May 27, 2018

Yomikikase: volunteer reading at school

Yomikikase means story telling or literally "listen, hear". It seems to be a nationwide practice in public elementary schools. For the most part, elementary schools rely on parents volunteering to read a story to their child's grade in the early morning after they have arrived to school, but before classes begin. How often yomikikase is carried out at a school is more regional or school specific. 

Yomikikase: volunteer reading at school photo

Two of my four children are in elementary school here in Japan. One is a third grader, the other a second grader. I am really happy with their school and primary level education generally in Japan. I think it is a common consensus among expats; that the education system here is excellent in the younger years. Junior and Senior High is a whole other story, if you'll pardon the pun.

In our school yomikikase is carried out every week. As our school is relatively small, and thus there are fewer parents to volunteer, early morning yomikikase by grade is carried out by the teachers three times a week and once by parents. However, every week a couple of volunteers take it in turn to also read to a group of grades during library time instead. 

Usually parents read in Japanese, but the school and the other volunteer Moms were very happy when I suggested I read in English. And usually parents read only to the grade their child is in. However, as I am reading in English I was asked to rotate through all grades so that all kids could get a chance to hear a story in English. After asking for suggestions for books on a couple of expat groups for parents in Japan, it would seem that most volunteer expats read in their native language too. 

Yomikikase: volunteer reading at school photo

You get to see your kids in school and gain an insight into the atmosphere and set up of the school. The hardest part for me is picking books for higher grades with consideration to their language ability. Thankfully the afore mentioned expat groups on Facebook have proved very useful for picking up ideas. For the lower grades it is much easier. For what it is worth the two best received books to date among the lower grades are "Ketchup on Your Cornflakes" and "Cheese and Tomato Spider" both by Nick Sharrat. 

I have been volunteering for the monthly yomikikase since my son started school and from this year I will also read during library time a few of times over the year. I will have my first experience of that this coming Monday. I am excited. I am the only expat Mom among all the reading and library volunteers. The school and the other volunteers have been very friendly and welcoming. It has been a really great experience and I highly recommend it.



Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.


  • helloalissa

    on May 27

    That's awesome and I'm sure they're really happy to have someone to read in English. Especially with picture books, they probably get the idea, but more importantly exposure to your native pronunciation and culture. For older grades it sounds fun to choose books you enjoyed at around that age. Now I'm thinking about asking at the school where I work part time... although I don't want to go in so early to volunteer, so maybe the library time is a good option.

  • Lyssays

    on May 28

    That sounds fun! I'm not sure if my work hours will enable this sort of thing by the time my children are school age, but it definitely sounds like one of the more enjoyable things to volunteer for at school!