Chinese Books for Lower Elementary Kids 中低級橋樑書, Part 1

This is Part 7 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series.  

As I mentioned in my last post, which might not have been published yet as I’m jumping around, Taiwanese publishers seem to call all non-picture books that have illustrations as Bridging Books.  Since this means these books cover a wide range of reading level, I decided to put Early Readers (Level 1) in the last post, and Chapter Books (Level 2-4) in this post.  This will put you up to 4th grade.  Even though Chapter Books are considered Bridging books too, to me, you kind of need a certain level of reading skill to start reading these longer books.

To recap, the levels, taken from the 閱讀123 (Reading 123) series are:

  • Level 1: <5K characters.  Around 64 pages.  Picture to text ratio 1:1
  • Level 2: 5k-10k characters.  Around 128 pages.  Picture to text ratio 1:2 (1st-2nd grade)
  • Level 3: 10k-20k characters.  Only some illustrations.   (1st-2nd grade)
  • Level 4: 20k-40k.  Few illustrations  (3rd-4th)
  • Level 5: 40k+?

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Chinese Board Books 翻翻書 : Our Collection and Recommendations

Board Books
This is Part 4 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series.  In Parts 1-3, I gave some background on children’s books and how we pick them, and did a survey of local libraries and publishers and Taiwanese authors.

If you look at the photo of our Chinese library (as of Aug 2015), you will see that board books takes up a very, very, very, small section of our library.  It basically takes up right 1/4 space on shelf #4.

In my faulty memory, I did not read to either kids too much, especially Astroboy, before they were 1 (or was it 2?).   By the end of the day, I just wanted to go to bed.  They only seem to have 5 minute attention spans when it comes to reading.  Plus it was so easy to rip the precious Chinese picture books that traveled 3000 miles to get here.

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Survey of Some Famous Taiwanese Publishers and Authors

This is Part 3 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series.  In Parts 1 and 2, I gave some background on Chinese children’s books and how I picked them, as well as a survey of local libraries as a place to check out some books you may want to buy.

One of the most common questions I see asked on FB groups is,

I’m going back to Taiwan to buy some books for my xx year old child, do you have recommendations on what to get?”  

I’m always tempted to say, “It depends.  Tell me the family background, child’s age, Chinese level…..”  Not an answer I would have liked to see myself.

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Survey of Local Libraries’ Chinese Collection

Arcadia Library

Arcadia Library

This is Part 2 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series.  In Part 1, I talked about the different types of Chinese books and which books I choose to buy vs just borrowing from the library.

I have really fond memories of my mother dropping me off at the local library every weekend for 2 hours and browsing both English and Chinese books.  If it were possible, borrowing Chinese books is the way to go.  It’s more economical for everyone.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my post on the types of books I like to buy, our local libraries don’t typically have books that fulfill my criteria.  They especially don’t have a lot of the newly published, high on best sellers list, books.

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Chinese books for our beginning reader

As I mentioned in my last post, early this Spring semester, I decided to stop trying to ask Thumper to read the books we have at home (okay, I admit I couldn’t resist a few times) and really focus on reading through Sagebooks.  By mid-March, we hit around 350 characters.  By this I really mean we were at the 3rd book of the Pink Series (4th series) in Sagebooks.  She knew maybe 25-50 more of the words in the rest of the series.

It seems at this point, everyone around me was focused on reading and asking about books for beginning readers.  I was a bit bewildered because it seemed to me any short simple books ought to work but yet none has.  Someone suggested the Elephant and Piggie Series in Chinese.  And we made the trek to Oakland Asian library.  But alas, even with big fonts, the 2 books we tried had too many vocabulary Thumper did not know (and therefore could not guess) and she got frustrated.  It may be the right level for another child, but not for us.  Honestly it was fine with me.  The text was too short, I didn’t love the illustrations, nor the language used.

I won’t mention the other books we tried (cough, Monkey King, Magic Treehouse).  We’ll just jump forward to what happened AFTER we found the books that fit the criteria I mentioned at the Books and Me Library.  It’s been 2 weeks and I can now state unequivocally Thumper is reading in Chinese.  It’s happening a bit fast and I’m still trying to make sense of it.  One minute we’re on Sagebooks, and the next, we’re reading at beginning first grade level with 小熊貝魯, skipping over the picture books.  At least according to this blog post of her daughter reading at 6.2 yrs.

On a side note, WOW.  It took us so long to learn enough characters to read these book and kids are reading it in first grade in Taiwan?  How long will it take a kid to learn enough characters to actually read a book like this then if they don’t know zhuyin?  I can see how if, by the time you hit 3rd grade, you learn about 500 to read these books, while your English level has advanced to 3rd grade level, why would you read 1st grade level books?

Anyways, here are the books:

~407 characters (week 0-1 1st visit to library)

亮亮的成長 (20 pages)At our first visit to the library, we borrowed this series.  There are 30 books so plenty to choose form.  I think the series is called Something About Vicky in English.  It’s got a variety of stories.  Some about her in school, some about habits like being messy  or bossy, and some about her family.  This is the series that allowed Thumper to start reading.  Since the language is really simple, it has a lot of the characters we’ve studied in Sagebooks.  She maybe did not know just 1-2 characters per page.

 

斑斑的生活故事/The Caterpillar Family is a very similar series I have at home.  Like Something About Vicky, it’s got just 2-3 sentences per page, big fonts, easy to read with about 20 pages for each book.  They are also just various short stories about the adventure of a caterpillar.  It also just so happens that it’s got a bit more text than the Something About Vicky series.  Honestly the writing isn’t super great.  I got this series from a family that was moving back to Taiwan when Thumper was 1 as part of a big set of books.  I’m glad I have them, I just wouldn’t go out and buy it myself now.

Instead, I would just borrow all of these from the library.  I think they have them at Oakland Asian library too.

I leave a stack of these in a basket in the car for the children to read when they have nothing else to do.

 

~430 characters (week 1-2, 2nd visit to library)

During our second visit to the library, we read more of the Something About Vicky series and The Catepiller Family series at home as well.

 

露西兒/Lucille This is part of the Arnold Lobel series.  I HIGHLY recommend this series because it has a built in level progression.  There are 9 books total.  The first 2 are picture books you read to the child.  The third one is those beginner reader books.  I found this out after starting with the 8th book and Thumper hated it. When we visited the library the second time, I picked up this book and she was able to read it.  By this point she’d read through a week of easy books and was getting used to longer books and reading in general and I think that helped as well.  Arnold Lobel books are just silly fun.  This one is about a horse who gets dressed up and people mistaking her as a lady.  Thumper doesn’t love it 150%, but she did enjoy it.

 

~460 characters (week 2-3)

I’m noticing at the second week that the more we read the more willing Thumper is to read books that don’t really fulfill the 5% rule.  She’s getting more comfortable in using zhuyin.  But I don’t want her to get into that kind of habit.  So i continue to search for appropriate reading level books.

 

IMG_5591

老鼠爸爸說故事 (~60 pages)  After the success of “Lucille”, we went back and borrowed two more books from the series from the library.  You definitely need to follow the order (which is on the bookspine) because the amount of illustration gets less and less and the writing more and more.  This is the 5th book in the series (I forgot to borrow 4th) and after cajoling Thumper to start reading it, she totally got into it.  We’d agreed to just read one chapter but she went off and finished the whole book herself after we came home from our playdate at Mandarin Mama’s house.  There are 6-7 short stories in there and her favorite one, the one that got her giggling to herself as she tried to sleep, was where a mouse runs and runs and his feet got worn out, so he took off his feet and bought himself some new ones!

 

貓頭鷹在家 (64 pages)

Book #6 was a much easier sell after book #5.   It doesn’t hold her interest like the next book (Magic of cup cakes/杯子蛋糕的魔力) but she did enjoy them.  Lobel’s books are gentle silly books that don’t try to appeal to one sex over the other.  This one has several silly stories of an owl.  One was how he found two “lumps” under his blanket that disappears when he takes the blanket off.  He couldn’t sleep so he ended up sleeping on his rocking chair.  Another was how he tried to be both upstairs and downstairs at the same time and then got so tired he just sat in the middle of the staircase (which is technically both upstairs and downstairs!)  I definitely want to get these books in both Chinese and English.

 

杯子蛋糕的魔力 (70 pages). We borrowed this from the Books and Me library.  It’s something I would never buy myself because I don’t much like really “girly” books.  But of course my daughter loves these types of books so maybe it’s time to start.  Another book she read in one setting, surprising me because this is the first time she’s read such a long book (60 pages).  When she was reading aloud she read it kind of haltingly.  But apparently not so bad that she doesn’t want to read it.

This is also a series.  The story revolves around a bakery and each book has recipes you can actually try at home.

 

小熊貝魯 和小蟲達達.  (60 pages)  Thumper insisted on reading this even though I could tell it’s just slightly above what she’s comfortable with in terms of unknown characters.  But the story is interesting and once she started, she finished a book in one setting.  We bought this series a long time ago.  I love the series and recommend it.

The story is the adventures of a bear and the worm he found in his apple orchard one day, who eventually moved in with him.  Silly and gentle story.

Our Chinese library collection

Finally!  Today, I went through the mess that was 巧虎 (Chiao Hu) and had been bugging me for the last 3 years.  I don’t think I’ve actually really looked at our Chiao Hu magazines for 2-3 years.  It gets tossed into a box every month and Thumper digs it up and plays with it, strewing all her mess around before I put a stop by stuffing it into an even bigger box and then hiding it.

I love my collection even if I don’t read the books.  Hmm….if I personally had a huge stash of Chinese books to go through, I think I would be in heaven.

I’m planning to add to the collection this summer with more age appropriate reading material.  I’ve got a long list saved up of books to explore and buy that I need to wade through.

In my ideal world, the bookshelf would be actually tagged and sorted by subjects.  Maybe after the kids go off to college. 😉

Here’s what’s on the bookshelf. Sorry the pic is kind of crappy.  No time to fiddle with the light with a too-short cord.

1.  My small collection of Chinese books I read.  I love 侯文詠 and have all his books until the last few years.  There’s also a stack of 國語日報 that we’re not using.  It should take us to 3rd grade probably in content.

2.  From the left, my Chiao Hu teacher’s stuff.  More personal Chinese books that are really tall.  The 20% I couldn’t finish sorting.  School related catalogues: Rainbow Resource, Uline, etc.

3.  My Chiao Hu collection spanning 4.5 years, from 2 years old to half of second grade.

4.  “Readers”  Three collections from Hsin Yi.  Some are easy, some are hard for Thumper to read.  I like the series a lot because it has both non-fiction and fiction items.  It’s written by Chinese authors, so it does not have the easy language of translated works and I think super great to read to children.  I also have a few sets of really thin books for 0-3 years old.  The right 1/3 is board books for Astroboy.

5.  Left is a set of easy picture books for Astroboy about a turtle and another set about a bug, all translated books.  Then a set for Thumper called “I Love Martine”.  Then another set of 12 books from Hansen which has one story for each day of the year.

6.  Non-fiction Chinese books covering science, history, geography, etc.

7.  My 金庸 set for when one of my kids are old enough and have good enough Chinese to read.

8.  Teacher stuff.  Lots of workbooks, books from 僑務委員會,北美洲華語, catalogues, etc.

9.  Sagebooks, How to write, books about the Chinese language itself, dictionaries that we never use.  I even have a Math dictionary!

10.  Bridge books and lower elementary books for Thumper.

11.  Picture books for Astroboy.  Though Thumper loves them still.

12.  Two sets of encyclopedias, covering topics from biology, astronomy, botany, etc.  Both series follow the Montessori curriculum sequence and that’s why I bought them instead of the more often seen picture encyclopedias that kind of jump around.