Family Language Alive - Children Learning Chinese

Situation #4.6: My child can read most of the books in Chinese school. I wonder what other books I can find to help her more…

October 2, 2010

4.6 Main Article

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Situation #4.6: My child can read most of the books in Chinese school. I wonder what other books I can find to help her more.Reality: Many of the required books in a Chinese curriculum are readers, which contain words that are at the children’s appropriate reading levels. They are constructed based on a set of vocabulary words that the children have just learned. While this is desirable so that they can gain the confidence in reading Chinese books right away, they should be encouraged to read great books that are standalone literary works by real writers, which offer better value and meaning to their lives.

If you have already searched for these great works, you will probably notice that compared to books in English, there is a considerable lack of children’s Chinese books that exist in the world that are written for enjoyment alone, without any didactic messages that are all too common in most storylines. You may want to try Taiwanese publications and translated materials from Western books at libraries and internet stores. Wholesome comic books and children’s magazines can be wonderful alternatives.

Everyone may have a different opinion about what a great book is, but you need to be aware that not all books are equally effective. Learning Chinese is just like learning any other language. It is a by-product of wanting to use it for some meaningful purpose. In order to learn effectively, the best route would be to make the meaningful purpose substantially desirable, so much that your child would want to learn the words without any motivation other than the interest alone.

Therefore, the books (or any media like videos) need to spark an utmost interest in the child, especially concerning those that are in Chinese, where the selection is already limited. You may look for those that are of artistic pictures, not cookie-cut-outs (all people have the same face or smile; outlined figures with even fill-in colors; computer-generated 3-D characters and sceneries; recurrent pictures on different pages). The language should not be didactic (obviously teaching a moral lesson), but rather full of expression from the language itself. The story line should be dramatic and lively, and it should speak to your child in a personal way, even if the topic is foreign to her. Every child is different in personality and need, and every family has different values and beliefs, but these are some guidelines in the selection of Chinese books for your child.

Considerations:

  • What variety of Chinese books is my child reading? Do they include readers, as well as great books?
  • Does my child fully enjoy the readers from Chinese school? Can I tell when we are reading together or should I ask her?
  • When can I find the time to read great books (that she cannot read yet) to my child? How can I help her embark on this journey of reading these on her own later on?
  • What resources can I use to look for great books? On what family and educational criteria should I base when selecting great books for my child?
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October 19, 2014

Remove the Suckers!

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tomato-plantThis summer, I was learning to grow tomatoes. Not that I’ve known how, but I thought as I grow, I would learn. The plan sounded good, but in reality, with so many things in life, I wasn’t reading up anything during the process, except just making sure its basic needs are met, namely sunshine and water. Little did I realize that I was supposed to prune regularly. Big mistake! Pruning ensures that the majority of the nutrients are being sent only to the trusses, so nothing is wasted on the extra stems that do not produce fruits–the suckers! My fruits ended up being very tiny indeed.

 

Likewise, we need to prune regularly for our children. Pruning, in our case, may mean censoring the materials they read. As parents, we are responsible for their nutrition. On the dinner table, we cannot just provide french fries and soda and make an excuse that as long as they’re full, we’ve done our job. They need to be properly nourished with a balanced diet. In much the same concept, we need to provide a balanced diet in the content that goes into their mind and heart. For everything has an origin. There was one time a girl was entrusted to us to stay over for a month or so. In the first few nights, she kept having nightmares about her friend being killed. When inquired further, those thoughts had come directly from books that she had recently been reading.

 

It is already extremely difficult to find level-appropriate reading materials in Chinese. The temptation is exceedingly great that we allow our child to feed on wherever his interest lies. It is our responsibility to cultivate them based on our family values. Eating healthy food takes more priority than being able to feed oneself with whatever one fancies. Reading great literature, therefore, is far more important than being able to read, even in Chinese.

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