How to improve reading in a foreign language – Part 1: Graded Reader

Before you start reading you should have a minimum vocabulary of 400 words. Which is not something very difficult, with this vocabulary is possible to begin to read simple books. And what you can read with such basic vocabulary?

Graded Readers

Graded Reader is the name given to easy reading books meant for people who learn a second language.

Usually the most basic books begin with 400-500 words, but you can find books with less vocabulary. The stories are usually simple and often or are based on the great classics of literature or mysteries stories. The 400 words of the most basic books are fairly common and have high frequency in the language. The less common words are translated in footnotes. As you become more proficient in the language, the books also grow to be more complex.

At the end of the book, there are usually exercises with basic comprehension questions about the stories.

Each company has a standard, but the levels are quite similar:

Beginner (A1) – About 400 words

Beginner (A2) – Between 500 and 800 words

Intermediate (B1) – Between 1200 and 1500 words

Intermediate (B2) – Between 2000 and 2500 words

Advanced (C1) – About 3,000 words

Advanced (C2) – Over 4000 words

Most book publishers produce books only to the C1 level, since at the C2 level you probably don’t need to read an adapted book.

The Graded Reader books are great, because to read (at least for me) is a nice way of learning. And as books are adapted for each level, you should not “push” the reading. Start with the levels A1 and always let the reading flow. The most important is to understand the sentences as a whole and not know the meaning of every word that appears in the text. The objective of raking the reading is precisely to avoid the stress of not understanding the text and present the student with a pleasant and slightly challenging reading.

The person who is learning a language should know that the level must choose: if the reading is too pleasant and easy, it’s time to increase the level. If you have to look 10 words per page you should have chosen a lower level.

When to use the dictionary?

Never use in the dictionary looking for every unknown word.

First, try to discover the meaning of the word by its context. If you cannot, it’s fine.

Try to see if the word is important in the context. If you skip this word, you’ll lose an important part of history or you won’t understand the sentence? If the answer is positive, you should look for the meaning in the dictionary.

The writers without realizing repeat the words quite often. If one word is repeated 2 or 3 times in the text, take a look in the dictionary, it’s likely to reappear later.


Black Cat Readers

Catalogue in: French, English, Spanish, Italian and German.

Easy Readers

Catalogue in: French, English, Spanish, Italian, German and Russian.

For English learners:



Penguin Readers


Macmillan Readers

About Nathalia

Polyglot Nerd creator, love foreign cultures and learning languages. Speak: English, Portuguese and Spanish. Learning: French
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