In our previous blog “Raising a bilingual child”, we talked about our four main methods for helping Ricky with his English acquisition:

1. Only using English at home (including replying to him in English to confirm what he has told us in Japanese)
2. Having a lot of English books at home
3. Not watching any Japanese TV, and as much as possible encouraging him to go for the English language kiddies videos on YouTube (Ricky is a big YouTube fan…)
4. Making a point of praising Ricky for trying hard when he uses English

This time, I’d like to talk more about the English books we have.

(Ricky’s book shelf)

Although it is getting easier to buy English books here in Japan, we still need to go to one of the big bookstores in central Tokyo in order to actually choose some English books.

We get our English books in a number of ways:

1. Order on Amazon (JP)
2. Buy them when we go back to England
3. Get second hand English books from other international families
4. Borrow some from our local library
5. Buy at Costco
6. Use a monthly English book delivery service

Amazon Japan carries a lot of English books these days; very convenient!

Some of Ricky’s favorite books are those written by Julia Donaldson, the creator of the world-famous creature, the Gruffalo. This story has also been translated into Japanese.

Julia Donaldson’s books are full rhyming words and are extremely expressive – adults can also enjoy reading the stories.

(These two books were given to Ricky as presents – Ricky love both of these!)

Ricky’s especially fond of “Room on the Bloom” and “The Snail and the Whale”.

When we went back to the UK last year, we also bought a couple of educational books written by Julia Donaldson (illustrated by Axel Scheffler). Ricky still likes reading these two and learning words, numbers and colours.


There are more books by Julia Donaldson that we haven’t read yet, so we’re looking forward to growing the collection. These books can be enjoyed by children between two to seven – but we have fun reading them too!

There are also some books we were given by another international family – my sister (who’s married to a Scot). The series is called “Can you see what I see?”


It’s almost like “Where’s Wally?” (or “Where’s Waldo?” in the US) and you need to find specific items in the pictures. This series is also translated into Japanese as “ミッケ! (Mikke – I found it!)”.

This series has also got a mascot character, and it’s well hidden in every page. Ricky loves finding this robot character every evening before he goes to sleep. Although it’s not a story book, we can still talk about all the items we see in the book.


Regarding borrowing books from library, it really depends on which district you live in, but every library should have some English kid’s books; it may be fun to explore them and see what’s there.

We borrowed these from our local library here in Chiyoda-ku.


English versions of Guri and Gura! This is a Japanese series about two anthropomorphic field mice, which was first published in 1963 – everyone grows up with this series – so did I! So I thought this will be good for Joseph to learn about the stories too.

These classic Pooh books are also from the local library.

Unexpectedly, I found some English books at Costco. English books can be quite expensive to buy in Japan, but you can buy them reasonably from Costco.

Here are the ones we bought.
First word series

Just like other other Costco products, they don’t sell the same stuff everyday and it’s all down to timing, so you’re lucky if you can find books you like when you visit Costco!

Lastly, “a monthly English book delivery service” still seems quite rare here in Japan. We tried Librodart for three months, and these are the books we received.


These books are all award-winners and really lovely, but it was still a little bit difficult Ricky to understand the true meaning of the stories (he’s only 2!). Hopefully, he will start enjoying these books in a couple of years time.

A lot of the books we talked here have also been translated into Japanese, so even if you’re not very confident in English, you can read the story in Japanese as well.

What books would you recommend for kids?