Sagebooks Challenge

I’m so excited!

I finally get to announce that Sagebooks HK and I are working together for the next four months.

If you have been reading me for a long time, you’ll know that I’m a super fan of Sagebooks HK and that I think they are without a doubt, the most effective way to teach Chinese characters for children in Chinese speaking families.

I have dreamed of partnering with them on anything for at least several years. And now, at the start of 2018, my dream has finally come true.

Okokokokokok.

Enough preamble. Here’s what’s coming to Mandarin Mama and the Sagebooks HK Blog.

Sagebooks Challenge

Starting Monday, February 5, 2018, I will be featuring a weekly series called The Sagebooks Challenge.

Every week, I will be chronicling Glow Worm (4) and I going through the Sagebooks HK Basic Chinese 500 series and their Treasure BoxesWe’ll go over our objectives, our challenges, our wins, and pretty much anything I think will be helpful to someone going through Sagebooks for the first time. (This will be my third time through – I’m definitely getting my money’s worth!) I will also include photos and videos for people wanting to check out the sets before they purchase.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Sagebooks, it is a series of 5 sets of 5 books that teach your children how to read the top 500 high frequency characters in children’s books. The books come in both Traditional and Simplified characters, with pinyin and an English translation at the bottom. Each chapter builds on the previous chapter so that your child acquires new vocabulary and character knowledge in a trackable, systematic way.

They also have a set of Treasure Boxes of 5 books per set for a total of 25 Treasure Box books which are readers that ONLY contain the characters they have learned up until that point (with maybe an additional new character or two).

Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500 Set and Treasure Boxes

Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500 Set, Treasure Box Sets 1-5, Idioms 1-5, Antonyms 1-2, Bunny Comics

I will be coming back to this post and updating it with links to the ongoing series.

Sagebooks HK Parent Support Group

In partnership with Sagebooks HK, I will be managing the new Sagebooks HK Parent Support Facebook Group. If you are thinking of buying this series or already own the series, join us!

We all know how hard it is to do something alone – let alone the prospect of teaching our children how to read Chinese! Join the group and meet other parents who are teaching their kids Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500 at all different ages and levels.

We just opened up the group and would love to have you!

This group provides a space for you to have accountability, ask and answer questions, exchange ideas, and have partners as you go through the sets. The more your participate, the more you will receive.

Plus, I’ll be doing weekly Facebook Live videos on how to use Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500, the Treasure Boxes, and other special announcements!

One note: Please remember to answer the membership questions. All requests without answers will be deleted.

Sagebooks HK Blog

In addition, every Tuesday morning, I will be on the Sagebooks HK Blog providing a time tested tip from our more seasoned parents as well as a fun and easy activity/game to help your kids remember the characters in a way that doesn’t involve a book or flashcards.

The more ways we can make learning Chinese characters fun, the better!

I am super excited.

In case you can’t tell, I am ecstatic about working with Sagebooks HK. I’m a little bit terrified, too (but don’t tell them that).

I hope you will join me on the Sagebooks Challenge with me and Glow Worm and either follow along with us or, if you’ve already started, to continue ahead of us. Then, check out the Sagebooks HK Blog and finally, tell us what worked, what didn’t, what you need help with at the Sagebooks HK Parent Support Facebook Group.

Have you tried Sagebooks before? Let me know in the comments.

Fun Chinese Worksheets for Preschoolers

** I received a review copy of the Body Parts Packet and the accompanying ebooks and poster by Fortune Cookie Mom. As usual, all opinions and thoughts are my own. 

For those of us who are intent on surrounding our kids in a Chinese Language Ecosystem (CLE), we want everything in Chinese – even worksheets. And that can be a pain in the butt.

When I was in Taiwan two years ago, I bought some Chinese activity books from a stationery store. I loved them and so did my kids. But then, they were used and it was only used with one kid. Yes, I could have laminated the pages or put in sleeves, but honestly, that’s a lot more work and money in supplies than the actual activity books cost.

Cookie Monster (8) cutting the matching game cards

When Fortune Cookie Mom contacted me to see if I would be interested in checking out one of her Chinese learning packets and providing some feedback, I was hesitant. After all, I like Fortune Cookie Mom. What if I didn’t like her stuff? Then I would l have to be in the awkward position of telling her I didn’t like it.

I mean, I know I tell you all that I am a jerk, but I don’t ENJOY being one to people I like!!

Anyhow, I should not have worried.

Fortune Cookie Mom’s packets are fantastic.

Her graphics are adorable. She has SO many activities. She provides them in SIX language combinations. The activity packs are appropriate for multiple age levels (my kids 8, 6, 4, and 1 ALL found something they enjoyed). The activities work well even without a color printer. There is a handy Table of Contents so you have an easy reference for when you’re printing individual activities instead of the whole entire book. Plus, there is a suggested age range for each activity.

Her packets are a steal for the amount of value you get out of them.

Glow Worm (4) turning a cute coloring sheet of a hand into a zombie hand.

Mostly, I printed this packet out for Glow Worm (4) because it is geared for the PreK set and he fits the age range. He can’t read much Chinese and is still young enough to find simple puzzles challenging. He also loves coloring and matching activities.

Glow Worm was THRILLED.

I was surprised.

He was excited to do the worksheets and was so proud to be a big boy doing “homework” like Cookie Monster (8) and Gamera (6). He wasn’t interested in tracing the characters because that suspiciously resembled learning, but he was ALL over the coloring, the matching games, cutting out the different pieces, and the counting worksheets.

I often forget that Glow Worm is his own person and wants to spend time with me and this was a quick and easy way to do so AND learn Chinese. BONUS!

Cookie Monster could already read all the characters and the activities seemed a little too simple for him, but he REALLY wanted to cut out all the puzzle pieces and flash cards for me.

Glow Worm (4) cutting matching cards.

Gamera could also read all the characters, but she loved the pretty girl cartoons, cutting things, and all the coloring sheets and puzzles. She colored them all and then cut them up.

She didn’t realize that she had mixed two puzzles together so she inadvertently created a harder activity than just the original puzzle so if you have older children, that might be one way to keep them engaged. Mix up ALL the puzzles and tell them to figure it out.

As for Sasquatch (1), he just liked to be in the mix of things and crumple paper and play with scissors in a less than safe way.

I left the sheets on the kitchen table over a few days and every few hours, the kids would swing by and do another activity. It’s been several days and we still have activities left to do – so this packet isn’t just a one and done situation.

Sasquatch (1) getting into the mix. Glow Worm (4) putting together a puzzle.

My main tip for these puzzle packets is to laminate the sheets before cutting. That way, you can re-use the activities instead of having to re-print and then re-cut. However, if your kid is really into the cutting thing, you have the freedom to print it out again.

Also, I wished there was an option with zhuyin, but that’s a minor quibble. (Fortune Cookie Mom even mentioned that she might offer that version in the future.)

Oh, and one small detail that shows me just how attentive Fortune Cookie Mom is when she designs these activities. The lines in between the grids for cutting out flashcards is just the right width for a pair of scissors. Why is this important? This allows you to only have to cut in between the squares ONCE versus having to cut the sides twice. Is this something only highly anal retentive people notice? If so, consider me guilty!

Here are some more pics of Glow Worm and the rest of the gang doing some of the activities.

Glow Worm (4) tracing shapes.

Gamera (6) coloring a worksheet.

Gamera (6) coloring in the sentence characters.

Gamera (6) putting together a puzzle.

She provides SIX language combinations:

  • English and Simplified Chinese
  • Simplified Chinese
  • Simplified Chinese and Pinyin
  • English and Traditional Chinese
  • Traditional Chinese
  • Traditional Chinese and Pinyin

It’s so handy that she has options with English so functionally illiterate parents can still read the instructions!

This is a list of activities in the Body Parts Packet (she even lists them in a Table of Contents so you can easily find them to print out):

  • Matching Game
  • Penmanship practice sheets
  • Matching Activity
  • Word Puzzles
  • Sorting exercise
  • Vocab Clip Cards
  • Chinese Number Clip Cards
  • Puzzles
  • Color Matching
  • Shapes Tracing
  • Size Sorting
  • Roll & Count
  • Writing Numbers
  • Size Sequencing
  • Patterns
  • Maze
  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Coloring pages

Each activity will have a suggested age range and I found it spot on. Fortune Cookie Mom knows her audience! And it’s just another example of how thoughtful and nuanced her packets are. She really takes all the guesswork and headache out of teaching kids Chinese.

Here is a video of Glow Worm sorting whether a picture is a body part or not a body part:

Here is a video of Glow Worm matching pictures:

Here’s a video of Glow Worm matching Chinese characters to the pictures.

Here’s a video of Glow Worm circling Chinese numbers.

In addition to these 40+ pages of activities, she also has a supplementary vocabulary poster and short ebook story you can buy. The poster is good for folks who like to print out and tape things to their walls where their kids can see and get used to the characters. The ebook is a short two pager where kids can practice their newfound characters.

I cannot overemphasize what a great find Fortune Cookie Mom’s packets are. They’re perfect for busy Chinese teachers and parents to help teach specific vocabulary, holidays, seasons, and Chinese culture.

In fact, her packets are so wonderful, I told her to raise her prices. (Sorry, but likes and shares don’t pay the bills and she’s a busy homeschooling mom of three.)

Here’s a secret: Fortune Cookie Mom is going to be raising her prices after Chinese New Year (2/16/18). So, if you want to get her activity packets for your kids, you better do so ASAP. She has even added some bundles if you’re like me and want all of them.

Go get them. You will not regret.

Bilingual Chinese and English Storybooks

** Today’s post is sponsored by Travel, Learn and See Your Friends: Adventures in Mandarin Immersion by Edna Ma. I also received a review copy of the hardcover. As usual, all opinions and thoughts are my own. This post includes Amazon affiliate links (the price you pay is the same; Amazon shares a tiny bit of that with me). Also, leave a comment about your favorite Chinese story on this post by Monday, 1/15/18 at 11:59pm PST for a chance to win this book!

People often tell me that I’m a little bit too hard core for them about teaching my kids Chinese.

I get it. I really do.

I know that most of you who want to teach your kids Chinese are not going to homeschool, spend thousands of dollars on Chinese books, or head back to Taiwan for weeks at a time.

Sometimes, I think I’m just a smidge overboard about it all, too.

I know that many of the books I discuss are hard for folks to access – either because you have to navigate online bookstores in Chinese and figure out international shipping or because you have no way of reading the book to your kids even if you bought it.

This is when bilingual books with both Chinese and English on the same page can come in handy. Today’s book, Travel, Learn and See Your Friends: Adventures in Mandarin Immersion by Dr. Edna Ma, can solve several of those problems for you.

First, you can buy it on Amazon.

Second, it’s a bilingual book! That means the story is written in English, Simplified Chinese, and also has pinyin so even non-speaking parents can “read” the book. Plus, there will be a YouTube video by Linda Yi of Panda Cub Stories narrating the whole book so you can follow along!

As someone who is not functionally literate in Chinese, I cannot tell you how annoying it is to have all these awesome Chinese picture books that are made for parents to read to their children except, womp womp, I’m illiterate.

I see a wall of Chinese text and I want to cry. Or scream.

But now, here’s a book with Simplified Chinese (for my kid to practice), pinyin (to support me or your children as they read the Chinese), and English (so I can understand what I just read!).

Alright, alright. So it helps you overcome these hurdles. What is this book about?

Travel, Learn and See Your Friends is based on the real friendship of Dr. Ma’s son, Dean, and his friend, Ethan, when they were first-graders attending a Mandarin Immersion school. Through their friendship, the boys learn about different reasons to learn Mandarin, their own families, and the world. They even come up with a clever idea to keep in touch when Dean finds out he is moving.

Here’s what I love most about this book. It is a bilingual book featuring children who live in the US, doing normal every day things. That’s practically a unicorn!

It’s refreshing to see a Chinese/English bilingual book that has nothing to do with living in a Chinese speaking country, doesn’t feature animal characters, and is not a re-telling of a Chinese Myth.

Travel, Learn and See Your Friends features elementary school kids at a US based Mandarin Immersion school and is a completely original story.

Furthermore, this book features main characters who are people of color. Dean is Chinese American and Ethan is African American and guess what? The book doesn’t make a big deal out of it at all.

It is so rare for children’s books with main characters of color that are NOT about something “ethnic” or “after school special” or “foreign holidays.”

I cannot tell you how exciting it is to have a book with a Chinese American kid that is not about Chinese New Year or the Autumn Moon Festival or an African American kid that is not about Martin Luther King Jr. or slavery or Civil Rights.

Seriously. This book is a unicorn.

On top of that, the illustrations are engaging and show families of color in loving, normal, every day situations. That is a powerful thing.

Despite there being essentially 3x the amount of text in a normal story book in order to accommodate all the translations, the layout never feels too crowded or claustrophobic. Again, that is a hard thing to accomplish and still have a longer and coherent story.

Third, I love supporting women of color authors. Yes, white people can definitely (and should, if we’re being honest) write characters of color in a fully developed and appropriate manner. But there is just something beautiful to me about books with kids of color in it written by a person of color.

Representation matters – in all aspects – and in our current clime, more important than ever.

Here’s my main concern about this book. It is very obvious that the Chinese version does not flow the way a story authored by a native speaker would. Though the Chinese version is literally accurate and grammatically correct, it lacks spirit – that spark in the language the English version has.

The Chinese stumbles most while describing events or explaining a situation. Sometimes, it is because of a regional preference like using 襯衫 (chen4 shan) vs 上衣 (shang4 yi) for the term, “shirt.” Other times, it is because though the sentence is technically correct, it is not the words you would use when telling a story to children.

Don’t worry too much, though. Your children (and myself included) will learn different ways to express an idea and have a richer, more adult vocabulary as a benefit.

The Chinese is much more natural sounding when it is a conversation between the two boys and between the parents and children.

Keep in mind, Dr. Ma grew up speaking Cantonese and English so she wrote the story in English and hired several Chinese translators to do the Chinese version. You can see the care and attentiveness to accuracy reflected in the text. I only wish that the translators were a bit more creative in their expressions!

That said, this book is good for people who have found it difficult to find quality Chinese and English bilingual storybooks for their children. The pain of reading a book to your kid in Chinese has now been removed. (Again, there will even be a YouTube video narrated by Linda Yi of Panda Cub Stories.)

Plus, you can find it on Amazon instead of hoping you didn’t just buy a llama on a yacht and promise your firstborn to pay for shipping on an all-Chinese online website.

Also, this Travel, Learn and See Your Friends makes a good gift for kids in or considering Mandarin Immersion programs, kids who want to learn about other languages, and quite frankly, kids in general.

Cookie Monster (8) and Gamera (6) read most of the passages with ease (Cookie Monster knows ~1300 characters and Gamera knows ~1100). They cannot read English or pinyin so they really were reading! (I was frankly, quite surprised.)

I left the book out on the kitchen table to see what would happen and over the course of two weeks, I saw Cookie Monster pick up the book several times (without me ever asking), flip through and peruse the story. He said he liked the illustrations and clearly understood the story and the characters (remember – he can’t read English or pinyin).

Gamera saw the book and asked about it, but she did not want to read it. She has been anti-reading lately so it was most likely that.

Even Glow Worm (4) would pick up Travel, Learn and See Your Friends and look through the pictures for a few minutes. He DEFINITELY cannot read any of the languages!

I’ve included some pertinent details, pictures, and video below.

Title: Travel, Learn and See Your Friends: Adventures in Mandarin Immersion

Where to Buy: Amazon

How to Enter the Book Giveaway: Leave a comment about your favorite Chinese story by Monday, 1/15/18 at 11:59pm PST in the comment section of THIS POST. (Do NOT comment on Facebook, IG, Tw, postcard, or snail mail.)

Sample Pages: 

Here’s a snippet of Gamera (6) reading two pages from Travel, Learn and See Your Friends. Keep in mind, Gamera also does not know how to read English or pinyin so she is only reading the Chinese characters.

Here’s a snippet of Cookie Monster (8) reading an excerpt. Keep in mind, Cookie Monster also does not know how to read English or pinyin so he isn’t “cheating,” either.

Thanks again for reading! Please be sure to check out Travel, Learn and See Your Friends on Amazon (I believe there is also an audio clip you can hear.)

Don’t forget to leave a comment about your favorite Chinese story on this blog post by Monday, 1/15/18 at 11:59pm PST for a chance to win this book!