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ChildRoad: New Mandarin story and reading site (with signup update)

April 15, 2011

UPDATE 4/16/2011: The folks at ChildRoad are making a special, limited-time offer available to MIPC readers. Use the promotion code “fun2read” when you sign up and you’ll get a 50% discount.

Also note that the first month is always just $1, to give parents a chance to try out the side (50 cents if you use the code.)

Jerry says “For existing users to make use of the code, they can go to Account Info — Billing — Change Membership Types to choose the membership again, this time use the code.”

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For those of us with kids in Mandarin immersion who don’t read or speak Mandarin (and even for those who do), getting kids to read and engage in Mandarin outside of school can be tough. There’s already one nice Mandarin reading site up and now another great one has arrived — this one with some longer books and novels that should appeal to older kids as well.

ChildRoad.com offers over 1,000 books read in Mandarin by professional actors and television hosts in China, with the characters and pinyin to read along with. There are multiple series and books that can be read/listened to online, as well as downloaded to an MP3 player for listening in the car.

The site was created by two Mandarin-speaking dads, Jerry Huang in Fremont and Michael Qin in Hangzhou, China, a
famous tourist destination city near Shanghai. It’s aimed at helping kids get access to books in Mandarin that may be beyond their Chinese reading ability (a common problem among immersion students, who tend to read two or three years behind grade level compared to their counterparts in China.) There are two interfaces, one in English and one in Chinese.

There are several pricing structures. You can sign on for a month at just $5.95 and see how your kids like it, ChildRoad is also offering group discounts of just $35/family/year, which represents a 50% saving to use Childroad.com. If enough people are interested it could be done on a school-wide basis as well. (If you like it, tell us what titles worked best for your kids.)

Once you’ve signed on, you can save books (click on the star at the bottom) and they get put in the backpack on the right hand bottom of the screen, where you can take them out and read them. You can read an English description of the books, but only after you’ve saved them to the backpack (we asked Mr. Huang if they could work on that for us non-Chinese readers.)

The company is also working on an iPad/iPhone/Android app.

Especially nice is that not all the stories are traditional Chinese folk tales. Nothing against China’s rich cultural heritage, but our kids have been hearing these since Kindergarten and after awhile they really want something fun, like a nice Captain Underpants or ABC Mystery. Or that Holy Grail of reading, Harry Potter. ChildRoad hasn’t gotten there yet, but at least there’s The Wizard of Oz and Sherlock Holmes.

[A note to any companies working on Chinese reading sites - our kids need to WANT to read in Chinese. For them, a book in Chinese doesn't have to be educational or edifying or even Good For Them, it ONLY HAS TO BE IN CHINESE. So go for the fun ones - really, the parents will be fine with it, as long as our kids are reading in Chinese. We'll let them do edifying at school!]

Some titles currently in the ChildRoad list:

Sample ChildRoad Books

Andersen Fairy Tales with Pictures and Pinyin (Platinum)is translated by famous author and translator, Mr. Rongrong Ren; illustrated by famous illustrators in China.

Grimm Brother Fairy Tales is a true record of the German folk literature and a collection of its most famous works. This book has included seventeen of the most exciting stories, all with beautiful color illustrations, words marked with pinyin, easy for children to read and enjoy.

“Kindergarten Story King: The Best Stories” select the best stories from Zhou Rui, and other famous authors of contemporary children’s books. These famous masterpieces are beautiful and moving. They can properly cultivate a child’s mind, open the door of wisdom, and let the child learn the world through enjoyable reading.

“Picture Book China Stories: Chinese Fairy Tales” has collected China’s most widely known classic fairy tales and well selected modern stories full of imagination and inspiration. These stories are refined from its original forms, added paintings made with traditional and modern techniques, making it a fine book for reading, learning, and collection.

“Picture Book of Chinese Idiom Stories” applies easy-to-understand stories to illustrate the wisdom, history, and humor in Chinese idioms, helping children learn in fun the subtle essence of the Chinese language and culture. Each story is short and easy to remember, and with pertinent pictures, making the book one of the best tools to help children learn Chinese idioms.

“100 Humor Stories for Optimistic and Confident Kids” introduction: good humor story, apart from making people laugh, can also make people think and get inspired. This book series contain 100 Chinese and foreign humor stories.

“100 Sincerity Stories for Understanding and Caring Kids” selected fairy tales, fables, true stories and celebrity anecdotes that will help grow the sincerity and caring nature of children. In the stories, children can experience the subtle influence of sincerity, respect, and caring for others, and learn how being compassionate and loving will contribute to the pursuit of true happiness.

“100 Stories of Famous People for Aspiring Kids” introduction: the power of examples is endless: reading the story of ancient and modern elite will help small children to establish their own goals, and enhance their confidence and courage to succeed.

“Wisdom Stories Good Kids Most Want to Know” has selected a hundred classic wisdom stories related to world wide historical figures, well-known legends, and heroes in famous novels, letting children learn the true meaning of wisdom from the witty, humorous, and creative examples.

Legend Stories Good Kids Want to Know The Most collected popular legend stories that are beautiful, far-reaching, moving, mysterious, and go far back in time. The stories are interesting and vividly told, with text easy to understand. The book has Pinyin, and good illustrations.

Sample ChildRoad Novels

Alice in Wonderland is an 1865 novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar creatures. The tale plays with logic in ways that have given the story lasting popularity with adults as well as children. Its narrative course and structure have been enormously influential.

The Wizard of Oz is a children’s novel written by L. Frank Baum. It was originally published in 1900, and has since been reprinted countless times. The story chronicles the adventures of a girl named Dorothy in the Land of Oz. It is one of the best-known stories in American popular culture and has been widely translated.

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils” is a famous work of fiction by the Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. The book is about a young lad, Nils Holgersson, who was accidentally turned to a thumb sized boy and spent eight magical and adventurous months with his loyal white farm goose, joining the travel with a group of wild geese. When Nils eventually turned back to normal boy, he had wonderful and memorable stories to tell. The novel was originally commissioned to serve partly as geography reading materials for the public schools at Sweden at the time.

Gulliver’s Travels (1726, amended 1735), is a novel by Irish writer Jonathan Swift. It is Swift’s best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature. The book became tremendously popular as soon as it was published; since then, it has never been out of print.

Around the World in Eighty Days is a classic adventure novel by the French writer Jules Verne, first published in 1873. In the story, Phileas Fogg of London and his newly employed French valet Passepartout attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days on a £20,000 wager (equal to £1,324,289 today) set by his friends at the Reform Club.

Sherlock Holmes is a fictional detective created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A brilliant London-based “consulting detective”, Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to take almost any disguise, and his forensic science skills to solve difficult cases.

The Jungle Book (1894) is a collection of stories by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling. The tales in the book, stories about Mowgli, are fables, using animals in an anthropomorphic manner to give moral lessons. The verses of The Law of the Jungle, for example, lay down rules for the safety of individuals, families and communities.

“Picture Book of Chinese Masterpiece: Journey to the West” illustrates and depicts the most interesting stories in the famous Chinese mythology novel Journey to the West, where the Monkey King Sun Wu Kong assisted his Master to go to the West to learn and bring back Buddhism. The book’s illustration and design have won China national book awards. The book is also highly recommended in Taiwan media.

“Picture Book of Chinese Masterpiece: Romance of Three Kingdoms” tells the stories of the classic characters in the era of Three Kingdoms, using languages children can understand, illustrated with interesting pictures. It helps children to get exposure to heroic wisdom, courage and vision, rendering a lively interpretation of Chinese cultural essence of loyalty, faithfulness, kindness and morality. Romance of Three Kingdoms is the most spectacular one among the four Chinese classical novels.

“Picture Book of Chinese Masterpiece: Heroes of the Marshes” depicts charismatic heroes once grouped near Liangshan marshes to fight the corrupt government of the time. The novel tells the life experiences and famous encounters of these heroes, all in easy to understand language, illustrated with interesting pictures, subtly leading children to understand social injustice, how each character is changed from ordinary people to be the hero, and the wisdom in the success and failure of Liangshan heroes. Stories are intensive, interesting and humorous at times. Reading the book can inspire courage and thought among the young heart. Heroes of the Marshes is a unique gem among the four famous Chinese classical novels.

“Picture Book of Chinese Masterpiece: Dream of Red Mansions” tells the stories of lives in the household of rich and powerful, depicts the precious true feeling, lovely talents of Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu and people around them, but also describes their misfortune, extending to recognizing life’s true value. The picture book version of this famous novel offers children an enjoyable and relaxed reading, helping them appreciate the beauty of the Chinese language and culture, understand sincere feelings among people, have sympathy for those of misfortune. It will help lead children into the hall of the best of Chinese classical literature.

The Adventures of Baron Münchhausen is a collection of legendary tales about a German Baron Münchhausen most notably adapted by German poet and writer Gottfried August Bürger in 1786. Later, these stories were further adapted to become the well-known children’s book. As the name implies, there are many tall tales of amazing encounters in this book, most notably how the Baron pulled himself and his horse out of the swamp by yanking at his own braid. Imaginative, humorous, highly readable and engaging, these stories are heartedly welcomed and liked by children of different ages world wide.

The Blue Bird is a 1908 play by Maurice Maeterlinck. The story is about a girl called Mytyl and her brother Tyltyl seeking happiness, represented by The Blue Bird of Happiness, aided by the good fairy Bérylune.

The Reynard Cycle is a literary cycle of allegorical French, Dutch, English, and German fables largely concerned with Reynard, an anthropomorphic red fox and trickster figure.

Pinocchio is a fictional character that first appeared in 1881, in The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, and has since appeared in many adaptations of that story and others. Carved from a piece of pine by a woodcarver named Geppetto in a small Italian village, he was created as a wooden puppet, but dreamt of becoming a real boy.

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (German: Nussknacker und Mausekönig) is a story written in 1816 by E. T. W. Hoffmann in which young Clara Stahlbaum’s favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls. In 1892, the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov turned the story (Alexandre Dumas père’s adapted version) into the ballet The Nutcracker, which became one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous compositions, and one of the most popular ballets in the world.

 

All books are in-print published books

Books are published by the Zhejiang Children’s Publishing House. The voice-over-text ebook with professional narrator’s voice is licensed, produced and exclusively released by Childroad Inc. You can find more such professionally narrated, voice-over-text ebooks of popular Chinese books for children at http://www.ChildRoad.com.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2011 10:01 pm

    I agree, it seems that most chinese children’s book sites online are very interested in edifying literature. I would rather that my child sit down and laugh… something like Dora or Pororo (which is a great tv series in Mandarin on dvd for younger kids)… and WANT to listen. I find that most of the language in the “classics” is wayyyy beyond what my 5 yr old from a non-chinese-speaking household can grasp. Fancy words about virtues are neither learned in school (they are learning songs about the stars being the children of the moon and sun, and poems about little birds and goats) nor taught in beginner chinese materials (which seem to focus a lot on family member names… not practical for my single child with single parent, no uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents far far away household, colors and saying what your name is!).

    I am so looking for entertaining beginner level stories and animations online to get my kid involved beyond buying expensive 30 minute dvds. I’d love to hear what level these books at ChildRoad start at, and if they are really beginner or if someone must be at the comprehension level of listening to The Nutcracker read aloud in a foreign language. Reviews please!

    • April 16, 2011 12:13 am

      Stories start at 4-5 yrs of age level. We will add a feature to sort books ‘By Age’ hopefully this week. The reason we call the site Child Road is to indicate it is a journey (of reading/learning), starting from easy, picture books, such as Kindergarten Story King series, all the way to well, The Nutcracker read aloud in Chinese :-)

      Give it a try, every new user gets unlimited access to the full library for $1 the first 30 days. We have arranged the books in several easy-to-medium-to-advanced cycles. You can’t miss the easy ones. Explore around, find books with plenty of pictures for the little ones.

      • April 17, 2011 12:42 am

        Hi, thanks, I just signed up with Paypal. And I see that with the code it is $2.99 a month after the first month, and at that price I can hardly worry about whether my son will understand the books: I can use them myself (I have a lot more proficiency using a dictionary, grammar book, internet etc to figure out what I don’t understand than a 5 yr old!)… thanks!

        I just spent an hour or so looking through the “short” books by length, and though they are quite short, they still do have full or double pages of text at a time. I am way ahead of my son in comprehension, and I mostly understood the gist of the stories, but not most of the words or sentence structure, even reading (which my son cannot do) while listening, and repeat listening (there is a feature where you can click on any sentence and it will read that sentence or reread it). The reading is quite fast, probably a normal rhythm for children who have been speaking Chinese at home all their lives, but much too fast for someone like me who has been learning chinese as a parent on my own for 4 years now or my son who gets immersion only a few times a week for several months now.

        Simple stories like we read in picturebooks in English or French would be helpful… that have 1-3 sentences per double page spread, with lots of images that directly show what the words say. We are reading the PPP company (Primary Mandarin) Chinese Readers now http://primarymandarin.com/, as well as the Better Chinese “First Chinese Words”. These books on chinasprout look at a great level for us to listen out loud as 4-5 yr olds with non native-mandarin speaking parents at home: http://chinasprout.com/shop/BSE114#6336

        At my son’s mandarin preschool class they are doing short songs and verses, with a lot of repetition and rhyme, and these are children who are mostly in chinese home environments…

        Anyways, that is my take from where we’re at. At Chinesepod.com I am considered an “Elementary level” if that helps at all. We still need the first steps up from the simple “Wo jiao x. Zhe shi wo mama. Wo you qi qiu” before we can really jump up to enjoying two full pages of text at once.

        Thanks!

  2. steve permalink
    April 16, 2011 4:27 pm

    I expect the choices have more to do with which titles are in the public domain than anything else. All of the classics listed above were published in the 19th Century, so they don’t have to be licensed and no royalties have to be paid. “Harry Potter” is likely to be too expensive for a small company like this to offer as part of the flat rate. It may be possible, however, to offer access to Chinese translations of recent books for an extra fee. Would anybody be open to such an arrangement?

  3. April 19, 2011 4:28 pm

    @wenjonggal: the key take away is that we need more entry level, fewer words more picture books that are narrated at slower speed, ideally with some interactive features to help with the understanding. That should be doable – we will look into it.

    @steve: first, for public domain (in original language) books, after their translation into Chinese, we still need to license them for the translation copyright:) Yes, Harry Porter in Chinese would be great! As a startup, we work on what you guys (user) want. How to make that happen is what makes this fun to work on.

    • April 19, 2011 7:28 pm

      Thanks Jerry, exactly. If a book is easy, we will read through it with increasing confidence and get practice reading the characters and hearing the words, and feel we have accomplished something. My son and I would get a feeling of satisfaction and achievement, and read another and another… I am not sure that there is such a thing as “too easy” except for perhaps just vocabulary books that have al the same beginner vocab: ie basic colors, basic animals, names of immediate family members, numbers to 10… those are all done ad nauseum… It would be nice to have SIMPLE short sentences but with different vocabulary, like “giraffe” or “beige” or “24″ or “school crossing guard” … :)

      Though even the over-taught words used in sentences with a funny little joke, it is good practice for reading… like the “Go Dog Go!” in the Cat in the Hat (Dr. Seuss) beginning reader series in English: “Big Dogs! Little Dogs! Dogs at work. Dogs at play. A red dog on a green tree. A green dog on a red tree. Dogs going! Dogs in cars! Dogs in cars going fast! Where are those dogs going? To the tree! To the tree! Up the tree! Up the tree! What will they do there? Will they play there? Will they work there?..” The vocabulary is really limited, but it is funny, with the drawings, and words repeat, and build up from nouns to sentences to a sort of plot… and the child can be thrilled to read a book on their own.

      This is very different from long engaging stories with complex vocabulary and sentence structure, that an adult might read aloud to a child, and be able to act out or explain difficult words…

      (ps, this isn’t a request to translate Dr. Seuss… I find that often translated books like this make no sense, as a words like “mouse in house” or “fox on box” that are one syllable and rhyme in English, facilitating reading (the child has to only change ONE letter to make the new word) don’t work in translation: “fanzi li mian lao shu” “hezi shang de huli” ! And translating English abc books also make no sense: A is for airplane: A: feiji. B is for box. B: hezi C is for cat C:mao (you see, these are buying mistakes I have made in the past!!)

      But yes, if there were lots of entry level books, we would be encouraged and read more of them … I would rather read three really easy books and be excited about them, and want to read more, than to slog through one book for three days with a dictionary, taking notes. And if they were fast and simple, my son wouldn’t close his ears and turn away saying “I don’t understand mommy, can we read an english book please???” :( !!! Which is what is happening now, even with me explaining the chinese a bit.

      Thanks so much!

  4. April 21, 2011 12:05 pm

    Thank you, Wenjonggal. Points well taken. We will look into what we can do about it to increase truly entry level books for beginner kids. For the specific books you recommended, please feel free to send us more of your wish list. Ideally if sufficient amount of these books are from a few common publishers, we will reach out to these publishers for licensing deals.

    You can also directly email us at support@childroad.com.

  5. April 24, 2011 11:52 pm

    Hi,

    Just to let you know that we have just added “By Age” feature to the bookshelf. Please feel free to select the suitable age group to find books for your kids. Give it a try :)

    • April 25, 2011 12:12 am

      Thanks so much for letting us know, Jerry, though I think that for most learning a second or third language, it works more by ability than by age. Even most adults cannot tackle books for 6 or 8 yr old native speakers before several years of classes as they don’t know basic sentence structure, vocabulary or really common idioms and expressions that any native speaking four yr old would know. :) Certainly I was in my late twenties before I could tackle books meant for French speaking preteens in French! :D And I still in my 40s am surprised by sayings in French books for 6-9 yrs I illustrate. Who knew that “son chien est mort” didn’t mean his dog is dead, but rather, “his goose is cooked” ?!! :D I find as an adult Chinese learner, it is the same issue, and many dictionaries are very literal and don’t have simple colloquial expressions. I should add that as a Canadian anglophone, I don’t understand a lot of British english either, and once incorrectly thought “bread out of corn” meant “cornbread” whereas my UK employer meant “wheat” when the text said “corn”!! :)

      That said, I shall certainly check it out. BTW thanks for your kind suggestion to look into publishers of easy-to-read books for children beginning Chinese immersion.

  6. April 28, 2011 3:04 pm

    For those of you use Google Chrome browser, feel free to try out ChildRoad’s web app at Google’s Chrome Web Store. ChildRoad is being featured there.

    https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/kehcoakgpkhhnkdkijlonbahpglcajla

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