I recently had a reader ask me, “What are some books you recommend for people who are just beginning to learn hiragana/don’t know a lot of Japanese?” Here are some of my recommendations (and where you might be able to purchase the books).
1. I love the writer/illustrator Taro Gomi. I believe a lot of my Japanese vocabulary comes from reading his picture books when I was young. I highly recommend “Sutekina Hiragana“. Unfortunately, I am not sure where you can buy it in the states. It looks like JBox used to carry it (warning, website has some materials not appropriate for children) but they don’t anymore. You can always buy it on amazon.jp (HERE) but you will have to pay a lot for international shipping(about $30 for books). Just FYI, Amazon.jp will ship most books, CD’s and DVD’s internationally, but not anything else. You might want to try some of these other resources for finding Japanese children’s books too.
2. I also love the ０さい〜４さいこどもずかん (children’s word books for 0-4 year olds) series. (See them on Amazon.jp here.) They are board books, which means babies and toddlers can read them and you don’t have to worry about the pages getting ripped out. The illustrations are cute and the vocabulary is written in both Hiragana and English. We own 2 of the 3 books and we love reading them!! Even I am learning some new words. You can buy them through yesasia.com here, here, and here. They are $17.99 and qualify for free shipping on orders over $39! So if you order the whole set, you would get free shipping.
3. Once you’ve learned Hiragana and built up your vocabulary a little bit, you might enjoy reading the Nontan books by Kiyono Sachiko. The stories are relatively short, easy to understand, and the illustrations are adorable. You can buy them through yesasia.com here or from amazon.jp here.
As I was browsing yesasia.com, I thought these books/DVD would also be great for beginners/children:
4. プーさんのいえるかな？(Winnie the Pooh, Can You Say It?)
And I don’t frequent JBox.com, but I noticed they are selling a hiragana bath chart (we have the same one!). It is $3.80 plus shipping. You wet the chart with water, then stick it on the wall of your bathtub so your children can practice recognizing their kana while they get clean🙂
**Just FYI, I don’t make a cent from recommending any of these books/websites. So you can know that I am completely unbiased and just want to help you!**