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At a glance:
Difficulty: 300 headwords; CEFR A1+; Beginner-High+ on the ERF scale
Length: 2,500 words of story (100-110 words/page; 800-880/story thread)
Pages: 23 text pages/23 illustrations (8/8 per story thread; 8 endings total)
Atama-ii is a series of beginner level easy-English graded readers for all ages 11 and up. The series follows an interactive gamebook format, in which the reader takes on the role of the main character and makes plot choices at set points in the story. These choices lead to one of eight different endings.
Despite their simplicity, the Atama-ii titles are meant to be interesting and engaging. Some are pure adventure, some are funny, and some are more suspenseful. Some may give readers a taste of history, or world events, or an aspect of science. However, the stories are not silly or infantile; we believe that just because someone happens to have a restricted vocabulary or reading ability, they do not necessarily have restricted intelligence.
“Atama-ii” means “smart” in Japanese. We chose this name for the series because we believe the choice-making aspect of reading gamebooks is a great way to foster critical thinking, and because reading itself is an activity which makes us smarter. (And, okay, also because Atama-ii Books makes a nice pun on “e-books”!)
All the titles in the series follow the story map structure illustrated here. In short, the reader starts on page one, reads three pages, then makes their first choice. This choice takes them to another two pages, after which they make another choice. Once again, they read two pages, and make a final choice. This final choice takes them to one of eight different endings. The reader is then given the option to start again and make different choices toward one of the other endings.
In this way, reading an Atama-ii title is like reading up to eight slightly different short stories which all share the same characters and basic situation. This is helpful for beginning and reluctant readers, as well as for second language learners, because they can become more and more confident in their understanding of the story as they re-read. It can also lead to more fluent reading.
The set structure of the stories allows teachers or parents, if they desire, to pause at each choice point to discuss possible outcomes. We try to make our choices meaningful and balanced so as to make discussions more interesting.