Reading children’s books or fairytales

Beginners are often interested in finding easy and simple material they can read to practice their language understanding. Especially children’s books seem to be a popular choice under the assumption of “I want to learn languages like a kid does” because it’s supposedly easier.


  • Children books are usually short and full of pictures to help with understanding
  • They often repeat the same words and expressions in every page (especially picture books for toddlers)
  • Sentences are usually short


  • As an adult, most children books are boring. There’s hardly ever any story and the themes presented are often very superficial and drab for an adult mind
  • Unexpectedly, most children books actually use very complicated language, usually filled with onomatopoeias or uncommon words that are either funny-sounding or very culturally relatable to kids but not easy to understand for foreigners and adult language learners.
  • Some fairytales or stories for slightly older children (not picture books for toddlers) are usually full of weird Japanese that is formulaic of centuries old narrative but not very common or easily approachable to a language learner. Think about the fixed expression “Once upon a time” in English. They also sometimes use archaic grammar structures too.

Conclusion: While reading children’s books is not going to cause a lot of problems, it’s a common beginner trap. It’s not obvious how tricky and actually challenging some of those stories can be, and a low level of engagement/interest can be extremely demoralizing. If you are looking for simple stuff to read, I recommend giving a look at which has a list of novels/manga/etc sorted by difficulty. There are also graded readers which are simple stories specifically written with language learners in mind. Also check out Beginner Japanese Immersion Material and Practical Tips to Facilitate Early Reading.