[Andy Boon, Lesley Ito, Catriona Takeuchi and Kyle Maclauchlan. Tokyo: Halico Creative Education, 2019. (Achieve Work-Life Balance + 29 more books) pp.40. ﹠700. ISBN: 978-4-909730-12-1.]
The Pocket Readers 10 WAYS TO series is a collection of non-fiction graded readers that give 10 possible ways to improve a skill that many young adults need. The books include advice to improve personal skills such as controlling emotions, social skills such as being polite, and career skills such as working in a team.
The books are designed for independent reading by learners, particularly those in an extensive reading program. There are 30 books in the series, all at the same level with 2,100 to 2,800 words and 360 to 480 headwords per book. The Yomiyasusa Levels system, which rates books on their reading ease, rates all the 10 WAYS TO books as 1.4–1.6 (Furukawa, 2014). Each book has 20 vocabulary words that are in bold font, defined in a glossary, and recycled within the book. In addition, there is an audio file made available through a QR code.
10 WAYS TO books are designed to ease the task of reading for English learners. The content of books is not difficult to follow as there are no difficult names of people or places, and there is no plot to figure out. Sentences are short, simple and sometimes similar in structure: “We all have different things we are good at. We all have different skills we can offer a team” (p. 4). The paper books are smaller in size than common graded readers and printed in a larger than normal font, which results in the feeling of reading through a book quickly.
The main distinguishing features of the books are realistic advice and reflective questions. The advice from the authors shows an understanding of Japanese university students, who are just beginning to direct their lives. Each book begins by describing the need for the topic, and then introduces 10 pieces of advice, followed by a summary and five reflection questions. The advice is primarily well-known, however, there are also some unexpected points that may be new to Japanese readers—for example, 10 WAYS TO Manage Money includes, Donate time and money and Be happy with what you’ve got, and 10 WAYS TO Be Healthy includes, Let go of bad relationships and Say no to avoid being too busy.
First year university students where I teach have assignments each term to do reading for fluency development. Since the beginning of remote lessons, they have been using the Xreading website to select and read books at their level. I noticed that after several months of reading fiction books, many students read several 10 WAYS TO books in successive terms. As the series was new to me, I was curious about the content and the students’ reasons for choosing these books.
A questionnaire about the 10 WAYS TO books was given to 20 students who had read two or more books from the series. When asked for reasons why they chose to read a 10 WAYS TO book, students reported that they selected the books because the topic looked interesting (11), they thought that they could receive help from the book (6), they could imagine the content of the book (5), and because they thought that the quizzes were easy to pass (5). Every respondent reported that they enjoyed the books, and that they were satisfied with them. In their comments, students wrote that the books were easy to read because “words I know are repeated often” and “a lot of specific examples are good, so it was easy to understand.” Students added that the advice in the books was “very timely and interesting,” and “learning advice from Western writers was interesting.”
Instructors working to motivate learners to read a large amount need to provide a variety of easy-to-read books in various genres (Bieri, 2018). In a study of Vietnamese university students doing online extensive reading, a student’s request for self-help books emphasized the need for a wide variety of books (Bui & Macalister, 2021). The majority of graded readers are fiction, thus, the 10 WAYS TO series gives readers a different reading experience. Nation and Waring (2020) point out that “Learners are unlikely to read a lot unless they enjoy doing it and see some value in such reading” (p. 97). Some young adults will see value in learning about the skills described in the 10 WAYS TO books, which will help them to continue reading. Thus, the series is a good addition to a library for young adults as it may provide an additional reason to read that is not found in fiction graded readers.
Bieri, T. E. (2018). Learner reflections on extensive reading materials. Extensive Reading World Congress Proceedings, 4, 285-293.
Bui, T. N., & Macalister, J. (2021). Online extensive reading in an EFL context: Investigating reading fluency and perceptions. Reading in a Foreign Language, 33, 1-29.
Furukawa, A. (2014). YL tables. https://www.seg.co.jp/sss/YL/index.html
Nation, I. S. P., & Waring, R. (2020). Teaching extensive reading in another language. Routlege.