I made another trip to the library recently, and I was faced with a daunting realization: I’m running out of the level 3 and 4 books that I like. At the rate I’m going they’ll start getting harder soon; I can certainly read harder books, but not as quickly or fluidly as I’d like…
When we moved from Michigan to Washington State, we didn’t initially have a very clear picture of where we would settle down. Seattle? Tacoma? Olympia? Bremerton? Bellingham? I admit it: “quality of the library system” was an important criteria for evaluating potential places to live — would you believe I had a dream that we moved somewhere with no interlibrary loan system — and I scoped out several different libraries even before we moved. (Later, when looking for apartments, “proximity to library” was another important qualification.)
Of course, I was most impressed with the Seattle library system’s Japanese language selection. We ended up moving to Tacoma, but it’s been in the back of my mind ever since that a Seattle library card could be mine for around $80. After all, there are more than 600 Japanese children’s books spread out between the various branches — that puts the 125 children’s books held at the Tacoma library main branch (no direct link, but you can search for JAJ) to shame. I just love any excuse to take the train up to Seattle, so getting there every so often wouldn’t be a problem… I was going back to look at exactly how much a prized Seattle library card would set me back ($85 per year, incidentally) and I saw something that hadn’t registered when I looked at that same page back when I lived in Ann Arbor: the Seattle public library has reciprocal arrangements with various other libraries in the area. Tacoma’s not one of them, but Pierce County is, and as it so happens, Tacoma and Pierce County have their own reciprocal system, where someone living in Tacoma can get a Pierce County card and vice versa.
So the question was this: are library cards transitive? I’ve never before in my life felt the need to have three separate library cards, but that was before I started running out of appropriate books. The day I suspected that this might be possible, I went out and got a Pierce County card — just in case. As it turns out, even though I’m from Tacoma, that Pierce County card and a valid picture ID with my current address qualified me for a Seattle library card after all! I called ahead to ask, then took the train up to Seattle the very next day. I returned home with 26 books♪ I had been to the main library before and had been duly impressed by the rows of Japanese children’s books, but I didn’t truly appreciate their value until I started extensive reading and had to start looking not just for any old book, but for books at a certain level.
If you happen to be in Washington State, take a moment to see if you qualify for a Seattle library card. For an extensive reader, it’s worth the trip. If not, are there any major libraries — public or part of a university or college — in your area with some Japanese books that you might be able to get access to? Hopefully, this may be a possible path to gathering more resources for other extensive readers as well.
Incidentally, the Pierce County library system has enough Japanese books to have made it worthwhile for me to pick up a library card in its own right. My parents live in Pierce County, and when we stayed with them for two weeks after moving while figuring out where we wanted to live, I borrowed my dad’s card to check out a couple of books. (He handed it over, and then, with some embarrassment, handed over a $20 to pay his fine. So that’s where I get it from, I thought. It hasn’t escaped my notice that getting books from three different libraries opens me up to three times the potential library fines…) Actually, a shiny new library in University Place, which is part of the Pierce County system and about 20 minutes away from me, opened in February. Had it been open when we moved to Washington, that might have bumped University Place up a few notches in my potential destination calculations!
By the way, the reason I divide my book reviews not just by level, but by library, is that I hope to be extra useful to other readers in the area and perhaps even to put together an extensive reading group at some point. I should have started that already, but to be honest I’m extremely shy. If you’re in the area and interested in something like that, feel free to e-mail me and maybe that will help me become more motivated!
- 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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