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Of course, get your kids fun Christmas presents. But maybe just one book in Chinese…?

November 13, 2022

Anyone in my house knows there will be fun Christmas presents under the tree, but that also, hiding somewhere in all that wrapping paper, there will be at least one book for each person. Because books matter and can change your life. Plus they’re fun. Talk to me about science fiction sometime and how it turned my sister into an avid reader.

So as you put together those Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanza) lists, consider dropping in at least one easy-to-read book in Chinese. Remember, you want this to be a book that your kid picks up and say, “Hey, wait, I can read this!” No dictionaries, no having to ask about words. Just a story they can follow in a language they hear at school every day.

A couple of options:

Our friends over at Mandarin Companion have easy-to-read books for middle and high school students. At this point they’re mostly re-written versions of classics, but never fear, they’re short and easy to follow. Books like Emma, “Clever, rich, and single, the Ān Mò (Emma Woodhouse) is focused on her career as fashion designer. When she tries to find a boyfriend for a new friend, her decisions bring unexpected consequences.” Or Sherlock Holmes or the Prince and the Pauper.

You could also check outpicture books that are actually easy-to-read, from the wonderfully-named Squid for Brains. The problem with most picture books for Chinese kids in China is the vocabulary is too advanced. What you want are books meant for kids coming from non-Chinese speaking households. Squid for Brains also has some books for slightly older readers here.

In the “not great art, but hey, they’re easy to read” category are two books meant for middle schoolers, “Who’s cute?” (Shei haokan?) and “Being cute isn’t enough” (Haokan shi bu gou de) from a press that’s totally focused on providing books that new language learners can read. Most of their offerings are in Spanish but these two are their Chinese offerings.

If your child it’s bored with Chinese myths and legends yet, Sinolingua has a nice series of graded Chinese readers. Their beginning books use just 150 vocabulary words.

There are of course many more. Ask your child’s teacher about good books and what level will be appropriate.

And of course, you’ll get them a few wonderful can’t-put-down books in English too, right?

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