Sagebooks ChallengeAuthor’s Note: For those of you who are new to my site, Sagebooks HK is sponsoring the next four months as we start two new series: The Sagebooks Challenge that you’re reading right now and a series starting tomorrow at Sagebooks HK Blog where I will be providing a time tested tip and a fun activity to help support you and your child as you go through the sets.

Welcome to our very first week going through the Sagebooks HK Basic Chinese 500 series with Glow Worm (4).

The weekly challenge updates are designed to be a quick read with bite-sized information. Since people may be joining us during any given week, I will be providing a quick summary each time of what the Sagebooks Challenge is, what the books are about, and what we accomplished this week.

I’ll also have some pictures and videos of Glow Worm and I going through the series – as well as cameos by the rest of my kids. Now, without further ado, here we go!

What is Sagebooks?

Sagebooks HK Basic Chinese 500 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. You can find out more here.

Quick Background

I am an ABC/T and speak Mandarin 85% of the time to my four children (8, 6, 4, 1). My husband, Hapa Papa, only speaks English. We homeschool bilingually in Chinese and English and my older two children have already gone through the Sagebooks HK Basic Chinese 500.

Glow Worm, (4) currently knows about 50 characters and this is the first time we are going through Sagebooks. He currently splits time between two Chinese preschools for 3 hours a day, 4 days a week.

Goal for Week 1: Book 1.1:1-15*

Since this was our first week, my goal was to get into the habit of going over 1-3 characters with Glow Worm every week day. I figured we would go until he wanted to stop and then review a bit when necessary.

How Did We Do?

I was surprised. We did really well. In fact, we went up to Book 1.2:8.

Now, before you freak out and think I’m super hard core and that you’re somehow doing it wrong, remember that Glow Worm already knows approximately 50 characters. That means about half of this first set will be review for him.

In general, I pay very little attention to my children and their Chinese progress with their tutors so I was pleasantly surprised to see how many characters Glow Worm already recognized in the first book. I think he recognized about half of the characters.

This is, in part, one of the reasons I’m starting so much earlier with him than with my older two. Cookie Monster (8) and Gamera (6) already knew 700-800 characters at the time we started with the series so we really blazed through them. But I know that is not a normal experience of the series so I was very curious how we would do with a child that did not have that many characters under their belt.

Glow Worm was super excited to start the books and he would bring me the book every day and asked me to read with him. Because I have so many children, I don’t get to spend much time with the kids individually and I think part of the appeal of going through Sagebooks with me was the chance to have a few minutes of my focused attention.

How Did We Do It?

Usually, we would sit on the couch and go through the book. I would have Glow Worm read the lesson number and the title and he would trace the character with his finger. Then we would go through the chapter.

Truthfully, we didn’t spend more than 5-10 minutes each time.

After a few characters, I would ask him if he wanted to continue. Whatever Glow Worm decided was ok with me. My primary goal this week was to establish a routine and expectation of going through the Sagebooks. Actual learning would be a bonus.

The older two kids, Cookie Monster (8) and Gamera (6), were very curious and wanted to help out Glow Worm. Despite them having already gone through the books, they still enjoyed looking at the pictures and reading the characters.

In fact, there was at least a day or two that Cookie Monster was the one who sat down with Glow Worm and went over the characters with him. Ah, the beauty of outsourcing, older children, and efficiency all rolled into one!

We did not do any activities or flash cards. I am lazy and I tend not to do these things because thus far, my children do very well just going through the books page by page.

Sample Pics and Videos

Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500

Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500

Sagebooks Basic Chinese 500

Here’s a video of Glow Worm doing Set 1 Book 1 Lesson 13.

Here’s a video of him reading Set 1 Book 1 Lesson 18.


In the beginning, Glow Worm thought I was starting the book over several times (and he got very mad at me) because the first few chapters are extremely repetitive. I mean, of course they are. At this point, they have only introduced 3-5 characters. What other sentences could they possibly write?

Glow Worm really did not enjoy me asking him to repeat sections he already read. He would get angry and demand to continue even if he still had trouble remembering new characters.

Because I knew that Sagebooks builds each chapter upon the previous chapter, I wasn’t too worried about moving on prior to full mastery. There was and will be ample opportunity for Glow Worm to run into the characters again and learn them later. My main goal was to get continued buy in from him and I think that was a success.

Some Observations

All in all, a great start to the first week. I was very pleased that we went through a book and a half though that was not due to any amazingness on my part. (Although, I did pay for Glow Worm’s Chinese teachers so I guess I can claim partial credit.)

I do not foresee this pace continuing – especially once we hit the harder characters.

I noticed that Glow Worm has the most trouble with the more abstract characters like 在/zai4/exist, be alive/ and 有/you3/have, possess, own/. I have read that this is a common thing so I’m not too worried. I’m just amused to see it happen since I never witnessed it with my other kids. (This is not to say that they did not do the same thing, just that I was oblivious.)

Also, this may sound silly, but I am very pleased Glow Worm keeps mixing up 很/hen3/very/ and 跟/gen/follow/. Why? Because that means he recognizes that they both have the same 艮/gen3/blunt, tough, chewy/ sound component. I consider that a good thing!

Sagebooks Challenge Application

How did you do? Is this your first time through the series or are you a seasoned pro? Are you just checking it out? Have you been intimidated and never started? Or have you tried to start a few times only to peter out?

Whatever your situation, we’d love to hear from you.

Join us and 200+ other parents at the Sagebooks HK Parent Support Facebook Group to discuss this week’s challenge post as well as other daily topics.

See you next week!

* I refer to the Sagebooks in this formula: Set#.Book#:Chapter#. So, if I am referring to the first set, book 3, and characters 14-16, it looks like: Book 1.3:14-16.