It’s a universally accepted fact that the best way to increase literacy is to have your kids read, read often, and read widely. So, if you want your kids to learn Chinese and also have them literate, that holds equally true for Chinese literacy. It is especially true if the books are non-translated, “indigenous” books.
Reading (in any language, but we are focusing on Chinese here) helps your children internalize Chinese grammar without resorting to dull worksheets or drills, gives them cultural references, and helps them see how idioms apply in every day conversation. If the books are non-translated books (ie: not originally English books translated into Chinese), it has the added benefit of being written specifically for the Chinese/Taiwanese child. Definitely a bonus in terms of language fluidity, rhyming, and playful words being used.
This is even more helpful when your child reads aloud since it also captures the rhythm and musicality of Chinese. Reading aloud helps your kids get used to the flow of speaking Chinese and increase the likelihood of them speaking Chinese with fluidity in every day conversation. Reading the same texts repeatedly will also build confidence and decrease stumbling.
All of these aspects will help your child as they learn Chinese – even if it’s just the speaking part you want to emphasize. (The literacy would just be a bonus.)
Anyhow, even knowing all this stuff about reading and literacy, I still find it hard to read to my children. Mostly because I find it so boring. (I know, I know. I’m a terrible parent. Especially since poor, neglected Glow Worm clearly never gets read to because when someone finally does pay attention to him long enough to read to him, he goes apeshit about books. Like, beyond excited.)
But now that Cookie Monster knows 800-1000 characters and Gamera is probably around 500-600 characters and they are getting better at zhuyin, it’s now easier for me to make them read to me. (I’m totally ballparking their character knowledge here because I am so lazy that the thought of actually quizzing them and having them go through that many character flashcards makes me stabby and want to die.)
However, since I tend to be a little lax lately about their Chinese reading recently, I was so pleased to hear that Cookie Monster finally wants something BIG. He wants to get Minecraft on the PC (thus far, he’s been playing on the xbox) and I guess the PC version has more mods that he sees and covets on YouTube. So, he’s been begging us to get him a computer and the game.
Cookie Monster is six. I know this is just a preview of what is to come. sigh
When I told Cookie Monster I heard he wanted to get a computer to play Minecraft, he was so excited. SO EXCITED. I could tell because he was jumping up and down (and for some reason, shirtless), barely containing his glee, saying, “YEAH YEAH YEAH!”
“Wait a minute, Cookie Monster.” I said. “I haven’t said I would get it for you yet. I need you to do something first before I get it for you.”
“Ok! Ok! I’ll do it! Tell me what it is!”
“Before I buy Minecraft for you, and before you can play it, you will need to earn it,” I explained, totally proud of myself in this awesome, teachable parenting moment.
“What does that mean? What does ‘earn it’ mean? I want to earn it! I don’t understand what you’re saying! Help me!”
There went my proud feelings.
Clearly, we are doing a bang up job as parents.
Also, it was so sad and hilarious I really wish I had the foresight to video the whole thing.
Since I’m never one to waste a chance to weaponize my children’s loves and desires, I am taking advantage of Cookie Monster finally expressing a real BIG desire for something and using it to ramp up him reading Chinese books. He has to read a certain number of Chinese books before I will buy the game for him and then, he will have to read a certain number of chapters/books in order to actually play the game.
And, because I’m loathe to do anything in life without turning it into a blog post for my own benefit, I’m making it a communal thing.
Today’s post officially kicks off the Read 100 Chinese Books Challenge (閱讀100本書).
For the tl;dr crowd, the Read 100 Chinese Books Challenge is a non-competitive way for us parents to support each other and our children on their way to Chinese literacy. Basically, we “pledge” to have our kids read 100 Chinese books of any length or level. We can post updates, check in and encourage each other, recommend books, have
bribes prizes, etc.
Oh, and I’m serious about the non-competitive part.
There are no forms, no worksheets, no book reports you have to fill out. (I provide them for you because some folks really like them, but I personally think nothing ruins the joy of reading like pointless busywork.)
There is no verification service.
No grand prize for reading more than 100 books.
In fact, the prize for reading 100 books is, to quote my snarky friend, Not Another DB MBA, “Another 100 books!”
If this is of interest to you, join us on our 閱讀100本書/Read 100 Chinese Books Facebook Group. We’d love to have you. You MUST PM the admin your reason for joining the group. No PM? No admission.
In case a hundred books seems like a lot (and I won’t lie, it is) and you’re not sure you can find one hundred English books, let alone one hundred Chinese books, GuavaRama has a fantastic series of posts all on Chinese books including what kinds of books to buy (categorized at different levels), where to buy them, how to choose books, and where to find them in libraries. Seriously, it’s some quality information. Use it.
Alright, friends and fellow Chinese enthusiasts! For more info, I recommend you head over to our Facebook Group. (FYI: again, please PM the admin your reasons for joining.)
Hope to see you there.