(Review & Giveaway) Learn Chinese with Inspiring Biographies, Comical Chickens and Hearty Stories! (2yo-12yo)

I was teaching my girl the character 难, which means difficult. To impress her on the context, I asked her if she has anything that she finds difficult to cope with.

Her reply ,”我很难记得全部的华文字” (I find it difficult to remember all the chinese words that I have learnt)

It is no surprise that our children have great difficulty learning our mother tongue language as Chinese Singaporeans. Despite having a strong background of Chinese speaking in our home as well as church, our kids slip into English mode automatically in school and require much reminders to switch back to mandarin when conversing with us.

If I could turn back the time, I would shower my kids with mandarin materials and redo all my fun play time using mainly Chinese instead of English. I cannot. So what do I do now?

After connecting with like-minded Chinese learning parents who passionately teach their young ones Chinese through much play, I became much inspired and motivated to re-ignite love for this language. However, at this stage where my kids are 10yo, 9yo and 7yo, we have limited time to indulge on fun chinese learning activities as Primary school goers.

What is the best alternative to boring Chinese assessments books?

Learning to read through Inspirational Living Chinese Chapter books!

If you follow me, you know I am big on the enjoyment of reading. Sadly, due to the difficulty of learning each chinese character, reading chinese chapter books independently are out of the question for a long time. I resorted to getting Han Yu Pin Yin worded books in order to ‘read’ the chinese chapter books.

For a period, I tried reading chapter books together with them, but that took too much energy out of us. I realised that it has everything to do with the materials I am providing for them. I started searching a lot on books that could help ‘bridge’ the boys’ level of mandarin knowledge. I had a few good recommendations but it still did not cater to their needs.

Then, Linxin from My Story Treasury contacted me to do a review of her books. I took the chance to explain my above issues and asked for help. She did a search and introduced me to 名人绘本。It was an answered prayer with love at first sight!

This set became our chinese bridge saver! Of all the books I have researched, nothing beats this simple yet wonderfully written chinese prose. We all enjoyed this series and the kids agreed to learn all the chinese words from them. Let me unpack them for you.

Option1 : A Set of 名人绘本 20 pcs (9yo-12yo)

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What are the winning factors of 名人绘本?

  1. Inspiring and Value added Content

It has a systemic classical biographies of both the East and West People of Influence. Having such biographies serve as living models for our children to emulate. As I read the books myself, I find myself drawn to each character and my admiration grew for each personality! I never knew most of these Chinese people of Influence and am impressed by the inventions and tenacity for life!

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For instance, 张衡 (Zhang Heng) was a famous scientist in the Han dynasty who invented the first instrument to measure earthquake – a seismograph 地动仪. The illustration of the seismograph is accurately portrayed.

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EastHanSeismograph

Another book on 毕昇 (Bisheng), he accidentally came up with a solution and invented the Letter Press after he gained insight from his son’s mischief! Nontheless, there were much trial and errors before he could improve and make this letter press work.

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The biography of 孔子(Kong Zi), gave a fresh insight on how he was a man of determination and patience in his pursuit of knowledge. He does not only practice diligently in an instrument, he would do so with such fervour and grit as to experience the depth and state of that piece of music in order to fully immerse in the composer’s state of mind!

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2. Well Written Chinese Prose with Han Yu Pin Yin (HYPY) and English translation

My children and I have been enriched by the simple yet rich descriptive language used in the stories. It was not too easy neither was it too lofty for comprehension. My kids learnt many interesting phrases and began to appreciate them in a meaningful context. Often, the English translation serves as a scaffold to deepen their understanding of the Chinese prose. However, do note that the English translation may not be perfect. The modern Western people of influence have been an exciting series to enjoy. As they are familiar names, my kids enjoy the chinese version of their biographies.

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3. Attractive and simple layout, thin and compact story with short paragraphs

Lastly, from the above pictures, you can see that this series has a stylised childlike illustrations that bring out the life story of each personality.  I love the font size and spacing of the words with succinct paragraphs for each page of illustration. This makes it look less intimidating and more inviting to the young readers. The English translation is provided in the same page or the next page for easy reference. Each book is a standard size slightly smaller than A4 size. It has 30 pages which makes each book thin and attractive to pick up and carry around for reads.

My Approach

Our children have been memorising the Chinese Bible scriptures in sunday school and at home since young. Such living words give much direction in their moral character and spiritual support.

I have found 名人绘本 to possess inspiring role models of men and a woman who have changed history through their indomitable spirit and love for learning. These stories I regard as a worthy pursuit to learn and even memorise for the beauty and strength in their Chinese literary expression. Although I find it a pity that there is only 1 story of a woman. It would be perfect with more women for both worlds to be mentioned!

Back to reality, my kids still did not have much zeal in reading the chinese portions. They however devoured all of them in English which showed they loved the content. Having started this nightly routine of reading only chinese books 2 months ago, this time round I gave an ultimatum.

  1. Learn Chinese through this set of story books OR
  2. Learn through chinese assessment books.

I explained that mummy went through much pains to search for them good materials to read and learn this language. If they still refuse to co-operate and put in some hard work, I will have to force them to learn through the  assessment rote learning method. I was at my wits’ end.

Testing by Recap

Low and behold, after that last piece of advice, they pulled their socks up and the evenings became an earnest scene of reading aloud, trying to recall the words they have just learnt from the HYPY. Each night they will learn a few pages and each child will read aloud the text with HYPY covered. Recently, I added a task – to record down in a journal, a phrase from the pages that was useful or inspiring. They will then proceed to read at leisure the other chinese books that I bought for them. The goal was for them to enjoy reading the chinese books with ease with the HYPY as their vital aid.

Studies show that retention of facts will occur with a simple yet powerful habit of ‘recap’ by testing. Yes testing. We still cannot escape the ‘necessary evil of education’ (Big Think).  In Simon Oxenham’s post on ‘How to Learn’, he provided the statistics of how 10 techniques were evaluated and derived surprising results. For example, rereading and summarising are on a Low Utility scale while practice testing had a High Utility scale.

The above is a main reason why 四五快读 series are so effective in learning mandarin as it has a consistent recap and build up of words at a high rate of frequency. A friend asked me – what advice would I give to those who have preschoolers and toddlers on teaching of Chinese language? She strongly believes in the joy and meaning of learning through play and experiential learning. However, in social media, many are using ‘how to read’ materials like Sage and 四五快读 series.

My take? I feel to have a firm foundation of language, the ability to read is important. The younger you start to imbibe it, the faster they absorb without any qualms, Huhs and Haws! I started the 四五快读 series when my kids were about 4 or 5 yo. It was a pity that I stopped with my boys at Book 2 as it was a chore for all of us. If I knew of the Sage set, I would have gotten those for them! As for my girl, she started at 4yo but I am STILL teaching her and now finally reached book 5! I see the difference in thirst for learning when the kids enter Primary 1. It is more challenging to teach her as compared to preschool years despite her teachable disposition. I am also an advocate of learning through play and all for instilling joy of learning. However, if I could turn back the clock, I would be more diligent in teaching all my kids the above series and actively teaching them mandarin in all our play times like what Betty from CHALK ACADEMY is doing. Now, back to how I test the kids.

The video shows my usage of plastic holders that was cut to the right size and had correction tape applied to cover up the HYPY of this book set. This is an ingenious method innovated by a creative mum, Ting Henderson. The kids will learn to read with HYPY first and practice reading before they re-read to me. I will also check for their understanding along the way. This is a video process on how we are learning together where there are errors along the way.

Feedback from Kids

Do you like this set of 名人绘本 ?

A : Yes

J : No, because I don’t know a lot of words.

How is this series different from other chinese story books that you have read?

A: It is non-fiction and about motivation. It talks about real-life people. I like that the story person does a lot of things.

J : This set is shorter than other chapter books. (He would rather learn this than do assessments.)

Review of a book 

Here’s a review from my boys As Is.

A: 华罗庚 Hua Luo Geng

I have learnt to never give up and I have learnt new Chinese words like: zuan yan gu dai da wei jing tan and many more.

华文:我学到了不要放弃还有我也学到了比较多华文字好像:钻研 ,古代,大为惊叹 还有许多。

J: 莱特兄弟 Lai Te Xiong Di

华文: 我觉得莱特兄弟很勇敢,因为驾驶飞机是非常危险的。驾驶飞机很危险因为在历史他们是第一个人尝试他们自己所发明的飞机。迫不及待;等不了[unable to wait]

English: They did not quit even though they failed repeatedly and pursued their dreams.

Extension and Application of 名人绘本 

Common Talking Point

As we read and study this series together, I have increased my general knowledge and gained precious insights into the lives of these great personalities. This set has inspired me immensely and in turn, rubbed off to my children as well.

When I wanted to clarify the facts of the story to match the characters, I sometimes get confused and the boys will correct me and search the right person to the story that I have shared and vice versa. My hubby also engaged them in topics like how the word press had evolved and developed till now providing them further food for thought. Most recent question was on the “Straits of Magellan” where papa taught him with the world map on the historical channel.

Once, I wanted to search for the Big Dipper story as it was relevant to what I wanted to teach my girl for one of the word 北。I used the Big Dipper 北斗星 to illustrate it. A excitedly went to search for 张衡 (Zhang Heng) to show me the Big dipper. If not for this book, I would not have used 北斗星 to illustrate 北!

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Increase of Vocabulary Usage

From A’s feedback, he had a more enjoyable experience reading this series because many words he had learnt in his P4 chinese lessons in class. I was heartened to hear that as it would mean a direct application of learning from class and home. It is no wonder J (P3) finds it challenging.

Nontheless, after learning a few books by now, the boys have acquired new vocabulary and could recognise them in their textbooks and other context.

Real Life Application

There is properly no history; only biography.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) U.S. poet, essayist and lecturer.

With such inspiring characters of the past, the children and I find much motivation knowing greatness starts with many humble beginnings. We are slowly but surely working our way through the 20 biographies!

Be a little careful about your library. Do you foresee what you will do with it? Very little to be sure. But the real question is, What it will do with you? You will come here and get books that will open your eyes, and your ears, and your curiosity, and turn you inside out or outside in.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) U.S. poet, essayist and lecturer.

This set does exactly the above quote. Now aeroplanes are seen through the eyes of the Wright Brothers, while Newton’s Law of gravity (牛顿 “万有引力”) becomes clearer and all these learning being absorbed in Mandarin.

It opened our curiosity and the children somehow along the way, can relate back to what they have read.

Option 2 :A Set of 不一样的卡梅拉 15pcs (7yo-12yo)

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(Repost for those unfamiliar with the series)

This is a beautiful sight whenever I catch my kids enjoying the series in and out of home. This is officially their favourite copies to bring out to read during any waiting time. J took to this like a fish in the sea and devoured 5 books within 2 weeks!

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These are the winning factors for this series.

1) Illustrations are witty, fun, vibrant and attractive.

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J keeps pointing out to me the quirky and comical instances. He noticed this poor chick who was in dire need to use the loo. Can you spot him in the seat?

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Over here, he was so amused that this chick finally got relieved at that chair like potty! They also pointed out the hilarious painting gate-crashed by another chick’s portrait….. The visuals provided them with endless entertainment.

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2) The original authors wrote this series in French. They were translated into mandarin version which provides quality content in mandarin.

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3) The mandarin version is easy to read without too many challenging words to learn. It suited my kids’ level of proficiency, thus making it less intimidating and more attractive for them to read for leisure.

4) It has meaningful and valuable content that inspires creativity and an adventurous spirit. It is about this chicken who desires to see the world and heads off for her own adventures. She overcomes various difficulties and finds her partner in the process. The second book talks about the adventures of her young chick.

Option 3 :A Set of 妈妈心,马马树 & 妈妈买绿豆

(2yo & Up)

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This is a classic and timeless story that became a significant part of my 2 younger kids. It starts off with a touching scene of this girl who can’t bear to leave mum for school. Mum became creative and sewed a special heart for her to bring along school and hang it beside the big tree outside the classroom. It became a ritual for many. A boy soon started snatching other children’s ‘hearts’ and the teacher finally resolved it with his father. I used this book as an encouragement for my younger ones when they were about to enter preschool. As I homeschooled them till 4yo, it was a huge crying challenge! Read Here to know how I used a practical item to help my boy wean off mum-me.

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My Story treasury recommended 妈妈买绿豆 as she had a wonderful hands-on learning session through this impactful picture illustrations. This book is another classic example of a living book with a heart warming pictorial illustrations of hands-on activity between mother and child. I believe mums can relate well and carry out this precious family memory of doing things together!

Her boys (3 and 5yo) talked about

  • life cycle of plants
  • origin of food
  • ways of preserving food, like drying and freezing
  • how and why humans cook
  • primary and secondary colours

They also did the following extension learning activities

  • Montessori bean sorting activity
  • DIY playdough, made green from blue and yellow
  • Make 绿豆汤 and 绿豆冰
  • Plant green beans

Option 4 :A Set of Box 宝贝盒子 (3-7yo)

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The above is a set of art and animal activity cum story magazines I got from Malaysia and would like to give away to thank you all for following us!

My Story Treasury

Lin Xin is the Co-founder of My Story Treasury. She started this company with a passion and desire to bring quality Chinese Books. She is a nurse turned full-time mum. She believes that books written by masters of their craft, with beautiful illustrations and inspiring storylines, are wonderful treasures for families to discover. She conducts parent-accompanied Chinese storytelling sessions in homes and parks around the island. She counts it a great privilege to walk alongside and encourage others in their bilingual parenting journey. Lin Xin finds joy in collaborating with early childhood educators to bring good reads into preschool classrooms as well.

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She had also sent me a lovely card with the quote ‘Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school’  Albert Einstein . A sincere and helpful lady, Lin Xin not only sends her parcel of enriching Chinese books, she also sends her personal greetings with much care. Feel free to approach her for suitable recommendations for your kids.

We Turn 5!

To celebrate, I have collaborated with Linxin to bless 4 readers! Special Thanks to My Story Treasury for making this possible.

INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAY TO FOUR READERS

Each Winner will receive ONE Option from My Story Treasury and GrowingHearts

Option 1 : A Set of 名人绘本 20 pcs (9yo-12yo)

 Option 2 : A Set of 不一样的卡梅拉 15pcs (7yo-12yo) 

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Option 3 : A Set of 妈妈心,马马树 & 妈妈买绿豆(2yo & Up)

Option 4 : A Set of Box 宝贝盒子 (3-7yo)

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Steps to join giveaway :

(This is only for Singapore residents)

  1. Follow GrowingHearts123 Instagram
  2. Follow My Story Treasury Instagram
  3. Leave a comment on Instagram post (click on this red colour instagram link to comment) on why you would like to have this Giveaway and indicate the Option (Option 1/ 2/ 3/ 4) you wish to win.
  4. Tag as many friends to increase your chances of winning. Do tag 1 person per comment for eligibility.
  5. Giveaway ENDS 2359 9th NOV 2018
  6. This giveaway is not endorsed or in any way affiliated with Instagram.

NoteReaders will be selected at random. The company will contact the readers directly via e-mail. Results will be announced within 2 days of giveaway closure. Winners have to respond within 24hours upon announcement made or forfeit the prize to another winner.

GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED.

THESE ARE THE RESULTS.

View this post on Instagram

A BIG THANK YOU to all who joined our giveaway! Congratulations to the Winners! Option 1: @simplylambchops Option 2: @lee.yilian Option 3: @shirleytan_makeup Option4: @laughingcowcheese Winners 1, 2 and 3 Please contact @mystorytreasury to redeem the prize. Winner @laughingcowcheese Option 4 pls PM me your email address. Winners to acknowledge results and respond to us within 24hrs. Have a great week ahead! Once again, thank you for following us in this learning journey @growinghearts123 ! *For the December Holidays I have an upcoming Christmas craft workshop, stay tune for more details.* #giveawawayresults #chinesebooksgiveaway #名人绘本 #不一样的卡梅拉 #box宝贝盒子 #妈妈心妈妈树 #妈妈买绿豆

A post shared by Angie Yeow (@growinghearts123) on

For more information on MY STORY TREASURY : Website | Facebook | Instagram 

Disclaimer: We received a set of  名人绘本  for the purpose of this review. The rest of the books are our personal copies. No monetary compensation was received. All reviews and opinions are 100% genuine from the blogger. This is also an effort in support of our local bookstores. 

For more Chinese Learning Posts

  1. Free printable: Chinese Characters Illustrations Series 1
  2. Free Printable: Chinese Characters Illustrations Series 2
  3. Nightly Routine of reading Chinese Chapter books
  4. Our Favourite Chinese Picture Books
  5. Resourceful Ways to Help Children Learn Chinese (四五快读 and More)
  6. Chinese Learning Video Series
  7. 47 Chinese Qns to ask instead of How was your day?
  8. Learning Chinese through a Chinese Translating App
  9. Chinese Copy Cat 1
  10. Growing In Touch with being a Chinese

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4 comments

  1. What a great collection of Chinese books for kids! We have some of the books but appreciate the sharing and detailed review of some unfamiliar titles! Good luck to those participating in the giveaway – what an amazing opportunity! PS – Thank you for the shout out to CHALK Academy! 🙂

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