I have lucked upon these wonderful books, P3 Chinese Readers (what a memorable name! LOL!), edited by Yin Dalu, put out by PPP Company, Hong Kong (the Professional Publishing People).
I find it hard to find simple, engaging material to practice reading Chinese characters that is not overwhelming (ie the average picturebook in chinese, even with pinyin, can mean a week of looking up vocab) and that is not part of some very involved, structured textbook. Ie painfully educational.
You know, there is a reason why in Grade One and Two, they have those Leveled Readers that your kids bring home: very short simple storybooks that reinforce learning and give a sense of accomplishment. Well, now you can get just such a thing in Chinese. These Readers are glossy little books: about 8 inches square, 13 pages including the inside back cover. They all have bright flat colors with clear classy photographs, and often the addition of drawn characters that interact with the photo settings and objects.
Each “story” is only written in large clear simplified characters, and end on page 10. Page 11 is a page by page listing of the text in characters, pinyin and English. Handy to keep your thumb here. Unlike having English and pinyin on the page with the characters, you can’t get lazy and just not read the actual wenzi, BUT you can quickly and easily consult a forgotten word or pronunciation. Page 12 is either a quick quiz on vocab or a grammar note, like “yi, er, san” are used for counting, but “yi ge, liang ge, san ge” are used when enumerating something. Page 13 (inside back cover) has key vocab in character, pinyin and English.
Very clear, simple, and handy to practice your character pronunciation and understanding.
There are six levels of difficulty: Orange Readers mostly have one or two words per page, and perhaps a phrase or short sentence at start or end. Extremely basic adjectives, nouns, verbs, numerals, colors and animals are introduced.
Blue Readers build on Orange level one, with a phrase or multi-character word per page, and some semblance of a tale. Family members, farm animals, clothing, body parts within proper basic sentences.
Green Readers are level three, and introduce longer sentences and a wider vocabulary. Weather, hobbies, telling time…
Level Four is Purple Readers. They have sentences with more complexity: describing people, making comparisons, using adverbs, talking about living in, going to, taking transportation.
Brown Readers have longer sentences still, introducing concepts like “not only y… but x as well”, giving directions, explaining “why” you like something etc. Seasons of China, travelling, getting around Beijing, wanting to buy something, what do you want to be when you grow up…
Finally the Red Readers are mostly simplified versions of Chinese tales: Hua Mulan, Zhong Kui Kills the Ghost, Pangu Separates Sky and Earth.
Personally I can mostly read Orange and Blue with no trouble, Green has a few words I don’t know, Purple has sentence structures I am aware of (“this is x-er than that”) but not proficient at using, Brown is challenging, and Red we haven’t bought any of yet.
These stapled glossy softcovers are sold individually, but I prefer to get them in sets of six. Each level has two sets of six, giving you a whopping 72 individual books to practice with . They are very reasonably priced, about $12 per set of six.
You could get them at Amazon.ca until I ordered two sets and several individual copies (to make up my $39 for free shipping, of course!)… they never did send me the individual books. They sent me the two sets and immediately set all these books to “not available” on their site. Sigh. It was too good to be true.
They ARE available on Amazon.com, but lately I have discovered that Barnes& Noble has more competitive shipping prices to Canada, and they were delivered quite quickly. (hint, look at the P3 link in the first paragraph for a proper list of the books in each set)
So, if you are looking for a kid or adult friendly way to practice your basic character reading skills, I recommend these. My son, who says “no read Chinese mommy”, actually
REQUESTS these books. Of course the fact that they are simple so I don’t stumble and hesitate, and quick to read, with colorful funny illustrations and stories, starring my son’s fave “Xiao Long” dragon does help a lot.