Category Archives: reading


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On Saturday, I went to a “Wildflower Festival” at a park. It’s a really big park. It’s not a national park like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, and it’s not a state park, but it’s bigger than a city park. It’s called a “regional park.” Spring is the best time for wildflowers, and I wanted to see some. There were a lot of activities at the festival. In the main area, there were some tents where people could learn about nature. Children could play games and make things. From that area, people could go on hikes with park guides.


I saw a lot of wildflowers on the hike! The orange one is California’s “state flower,” the California poppy.

Our guide showing us something
Our guide showing us something

A lot of people, including families and older people, went on our hike. I heard a lot of different languages being spoken. It was nice! Our guide was very friendly. She knew a lot about flowers and nature. She showed us a lot of flowers and told us how the flowers worked. It was really interesting. The hike lasted about 90 minutes. I was tired at the end, but happy.

Can you see the birds?
Can you see the birds?

This park is really green and has a lot of hills. (This picture is just a small part of the park.) If you’re in good shape, you can see some wonderful views. I was a little sick last year, so I’m kind of out of shape right now. However, I hiked for about 2.5 hours altogether. (Go me!) After I was done, I went back to the main area and sat down. I watched a band play American, Scottish, and French-Canadian folk music. It was fun! When my feet stopped hurting, I walked to my car and drove home.

Are there any places to go hiking near where you live? Do you like to go hiking?


“Wildflowers” are flowers that grow naturally. “Wild” means natural and not controlled by humans.

A “region” (n.) is a big area. It might include several places. For example, the Tohoku 東北 region of Japan includes six prefectures. I guess regional parks are called “regional” (adj.) because they include different cities and counties, but they’re not state parks.

“Guide” can be a noun or a verb. When it’s a person noun, it means someone who shows or explains things to other people. For example, a tour guide leads a group of people who are traveling, and tells them about what they are seeing.

“In good shape” is an idiom. It doesn’t mean “a nice body.” It means that you are healthy, so you have enough energy for things like hiking, walking a long way, carrying heavy things, etc. You can also just say “in shape.” (Sometimes we use it to mean that a thing is ready or working properly, too.) The opposite is “out of shape.” People often say “I’m out of shape!” when they get tired too quickly. (We don’t usually use this to say that a thing is not working correctly, though.)

“Go [x]!” To cheer for somebody, you can say “Go [name]!” or even “Go you!” to a friend. This is like “Fighting!” in Korean, and so on. And yes, people sometimes say or write “Today I studied Japanese for four hours! Go me!” or “I got 100% on my quiz! I was so surprised! Go me!” This is very casual and sounds like something a younger person would say. In this case, it’s a combination of encouragement (supporting someone to continue doing something) and praise/congratulations (telling someone they did a good job). When you shout “Go, team!” at a baseball game, then it might be just encouragement if they haven’t done anything yet.

If you have a question about something that I didn’t explain, please comment!

A New Way to Read

If you do not live in an English-speaking country but you really want to read a lot more English, there is a new way to do it. has an “e-reader” called Kindle that lets you read books electronically. It’s very nice because the screen is very clear, like paper. It’s easier to read than a computer screen.

However, the old version had some problems. One of the problems was that it only worked in the USA. Now Amazon says there will be a new kind of Kindle, the International version, which you can use in a lot of different countries. This is pretty cool because you can buy and download English books to it very quickly.

The Kindle uses cell phone networks, not wifi. You don’t need to be in an internet cafe to download books–you can be almost anywhere. For example, if you are waiting on a train platform and you decide you want to read a book on the train, you can quickly use the Kindle to buy and download the book. In 5 minutes, you can start reading it. Of course, most of the books aren’t free. (Some books are free–just look up “free Kindle books” on Google to learn how.) When you use the Kindle, Amazon will charge your credit card for the books you buy. Because it’s so easy to buy books, you should be careful!

Also, some people have problems because the Kindle’s USB connection doesn’t work well with some computers.

You can use the Kindle to use the internet, but only on really basic, text-based sites like Wikipedia.

I don’t have a Kindle because I can buy English books cheaply since I live in the US. But if you want to improve your English and English books are expensive where you live, the Kindle might be a good idea for you. Remember, reading a lot is one of the best ways to improve your grammar, use of articles, use of prepositions, use of idioms, overall fluency, understanding of English-speaking cultures, and add to your vocabulary. If you are already advanced, then you can buy lots of regular English novels. If you’re still learning, you can find many books such as Staying Together, a Level 4 Cambridge English Reader, for Kindle. You can also subscribe to Simple English News on your Kindle, which is a newspaper that you will get every month.

If you see a book that you want that isn’t available yet, you should click below the book’s photo, where it says “I’d like to read this book on Kindle.” That will tell Amazon and the book’s publisher that people want a Kindle version to be made. They are adding Kindle versions all the time.

This map (move to the right to find Asia) shows where you can use the Kindle International Edition. In other countries, it won’t work wirelessly. It includes many countries, but not all of them. It should work well in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, France, Italy, Spain, and many other places.

Have you tried a Kindle for reading English? What did you think? Would it be useful for you?

(Note: If you buy a Kindle or something else from Amazon after clicking on these links or the Readable Bookstore link, Amazon gives me a small amount of money. It doesn’t change the price for you, however.)

child reading articles by gracey at

Reading is a great way to improve your English at any age. (Some people think reading lots of easy, fun things is the best way to improve your English.)

Here is a new website that may be good for reading English: Big Things in Basic English. They have 6 different reading levels, from “very easy” to “near native.”

A professor started the website, and it seems different from other ESL websites. It’s very “clean” and nice to look at It doesn’t have a lot of annoying ads like most other sites. Most of the other free reading websites I’ve found have a lot of spelling mistakes and grammar errors, so I haven’t told you about them. This one is good and doesn’t have many mistakes! However, the website is still pretty new, so there aren’t a lot of stories yet. You can join the website, and I hope they’ll add more to read in the future. It’s free to join. (By the way, if you are Japanese, you can use the website in Japanese, too. Of course, the stories are still in English!)

Now, I think the levels are a little confusing. In my opinion, many of the articles marked “middle” are actually “advanced” due to the use of idioms and other difficult vocabulary. Just don’t worry about the levels. If you know you are usually an intermediate-level reader, but you need to read “easy” stories on this website, it’s OK. These levels are not the same for each person. Read things that are comfortable for you.

Strange and Fun Poems

Shel Silverstein’s poems are known by most American children and adults, because they are strange and funny. His books include drawings by him that go with the poems. Some of his poems are very long and hard to read, but others are easy to understand. These books have been popular for a long time, so you should be able to buy them at used bookstores.

This poem is called “Lazy Jane,” and it’s from his most famous book, Where the Sidewalk Ends. Do you know the word “lazy?” It’s an adjective that means “someone who doesn’t want to do any work.” I think the meaning will be very clear after you read this silly poem, which is about a really, REALLY lazy girl!

“Lazy Jane”
by Shel Silverstein



More Books

I added more books to the Readable Bookstore, including some that are good for beginners (Frog & Toad) and high-beginner readers (The Littles). If you like The Littles, there are many more books in that series. Both series are old, but many people still love them. You may be able to find them at a used bookstore in the children’s section.

If you want to visit the Readable Bookstore later, the link is on the right side of the main Readable Blog page. It says “Books for Learning English: Readable Bookstore.” I try to add to it when I think of a good book for English learners (or teachers). If you buy a book through the bookstore, I get a small amount of money from Amazon. But you don’t need to do that. You can just use that page as a useful list of books.

Langston Hughes

Many English poems are difficult to read because they are long and full of extremely old-fashioned words. However, you should give Langston Hughes a try. He is an important American poet and writer, who was born in 1902 in the same area that I was born in. He died in 1967, but his poems are still popular because they are easy to read, powerful, and beautiful. Hughes was African-American and was important in changing the roles of African Americans in American culture and society. You can read more about him at the Simple English Wikipedia article about Langston Hughes.

Here is one of his poems:

by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

(“Hold fast” means “hold tightly.” “Barren” means “empty, without life.”)

More of his poems are available at (look at the right side).

What’s on the Front Page?

We call the first page of a newspaper the “front page.” Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages website shows front pages from many American newspapers, and a few others from around the world. It’s a good way to read short phrases of English (headlines) and look at photos. Just remember that news English often breaks the rules of standard English grammar! (This is why I don’t recommend magazines and newspapers for your main source of English reading material.)

Today all of the newspapers show President-Elect Barack Obama, of course. What will they show tomorrow? You can tell what’s on people’s minds by what appears on a lot of different newspapers.

(The site is slow right now because so many people are looking at it.)

A Poem That Reminds Me of San Francisco

I stayed at a hotel in San Francisco this weekend. From the hotel room on the fourteenth floor, I could see the fog come in. In the San Francisco Bay Area, fog comes in from the ocean in the evening. The fog usually stays until morning, and then it goes back to the ocean. It helps keep us cool! I love the fog.

Here is a famous poem about fog:

by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Does it make sense?

The fog comes in silently, like a cat. The fog covers the city for a while. (To “sit on [one’s] haunches” is to squat [if you’re a human]. Just picture a cat sitting there.) Then it leaves.

A joke from Eijiro

I just got back from vacation, and I still have a lot of work to do! I’m sorry I haven’t been posting.

Anyway, here is a cute joke from Eijiro:

One day, a mother mouse and her child were taking their daily stroll when, out of the blue, they were cornered by a cat. Keeping calm, the mother mouse yelled out “Woof! Woof!” Startled, the cat ran off in fear.

The mother mouse then hugged her child and said, “Now you can see why it’s so important to learn a foreign language.”

Do you understand it? I love it!

You can read the joke in Japanese and listen to it at — Eijiro is the source for the popular dictionary at ALC, so it’s very good!