)
Level 2, 初級後半 (Second half of the beginner level): The amount of words used jumps to 500, more grammar structures are introduced and the number of characters per reader goes from 1,500-2,500 (450-800 words). They’re suitable for people studying for the old JLPT levels 4 and 3 (new levels 5 and 4). There are three volumes of these, with five stories each.
Due to the wider variety of grammatical structures, these Level 2 graded readers start to feel more like authentic picture books, albeit very easy ones with more advanced stories than you might find in picture books of comparable difficulty. There’s five stories in all, and again, although they’re the same length in terms of pages, their word count gets progressively longer, from 絵姿奥さん (The Wife’s Picture), which is 450 words, to 一休さん (Ikkyū-san) which is 800 words. The full set has about the same number of pages as Level 1, Volume 1, but about twice the number of words. There are five 22 or 23 page stories in this volume, so, as with level 1, each story works out to about $7.40. (That’s assuming you get them from White Rabbit Press; see my introduction for more.)
These, especially the last two stories, felt more like actual books that Japanese kids might read, but they’re simplified in a way that didn’t feel condescending and still made good use of illustrations to aid comprehension. For example, in 絵姿奥さん, there’s a line about how the man hangs his wife’s picture on a branch, and although there’s already an illustration of something else on the page, they add a little picture of the action. There’s enough context there that a reader who didn’t know 枝 could guess that it means “branch,” but if that guess is then put together with the picture, then the connection between 枝 and “branch” is solidified. They also make use of words that were introduced and repeated in previous volumes. In one of the level 0 books, お茶碗 (rice bowl or teacup) is introduced by illustrations of the characters literally shoving an お茶碗 in the readers’ face five times, so I couldn’t help but smile whenever I saw it appear in a later book.
As with the others, there are one-page samples from four of the stories online, as well as a CD that comes with each volume. There is also a full sample of a Level 1 story available on the Japanese Graded Readers Research Group’s website: 船 (The Boat). So if you read that and it seems extremely easy, go with level 2. There are three volumes of level 2 graded readers available: Level 2, Volume 1, Level 2, Volume 2 and Level 2, Volume 3. (I’m not associated with White Rabbit Press; they just have the cheapest price for these graded readers at the moment.)
As I first encountered these as an intermediate learner after doing extensive reading for a few months, I don’t have any personal experience as to what it would be like to use them as a beginner or without experience with extensive reading, although I can make an educated guess based on my own experiences with learning the language and extensive reading and on watching other people read some of them. So if you’ve used them, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear about your experience – did you think they were useful? worth the money? fun? about the right difficulty level?
- Extensive reading is known as 多読, or tadoku in Japanese. To try it, start with very easy books (ones with no more than two or three unknown words per page), and follow these principles:
1. Don’t look up words in the dictionary while reading.
2. Skip over parts you don’t understand.
3. If you aren’t enjoying one book, toss it aside and get another.
Find something to read!
Hundreds of free books and stories online
Local bookstores and libraries
Buying new and used books online
For more information, read "What Is Extensive Reading?" and "Classification System."
To learn more about Kunihide Sakai, who developed the three principles of tadoku and has worked to popularize it in Japan for years, read this interview with him.
Finally, for more than you ever wanted to know about why I believe extensive reading is worth your time, read my tadoku manifesto.
Superfluous StatsBooks read: 303
Word count (since starting the blog): 380,500
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