Smile Eigo September issue

The moon is said to be at its most beautiful

when viewed in September, so this month's

Smile Eigo theme of the moon is just right

for the current season. Children will enjoy

learning abou the phases of the moon, the

different shapes that people see on the moon

in different countries and the picture story

The Big Moon. 

And what else do people start thinking about 

in Japan in early autumn??... yes, food!

There is an interesting section on sweet and

salty foods and how they get their tastes in

the September issue, too.



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Picture books and activity books to help raise children bilingually

For children to develop language skills it is

important to give them a lot of stimulation

with books, toys, walks in the park, visits to

museums or amusement parks, cooking

together etc. and a chance to communicate

about all of these experiences. 

To introduce a second language to children

it is good to use the same kind of input

and to start offering these materials and

experiences to the child when they are very young.

Picture books are an ideal way for children to

develop an interest and ability in a second

language and here I would like to introduce

the mpi Phonics series of picture books with

accompanying activity books.

All of the books use simple language with a

simple story and attractive pictures. Each

book tells a standalone story i.e. the theme,

characters and storyline in each book are all

completely different.

The activities in each activity book are simple

and fun and linked to the theme and

vocabulary used in the specific picture book.


So there are nine picture books, nine activity

books and nine DVDs in the series.

Originally designed for teachers to use with

young learners in the classroom in Japan,

these books are also just right for parents/

grandparents to use with young children at


As there is close supervision of the child by

the parent/grandparent, it is possible to use

the books in this series for a much younger

age group than in a classroom setting.


I have been reading the picture book

A Trip to Grandma's House to my

grandchild, Melissa, since she was a

small baby.

Melissa's mother is British/Japanese and her

father is Japanese and she is being raised

bilingually in Japan.

Even at two weeks old, she used to look at

the pictures in the book intently and tune in

while the book was read to her.

By the time she was three she had already

memorized the whole story and was "reading"

it to her baby brother.

At this stage I introduced the activity book as well.



The story is about a family of bears who are

helped by shapes (circles, triangles, rectangles

and squares) to get to grandma's house.

They encounter various problems such as a

river, a mountain and darkness and the shapes

help them overcome these hurdles.

So the activities in the activity book are based

on shapes, nature, animals and family


There are stickers, coloring and matching

activities, as well as a board game and pages

for the child to make his/her own pictures.

Melissa particularly liked the sticker activities

and searching for shapes in her surroundings.

Even now, days later, she is still telling me

that she has found a rectangle shape in the

door, or that a table she finds is circular.

These activity books are a springboard for

lots of conversation and are really great fun

for family members to enjoy together! 


For more information in Japanese see mpi Phonics










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Summer themes in Smile Eigo

Summer is my favourite season.

There are so many exciting things to do during the

hot days of summer and refreshing things to eat such as

chilled noodles, fresh fruit or ice cream... 

The July edition of Smile Eigo shows us many ways to eat

ice cream and I'm sure the pictures will make you feel hungry...



I live near the sea and find sea creatures fascinating. 

In the August edition of Smile Eigo children can enjoy

an undersea adventure and information about

many familiar and unusual sea creatures.



So what are your plans this summer?

I hope you all can enjoy the beach and some refreshing foods!

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Summer camp in Onjuku

I am so happy to be able to invite a small group of elementary

school students to Onjuku for a 3-day summer camp

(but not camping, staying in a guesthouse!)

The camp is being organized by Hana House in Nishi Ogikubo

and will be held from 22nd-24th August, 2019.

Please contact the school on the number in the poster below

if you are interested in hearing more.

There are some spaces still available as of today (1st July).

Children will enjoy the glorious beach in Onjuku at the same 

time as learning about the sea turtles that lay their eggs

on the beach, local fish and the problems caused by plastic garbage.

There will be lots of fun activities, including storytelling, cooking together,

simple craft activities and presentation time.







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すまいるえいご June rainy season issue

What I like about the Smile Eigo series is that each issue takes a

seasonal theme. By introducing nature, events and ideas connected

to the current time of year, children can easily relate to the pictures,

words, stories and activities.

This makes the learning experience both fun and relevant.

So June is the rainy season in Japan. And the June issue of Smile Eigo

brings the wet and watery season to life with snails, magic water, rain

and life in the pond.

Children will enjoy the sounds in the pond with the two frogs,

Kero and Guwawa. How many different sounds can

be made by frogs and rain in the water of the pond? Listen...






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Workshops for mpi Partners

Recently I have been invited by the local groups of mpi teachers (mpi Partners)

to hold workshops on the theme of using picture books and storytelling to teach English.

The workshops are usually about 2.5 hours long which gives me plenty of time

to go into depth about how to use various picture books and storytelling

for a wide range of age groups. This includes language development,

intonation and rhythm, songs, games, craft activities, discussions of themes

in picure books and presentations and storytelling by students.



I held a workshop for Yokohama mpi Partners in January and Kobe mpi Partners in May.

The mpi Partners teachers are so enthusiastic and active that they make the workshops

really lively and a joy to hold.


In April, Kyoko Takiguchi, one of the teachers who attended the Yokohama mpi Partners

workshop, asked me to hold two seminars for her junior high and high school students.

I was so impressed at how the students developed their own stories in groups and

presented them during the workshop.








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すまいるえいご Carp streamers and baby animals

May is one of my favourite months in Japan because I just love to see the

colourful carp streamers everywhere early in the month, as well as the

bright green leaves and flowers in a riot of colour everywhere.

It is springtime in full swing!

And the time when many baby animals are born, too.

Froebel-kan has combined these themes in the May issue of Smile English.

I love the pictures of the mother and baby animals and the story about

the lost carp streamer.

I have the greatest pleasure of translating this delightful series each month.

Young children learn English naturally through the beautiful pictures, simple stories,

fascinating themes and child-centered activities.





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Writing for Oxford University Press

My story ‘Hana's  Yellow Hat',

and reading text 'Harvest Moon Festivals'

are part of the Dragonfly Reader series,

published by Oxford University Press,

which helps students to develop good

reading habits while exploring Asian cultural themes and values.

Schools can purchase Dragonfly Readers from Oxford University Press.

Learn more about the series at





Dragonfly Readers is a new 9-levelled graded

reading series which promotes reading for

pleasure and develops reading comprehension

skills, while exploring Asian cultural themes and values.

'Hana's Yellow Hat' is in level 1 and 'Harvest

Moon Festivals' is in level 2 of the reading series.


I have also written a reading text for level 3

which will be published soon and will be writing 2 texts

for level 4 during the next few months.


Each story or reading text is in an anthology

which contains 3 stories or texts on a certain theme.

The theme of the anthology for 'Hana's Yellow

Hat' is 'Our School' and the title of the anthology

in which 'Harvest Moon Festivals' appears is

'Festivals in Different Seasons'.


'Hana's Yellow Hat' was really fun to write

but quite a challenging task.

There were a limited amount of words and

vocabulary that I could use because this was a

level 1 reader but I wanted to introduce the cultural

themes of how the school year begins in April in Japan

when the cherry blossoms are usually in bloom,

how the first graders walk in orderly groups to school

for the first month or so with a leader who carries a flag

and how many children wear yellow hats and carry the

famous randoseru (satchels or backpacks) on their backs. 


'Harvest Moon Festivals' was interesting to write because

it involved a lot of research.

In this reading text I introduced the way that the harvest

moon festival is celebrated in Vietnam, China, Japan and Korea.

I learned a lot!

I was particularly surprised at how different the moon cakes are

in each country (colour and shape) and just how big the festival

is in China (people usually get several days to even a week's

holiday for the Harvest Moon Festival in China,

compared to it not even being a holiday in Japan). 


As the Dragonfly Readers have only just come out, they are

currently only being sold directly to schools in Mainland China,

India, Pakistan and Malaysia

and are not sold in bookstores or in Japan, yet. 


Personally, I think that this series would be really wonderful

for children to be able to read in Japan because they can learn

so much about cultures in other Asian countries.

In Japan, we already have many books for children that cover

European, American and Australian customs, holidays and

festivals, but how nice it would be for children to learn more

about the countries that are close by. 

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すまいる英語 Smile Eigo

I have had the great pleasure to work as part of a team

on the Smile Eigo series of monthly publications 

that will be launched in Japan in April, 2019.

Some of you may have already seen the introductory CM

on the television.


My role has been mainly as the Japanese to English

translator (everything is written in Japanese first

and then translated) and as a language and culture



Smile Eigo is published by Froebel-Kan Co., Ltd

which is actually a Japanese publishing company

with a history of over 100 years. 

The books are for young children to enjoy English

at home and cover themes that children are interested in,

such as food, nature (e.g. creatures in their surroundings

and growing fruit) and show interesting facts with

clear and attractive pictures. In each issue there is a

picture story, conversation page (with funny characters),

a counting page and an experience page where children

can actually try making something simple connected to

the main theme of the issue. 

There is a "speaking pen" that children can use to hear

the words on the page. 


These are a couple of photos showing the front cover of

the first issue and the list of contents.

It's a great publication which gives children the opportunity

to learn English naturally at home and become familiar 

with vocabulary connected to their immediate surroundings.







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What have I been up to....?

I just checked my blog and found that I haven't 

written anything on it for over a year!

So I thought I should update the blog for anyone

who may be interested.

First of all, I had a major move last year from

the west Tokyo area to the wild Sotobo coastal

area of Chiba. I have always wanted to live near

the sea so I plunged in and moved from the suburbs

of Tokyo to a small, rural community of 7000 residents.








It may not be as convenient as the city, as there are few

buses or trains but if I time it well I can get into Tokyo

in about one and half hours. So I'm not so isolated.

Some people thought I was retiring but no way is that

happening yet!

I am still working writing books, translating, teaching

and giving presentations.

I'm also dong some voluntary work in a sea turtle protection group here.

I do enjoy the fresh air, my garden, and walking or

cycling to the beach most days. Winter is really quiet. Time to write poetry!

In the summer I go bodyboarding most days for an hour or so. 

We only have only one supermarket here so it is simple

to know where to shop! 

I have no idea who reads this blog or follows what I am doing.

I know everyone is busy with their own lives.

But just to let you know I'm still here!

And I'm still working! Still writing stories!

Still making washi and nendo pictures!

So I'll now follow this blog entry with a few more blog

articles about a couple of projects I've been working on recently.

Stay tuned...

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