Wandering Across the Rainbow Chopsticks #10: How I'm Preparing for the JLPT N4 (Reading)

The next chunk of materials I want to talk about is a little bit more on the fun side of study – reading children’s books!

I recently joined a gym/pool, and, in the same building, there’s a library. After one session a month ago I thought I’d pop in and check out what they had in terms of Japanese reading material. I was actually very surprised; there was manga, light novels, and, the most useful find, tons of Japanese children books. I borrowed a few and was pretty satisfied with how well I read them – some were Kana-only which made it harder but others had Kanji with furigana. I had a great time reading them but I wouldn’t say I understood them 100%. It was also fun because a few of the books were originally English and had been translated for the Japanese-reading market: I read ‘Miffy Complains about Food for twenty pages’, ‘Pingu is a Dick #20’, and ‘Elmer Gets Some’ (not their actual titles).
Besides classic English children’s series, there were also cute Japanese books and this of course included more traditional folk stories.
A classic Japanese tale that I’m a big fan of is one that’s been retold many times: A lovely and kind old couple who finds some magic creature, place, or object that makes a lot of food and money, their jealous, evil, and ugly neighbours want in so they steal it or follow the old couple and try to make money but they’re awful so sludge just comes out instead.
Although I enjoyed reading ‘real books’, the level of Japanese needed throughout each book was inconsistent – some were easy stories that I could read without look anything up but others had slang or onomatopoeia that a child would know but I do not.
So this is where Japanese Graded Readers come in!
White Rabbit Press have 5 levels (0-4) of books with three volumes which each contain a few books of that level ranging from N5 (Level 0) to N3-N2 (level 4).
I’ve purchased Level 1 (N4-N5) and I’ve read the first few books. So far, Level 1 is very, very easy for me and straight forward. The first story is sweet and very simple (a lot of ‘There is X’ and There is no Y’) but I’m not sure if the books get harder in each volume of the level.
Once I’m done with Level 1, I’ll move onto Level 2 (N4), and maybe even Level 3 (N4-N3) if I have time and the funds.
The huge negative with this series is how expensive it is. Each volume is around $40AUD, meaning that each level costs over $100AUD!
However, it is a good way to practice reading comprehension at a graded level.
What makes this series worth it, besides the fact that they’re graded so it’s easy to tell what to read, is the fact that each story has an audio version on the accompanying CD, so that the user can also work on their listening comprehension as well as their reading comprehension!
Speaking of Graded Readers, White Rabbit Press also have an app for iOS and Android where you can purchase stories which can be read with audio or without. Each story can be purchased for a couple of dollars. It’s one of my favourite apps for practicing reading Japanese (along with TangoRisto and Satori Reader).
Also from White Rabbit Press is a series called ‘Tales You Can Read In 10 Minutes’. I purchased a Grade 1 and a Grade 2 book, which are suited for N4 and N3/N4 respectively. Though I haven’t started reading them yet. Each book seems to have multiple short stories, that, presumably, can be read in ten minutes.
Another series that is one I don’t own but want to purchase is called ‘Stories You Can Read Smoothly’. It seems to be more of the same though.
I also purchased a bilingual book entitled ‘Treasury of Japanese Folktales’. I have yet to start it but it looks pretty fun.
It’s not graded like the previously mentioned books, but I’m sure the English text will assist me if I need it, hopefully the English doesn’t distract me from the Japanese though.
If I were to recommend one of the above resources above all the others, it would definitely have to be the Japanese Graded Readers app. It’s a lot cheaper than the physical books and it’s easy to transport around so you can read and practice wherever you go.
Hopefully once I’m done with N4 and ready for N3 I can start finding Manga easier to read without looking up the majority of words. I own the first volume of the Pokemon Horizons Manga which seems to pretty at a pretty easy level to read, so I might taken that first.
I’m also hoping to be able to read Shirokuma cafe soon too! It’s very cute but I can probably only understand 60% of what’s going on currently.
A lot of people have recommended the Kiki’s Delivery Service light novel for people around the N3 level, so I can look forward to reading that at the end of the year or the start of next year.
And now that I’m done rambling about practicing to read, it’s time for my WaniKani progress! I’m up to level 26 now as of a few days ago! This means that I’m almost done with the N4 vocab and kanji! I expect to be up to Level 27 in another week.
You can help out the podcast and blog in the following ways:
And thank you to our supporters on Patreon; Sam Krieger, Stevie, Joe, AnimeGuyKurosaki1, Chakmon, Hiro Alato, Steven Reeves, Kaida Washi, Mac, Chisai, Kyle, DaLadyBugMan, Tom, GlitchGoat, Matthew, Anthony, Lizmet, Quinn, Sithobi, Meagan, Kyliek, Neoboo, The Time Optimist, Nicholas, Michael C, and Starry!

What are your thoughts?