Learn German with Easy Books: Graded Readers (A1, A2, B1, B2)

Recommendations for free graded readers that can help take you from a complete beginner to someone ready to start diving into genuine German texts.

Learn German with Easy Books: Graded Readers (A1, A2, B1, B2)

So you want to start reading German books, but you’re relatively new to the language and can't quite understand what’s going on in authentic material? In this article, I will provide you with some recommendations for free graded readers that can help take you from a complete beginner to someone ready to start diving into genuine German texts.

If you already have a decent foundation and are looking for book recommendations, then check out Best Books to Learn German | A1, A2, B1, B2

What are graded readers and how can I use them to improve my German?

Graded readers are simplified books written according to the CEFR levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. Most graded readers only go up to about the B1 level, because by the time you start breaking into B2 and certainly C1 territory, you should be able to work your way through the majority of authentic texts - perhaps occasionally translating a word here and there.

There is some good news and some bad news regarding these simplified books. The bad news is they aren’t particularly compelling because they use stunted vocabulary and grammatical constructions. This is especially true for A1 readers. The good news is that this makes them far more comprehensible than a “real” book, meaning it’s much easier to acquire vocabulary through context because you understand a bigger percentage of the text. The second piece of good news is that early graded readers (A1/A2) are interesting pretty much until you can completely understand them, at which point you realize that they are in fact not very interesting. Why is this good news? Because by the time you realize the A1 books are boring, your level will be high enough to move on to the next stage, and those new books will be interesting again because you won’t understand everything.

This sounds a little strange, so here is an example of what I mean. Imagine I showed you two pieces of writing in Chinese (I’m going to assume you can’t read Chinese, if you can then imagine it’s in a language you don’t understand). The first piece of text is something along the lines of: Bob woke up at 7:00 am. He ate breakfast and brushed his teeth. The weather is sunny today, and Bob is looking forward to his day. The second piece of text delves into the historical ramifications of the Republic of China overthrowing the Qing Dynasty. Now remember these are both in Chinese (or a language you don’t understand). Ask yourself: which one is more interesting? The answer is they are both equally interesting - or uninteresting - because you understand exactly zero percent of each. There is no difference between the two until you can understand the first piece of text, at which point it becomes uninteresting to read and you need to seek out new harder forms of stimuli. 

In a nutshell, the simplified texts are interesting enough until you have a very good comprehension of them, at which point they become boring. Then you can move on to the next level, A2 for example, where the books will become interesting again as you seek to understand the meaning behind new words and grammatical structures. Enough of that, let’s look at some recommendations.

More learning material:
Best German Reading Resources for Beginners | Levels A1-B2

The following links will take you to the Goethe institute’s online library that provides FREE access to thousands of books, graded readers, audiobooks, newspapers, and more.

Der Schatz von Hiddensee (A1)

Anna and Nora get trapped on an island in the middle of winter. They learn about a hidden treasure on the island and get pulled into an adventure filled with gold, robbers, and lots of snow. Will they survive?

📖  Only one way to find out: Der Schatz von Hiddensee.

Abenteuer im Schnee (A1)

Robert and his sister Sonja are going skiing, and because the author needed to create some sense of danger, they get caught in an avalanche. Can the siblings work together to survive, or will they be trapped forever in an icy prison beneath the mountain?

📖  Find out here: Abenteuer im Schnee.

Ein Toter zu viel (A1/A2)

Private detective Elisabeth just wanted to take a nice trip to Vienna to drink wine and eat cheese. Unfortunately for her, there is a psychotic murderer running loose in the streets of Vienna. Can she stop him before he kills again?

📖  You won’t know unless you read: Ein Toter zu viel.

Wilde Pferde im Münsterland (A2)

Katja travels to Münsterland to take horseback riding lessons, but what happens when a horse suddenly tramples her best friend? Just kidding, but the horses do cause some injuries and excitement. Also, there are gunshots in the distance!

📖  Test your reading level with: Wilde Pferde im Münsterland.

Dramatische Szenen in Weimar (A2/B1)

Tim goes to Weimar, a city in central Germany, to visit his grandparents and celebrate their anniversary. His grandmother’s prized necklace is stolen, and he has to use his smarts to outwit a cunning thief.

📖  Read more: Dramatische Szenen in Weimar

Deutsch Perfekt (A2, B1, B2, C1, C2)

This one is by far my favorite. Deutsch Perfekt is essentially a graded newspaper that has articles ranging from the A2 level all the way to C1/C2. Each article has one of three difficulties: light, medium, or hard, and the vocabulary and grammatical structures of the articles are appropriately written for each level. The topics that the articles cover range from culture and history to global events and daily life in German speaking countries. These articles are a fantastic way not only to improve your German, but also to learn more about important events happening around the world.

📖  You can find a free copy here: Deutsch perfekt.

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