The books are not all kind enough to clearly indicate “Written for second graders” or “Written for three-year olds,” so I’m borrowing the classification system from Extensive Reading in Japanese, by Claire Ikumi Hitosugi and Richard R. Day.
Level 1: Hiragana and katakana only. The text is very short, and has one-word sentences, phrases, and some complete sentences. There are plenty of visual aids to help convey meaning. Japanese native readers would be three to six years old.
Level 2: Mainly hiragana and katakana text. If there are kanji, furigana is given for each kanji. The text is longer but still contains a lot of pictures to aid student comprehension. Japanese native readers would be five to eight years old.
Level 3: Kana and kanji are mixed, but the book is mainly written in hiragana. Furigana is provided for any kanji in the text. The content is not only fiction, but may also contain facts or accounts of some natural phenomena. Pictures are the main feature of the book. Japanese native readers would be six to ten years old.
Level 4: Full texts with kanji and kana. Most kanji have furigana. The content is much richer and the length of a story could go over several volumes, but ample pictures help the readers. Most film comics are at this level. Japanese native readers would be eight to twelve years old.
Level 5: Beginning at this level, material is quantitatively and qualitatively different from the lower levels. Level 5 books usually have more than 100 pages and fewer illustrations. Some kanji have furigana, but not all of them. Stories are fully developed and more detailed. Japanese native readers would be ten to thirteen years old.
Level 6: Easy unabridged books for adolescent native readers from twelve to fifteen years old. These books still include furigana; and there are few pictures. The content is more complex. Some specialized vocabulary items appear.
I’m also attempting to estimate the number of words in each book by counting the words (disregarding particles) on a representative page and multiplying by the number of pages with text on them. This results in a very rough estimate, so please keep that in mind if you’re tracking your own number of words as well.
I’m also going to start adding ratings to the books I read. Keep in mind that the ratings are just my opinion, and that I’m comparing them with other books of the same level.
5 stars: I loved this book
4 stars: I liked this book very much
3 stars: I liked this book, more or less
2 stars: I didn’t like this book, but I feel like I got something out of it
1 star: I really did not like this book and didn’t get anything out of it
- 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
- About Myself
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- Detailed Reviews of Level 5 Books
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