This one is too hard.
This one is too easy.
This one is just right.
When shopping for reading content in Korean, chances are you’ve felt like Goldilocks more than once.
And if you don’t try them all out, how will you know which is which?
What’s a poor Korean student to do?
Luckily, unlike the famous home intruder, you’re not left to decide between just three choices.
In fact, if you’re looking for graded Korean readers, or books intended for teaching reading to specific levels of learners (often with a gradual increase in difficulty), you’ve got lots of options.
And if you’re not looking for graded readers, you probably should be.
In this post, we’ll explore why, and look at six of the best.
Why Use Korean Graded Readers?
First of all, Korean graded readers can give you more insight into your current proficiency level. Your reading proficiency might not be clear to you. Some learners may overestimate their skills, while others underestimate. Overestimating your skills could lead you to be discouraged when you can’t understand the advanced or native-level texts you feel you should be able to handle, while underestimating your skills could cause you to lean heavily on overly easy texts, thereby slowing down your progress.
However, since each graded reader is meant for a clear skill level, you can use them to help deduce whether you’re reading at, for example, a beginning or intermediate level.
Most notably, Korean graded readers give you level-appropriate reading practice. Level-appropriate reading practice can be hard to find, and consequently, your reading skills could fall behind your other skills. However, since graded readers are designed specifically for learners, they make it easier to find material that’s appropriate for your unique proficiency level.
Korean graded readers also allow you to progress easily to more advanced material as your skills improve. Like many learning websites, Korean readers are often set up to allow you to follow a set order of material. This makes it easy to move on to harder text as you get better and better at reading.
As all of these features are also features of FluentU Korean, you can easily use readers to support your regular Korean learning on FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons. With a Plus plan, you can even create custom flashcard sets using vocabulary from your reader(s), thereby reinforcing the words in different contexts and learning native pronunciation at the same time.
Goldilocks Grade: 6 Korean Graded Readers for Picky Learners
Just starting out reading Korean but already know Hangul? “Once Upon a Time in Korea: An Elementary Reader” is a good way to transition towards reading more complex texts.
“Once Upon a Time in Korea” is designed for students who know a little vocabulary and grammar but want to learn more.
The book contains over 20 short stories. These stories are common Korean folktales that many Koreans are familiar with. The stories feature simple sentences, so you won’t get too overwhelmed with sentence structure. The book is also illustrated, so you might be able to figure out the meaning based on the pictures even if you don’t recognize all the words. Additionally, vocabulary lists can help you better understand the story and learn new vocabulary.
Plus, there are cultural notes along the way to provide you with background information.
Shopping tip: This is a book that may be more difficult to get through bigger online sellers like Amazon for a reasonable price depending on when you look, but you can buy it through the author’s website and view a sample here.
If you have some experience with Korean (two to four semesters), know Hangul and want a reader that really engages you, you might like “Essential Korean Reader.”
This reader covers topics related to modern and traditional Korean life and culture, like greetings, the Harvest Moon Festival and workplace etiquette.
In addition to readings, though, there are plenty of other materials to help you better learn from the text. For instance, there are pre- and post-reading questions to help you engage with the text on a deeper level. Grammar explanations can help you understand the underlying structure of the language. Vocabulary lists make it easy to study new and unfamiliar words and phrases. Meanwhile, exercises help reinforce your learning.
So if you want a reader that offers much more than simple reading practice, look no further than “Essential Korean Reader.”
Though not strictly a “reader” but more of a textbook, “Reading Korean for Beginners” can help beginning Korean students who already know Hangul get the reading skills they need.
The main focus of this book is on practical skills and reading comprehension. Rather than sharing short stories, this book focuses on real-life situations, like conversations. There are cultural notes to give you a better understanding of context. Exercises and assignments reinforce the material.
Want to focus on other Korean skills, too? There are other books in this series. For instance, you might also check out “Speaking Korean for Beginners,” “Listening Korean for Beginners” and “Writing Korean for Beginners.”
When you want to segue into reading authentic, modern texts, this intermediate Korean reader is a good choice to help you get your footing. That’s because it focuses on helping you transition from academic practice to real-world materials.
Designed for mid- to high-intermediate Korean students, “The Routledge Intermediate Korean Reader” helps smooth your transition to reading everyday material by providing an array of text types, including articles and literature excerpts. Texts cover culturally relevant topics, like the Dokdo dispute (a dispute between Japan and South Korea over some small islets).
There are 18 total graded readings, which vary by complexity of syntax, grammar and vocabulary. But apart from the readings, “Intermediate Korean Reader” also offers a useful array of other features. For instance, helpful vocabulary lists, brief explanations of tricky grammar rules, questions to test your comprehension and an answer key to check your work.
Need some conversation practice along with your reading practice? “Modern Korean: An Intermediate Reader” is a great choice. This reader focuses on providing conversational-style texts that can give you reading practice along with insight into how a conversation might play out.
The texts focus largely on school-related interactions, including those between students and with teachers. Topics addressed include geography, literature, customs, history and more. In general, the topics aim to give you insight into Korean life and culture while you build your reading and conversation skills.
“Modern Korean: An Intermediate Reader” features 24 total lessons, and each lesson contains a variety of learning resources. Lessons include a descriptive text, dialogue, discussion of vocabulary and grammar, drills, exercises and a helpful vocabulary list.
In the second half of the book, you’ll even be introduced to Chinese characters used in Korean.
Once Hangul no longer seems like much of a challenge, you might try reading Hanja, Chinese characters that have made their way into the Korean language.
“Korean Reader for Chinese Characters” focuses on giving you the reading practice you need to avoid hyperventilating every time you see a Hanja character. The book includes more than 500 commonly-used Hanja characters you may encounter in everyday life. Not only does it aim to help you read the characters, but also to teach you their sounds, meanings, forms and compounds. There’s even a section on stroke order to help you master writing the tricky characters.
“Korean Reader for Chinese Characters” contains a total of 40 lessons. Each chapter starts off with a reading to show you the Hanja vocabulary in context. As you progress through the book, vocabulary gets increasingly advanced, allowing you to build on what you’ve learned.
Someone has been improving their Korean reading skills, and with these graded Korean readers, it could be you!
Just don’t go getting comfy in a stranger’s home like Goldilocks did. It’s neither safe nor appropriate and will in no way improve your Korean skills.
And One More Thing…
If you enjoyed this post, you’re already halfway to having the time of your life learning Korean with FluentU!
FluentU is an online immersion platform that takes real-world videos—like movie trailers, music videos, inspiring talks, vlogs and more—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU really takes the grunt work out of learning languages, leaving you with nothing but engaging, effective and efficient learning. It’s already hand-picked the best videos for you (which are organized by level and topic), so you simply choose any video that strikes your fancy to get started!
Each word in the interactive captions comes with a definition, audio, image, example sentences and more.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and easily review words and phrases from the video under Vocab.
You can use FluentU’s unique Quiz Mode to learn the vocabulary and phrases from the video through fun questions.
FluentU keeps track of what you’re learning, and tells you exactly when it’s time for review, giving you a 100% personalized experience.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Korean with real-world videos.