Category Archives: books

“Who Am I?” Chinese Zodiac Origami Book

I just discovered a wonderful book at betterchinese.com, makers of the well-known and much-used-in-schools “My First Chinese Words” books and cd. It is a Chinese zodiac book entirely illustrated in origami by its 10 yr old author, Justin Tsin. Justin is already an accomplished book creator. His first book “What Would You Imagine?” won the 2009 Mom’s Choice Award Outstanding Young Author/Illustrator and Children’s Picture Book – Bilingual.

Origami Rooster by Justin Tsin

He hails from San José, California and is currently doing a book tour mostly in libraries in the San José, San Francisco, Bay area. Google him to see if he’s presenting near you. Here is a preview of what you might be in for: A video of Justin presenting his first book in a San José library when he was 8.

Justin Tsin, book writer/illustrator

This new book is a good topic for today, the day before Chinese New Year, on Feb 3, which brings in the Year of the Rabbit. It gives a personality description as well as easy hints about the animal (“I have a curly tail and a big snout” “I am a good friend to humans and wag my tale when happy”) and asks you to guess what the animal is. When you turn the page, it shows the origami animal made by Justin, against a paper collage background. I think this guessing game is more engaging and allows the child to better remember the zodiac characters than a simple straight forward exposé about the animals, which most Chinese zodiac nonfiction books are.

The book is exceptional not only in that it is written and illustrated by a 10 yr old, but also in that it is bilingual English and Chinese. The mandarin seems to be written in simplified characters, with no pinyin, so it would be a challenge for non-chinese-speaking parents however. The text is fairly basic, with simple sentences, so personally I find it just enough of a challenge: I do know most of the animal characters and can read simple sentences. But for those just starting out in Chinese, it wouldn’t be usable to help their child learn more Chinese words or characters (unless there is an appendix, which isn’t evident from the pdf preview:”Chinese Zodiac: Who Am I”. His previous book, “What Would You Imagine” does however (according to the Amazon.com listing above) have pinyin. It too is illustrate with origami animals.

What is valuable however, is the cultural information about the Chinese zodiac. So for those who speak only English it is still a recommended book. Justin speaks about learning origami and his inspirations for his background paper collages as well, in the back of the book. And there are teaching tips about using the book as an educational tool as well.

Truly a beautiful book from an artistic point of view, inspiring for young book creators or artists, and culturally educational.

Last 5 days 20% off Chinese and Spanish learning materials!!!

I blogged recently about the French preschooler popular animated character T’Choupi being available in book form at Best4Future bilingual bookstore.

20% off at Better4Future bookstore!

Well, they are now having a 20% off sale until Feb 5 for the Chinese New Year of the Rabbit, so you might want to pop on over there and take advantage of the savings!
I ordered several T’Choupi books, but there is a whole selection of children’s Chinese learning materials from books to dvds, books with cds to songs as well as Learn Spanish materials.

They are also featuring the E-Readbook Pen and books that I blogged about as well, so if you are in the States, this may be a good time to get them! They are already on sale and the Chinese New Years’ 20% off is on top of that.

Happy shopping! And if you get some materials there, please do write a short review in the comments! I’d love to know what you recommend!

Tchoupi in Chinese!

Today, through following a comment (yay comment subscriptions) for asiamommy.com’s post on ereadbooks and touch reading pens, I discovered both a shopping site and a wonderful new blog I was unaware of by a mother named Lina Dickson who is raising her daughter in English and her native Chinese. Here’s her blog post on the Touch Reading Pen which I have blogged about.

Her blog Best4Future: Bringing up Baby Bilingual is a combo of mommy blog about her daughter, parenting tips, language tips, product reviews and even language lessons! She has little videos that will teach you how to say Snow Peas, spinach, sweet potatoes and strawberries and other fruits and vegetables in Chinese. It seems to be an ongoing thing. Much to explore. Her blog is added to my blogroll at the right.

In her shop, she offers the eReadbook pens and books, but also a multitude of other books, VCDs and DVDs. There I discovered Tchoupi and Doudou books in Chinese to my surprise. As we live in Quebec, a francophone majority province, Tchoupi (pronounced Chewpy, like Happy) and his little stuffed pal Doudou (Doodoo, like “do the dishes” do) are well-known television/animated dvd characters here. I like that their french is very simple and clear to understand, especially when my son was just starting to learn it, and the stories very simple, cute and child-friendly. I hadn’t heard of Tchoupi outside of French media, which was why I was so surprised to hear of them in Chinese.

But as Lina blogs, there are actually 48!! little Tchoupi books translated into Chinese characters. The stories seem to be as simple and charming in Chinese, and looking at the page details that are posted in the Best4Future shop, I can almost read them without a dictionary (almost!)… common high frequency characters. There is no pinyin that I can see, so they wouldn’t be so great for those f you who cannot read simple characters yet, or who cannot look up characters by radical and stroke order in a dictionary.

But for those who can, they would be lovely little stories about a preschool child’s life, preoccupations, adventures and tribulations. Not as formulaic as Dora, not too wild and crazy or action oriented, not so tied into merchandise as Disney and Strawberry Shortcake and other translated offerings. And not so moralistic (though with good values and life lessons) as many Chinese children’s tales. I haven’t read them all, but I’d definitely go on a limb and guess they are books I’d like in my home.

Very excited to find these, and also the Best4Future blog and learning materials.

The Tchoupi books are $4.99 each, and now is the time to get them!
There are two more days left to her Holiday Sale: Save an EXTRA 15% on EVERYTHING (all regular and on sale books & DVDs) between Jan 1 – Jan 15, 2011. Use the code: newyear15 when you check out.

Enjoy!

Learning to Learn Languages

Here is an interesting page of books that might help you learn to learn languages better: Language Books at Learn in Freedom.org.

Bilingual Children BookI found this link through a book suggestion from Soultravelers3, who suggested the book by George Saunders:

Bilingual Children: From Birth to Teens
George Saunders (Clevedon, Avon and Philadelphia, PA: Bilingual Matters, 1988) (ISBN 1-85359-009-6). xiii and 274 pages; glossary, bibliography (which has a GREAT list of titles of similar interest), indexes. Saunders is from English-speaking monolingual ancestors, going back at least six generations on all sides of his family. He studied German in college, got to study abroad for a while, and then decided to bring up his children bilingually. The book describes his remarkable successful experiment in bringing up three children as German speakers in Australia. KMBseen_SPP

. click to see book description at Amazon. Someone else recently recommended this book to me. Unfortunately it seems to be hard to find and expensive ($47 used, $76 new). Soultravelers3 are two parents who are mostly anglophone, (father speaks some Spanish), raising their daughter to be trilingual as they travel the world. Do check out their blog.

Anyways, this Saunders book seems to be a precursor to the trilingual parenting book I like: Growing Up with Three Languages. Has anyone else read the Saunders book and recommends it enough for me to spend $50 on it?
thanks!

For Small Hands

Small Hands shovelI just lucked across a fun and funky site of child sized tools and toys for use in the kitchen, garden, camping, music arts and crafts called For Small Hands. They have all sorts of wonderful books about the outdoors, animals, bugs, cleaning up as well as their small sized tools from wheelbarrows to slide whistles and bug jars. It is “Presented by Montessori Services” and has some books about Montessori as well for parents. Free shipping in the US through March 31 on orders over $50! Have fun!Small Hands Worm bookSmall Hands Kitchen

One Book One Language?

I read a very interesting post over at Babelkid.blogspot about “reading” books in languages other than they are written in. You can also read my rather lengthy comment after the post.

Ourson Juliette book

L'ourson qui voulait une Juliette

I had read on another multilingual parenting site, that one way to get around a dearth of foreign (or heritage) language reading material is to translate easy to find books (mostly English) on the fly into the language you wish to be exposing your child too. Now my Chinese, which is the language we have the hardest time finding affordable books in, is not exactly fluent, so most English books would be beyond me. But I do sometimes try to turn very simple English books (ie board books with a couple words or a sentence per page) into Chinese books just to squeeze in more exposure. French books we have no problem with, since living in Quebec, French is the majority language. In bookstores they are still costly since they print in such smaller quantities than English books, but in the library they are definitely in the majority, and it is English books that are lacking in choice.

Seven Chinese Sisters book

The Seven Chinese Sisters

Anyways, I considered this idea and thought it brilliant as a way to get around the problem of being inundated with English books when you are fully fluent in another language.

I never once thought about the issue of language recognition, ie the child needing to learn that there is a correspondence between the spoken word and the printed word. Babelkid realized though, that her daughter didn’t recognize simple oft-repeated words in print in English… because she always “read” the books in French, thus there was no correspondence at all between the written and spoken text!

The Pet Dragon book

The Pet Dragon

I find this fascinating, and thinking about it, I see that it has helped Big Boy’s literacy that I am NOT fluent enough to do this quick trick! For a year now (he is four) he has been able to point to Chinese text and English text and name the correct language. He is able to point to words starting with the “T” sound like his name or “L” sound like mine. And through books like The Pet Dragon, as well as flashcards and games like Kingka, he can read quite a few Chinese characters like “xiao” “shan” “hua” “da” “ren” “kou” “chi”. Thank god that I didn’t read “petit” “montagne” “parler” “grand” “personne” “bouche” and “manger” when I pointed to those as I read along in a book! He’d think they were French characters!

Kingka game

Kingka game

I am sure that Babelkid’s daughter will sort things out, especially now that they have become conscious of the spoken/print disconnect. And I do certainly “explain” plots, words, concepts in one language that he doesn’t understand when I read it written on the page, in another language. But now I am certain to point to the printed word as I read exactly what is written there, and not point to the text when I am explaining in another language.

Amazing how one doesn’t consider these things when one is unilingual, or when one has learned other languages as a literate adult, not as a preliterate child one hopes to teach to read!

Xiao Gou Zai Nar book

Xiao gou zai nar?

EReadbook: last couple days of free shipping AND Happy Sharing program!

Well, today we got our Ereadbook Touch pen and books… so very exciting. They arrived super quick from Ontario (ordered Monday afternoon and arrived Wed by 12:30 noon!), in perfect condition. All files for the books I ordered already loaded on the pen, so we were good to go upon opening the box.

And it was a much bigger box than I expected. Just the Starter Set has enough in it to keep you busy for weeks. I thought it might be very little material without getting the extra books in the Packages, but the six books that come with the pen have all sorts of things, from games to stories. And the other books that we got with it (Classic Fairy Tales, 600 Words, English Chinese dictionary… which is hardcover btw) are all wonderful. The pen can “speak” for about 6 hours before needing recharging. Recharging is done via the USB cable, that plugs into a regular AC adapter that goes into a wall socket. A neck lanyard keeps the pen around your kid’s neck. It shuts off by itself after giving several verbal cues that you are leaving it unattended!

Right now Bigreach.ca is offering free shipping within Canada until Feb 28, for the Chinese Spring Festival (includes Chinese New Years). I think it is definitely taking advantage of, as the starter box is quite bulky and heavy. They sent it by expedited, and I needed to sign for it.

If you do order the pen, either this week or later, you can say that you were refered by me, Leanne, and that my pen ID # is E2003-132067. Email your order to “order@bigreach.ca”

They have a “Happy Sharing Program” (Word .doc) to encourage people to refer their friends (and complete strangers!)… give the pen ID of the person who referred you and when you buy a pen and register it for warranty, you will get $10 credit off your next regular priced books, and the person referring you will also get $10 credit off THEIR next regular priced books. Win-Win. Here is the price list and package descriptions

Anyways, my son likes it and wants to actually listen to Chinese in books for once, and I like it in that it really helps my listening skills in Chinese. The book’s various segments (illustrations, pinyin, chinese characters) speak with a variety of male, female and children’s voices, and say things from short and cute to complicated. One can listen to a single phrase many times over to help with listening comprehension and reading help. I think that one of the major uses for me will be to increase my reading-out-loud skills, that I can transfer to our other non-talking Chinese picture books.

And already, just reading “Xiao Hong Mao” (Little Red Ridinghood), I have picked up vocabulary, syntax and phrases I can use to play with my son!

I will try to get a proper photo-post done to show the whole pen set and books in the near future. For now, I recommend it.

Practice your reading with Chinese Readers!

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).

P3 Chinese Readers

P3 Chinese Readers

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.

Chinese Reader: inside book

Chinese Reader Green open book

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.

Chinese Reader Orange

Sample Chinese Reader Orange

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.

Reader Orange spread

Pang/shou: Reader Orange

Text by page #

Bu Tong! Text by page #

Very clear, simple, and handy to practice your character pronunciation and understanding.

Inside Back Cover: Orange

Inside back cover: Orange Reader

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.

Chinese Readers Blue

Blue Chinese Readers

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.

Chinese Reader Blue spread

Blue Reader inside spread

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.

Blue Reader text by page #

Blue Reader text by page #

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.

Blue Reader inside back cover

Blue Reader inside back cover

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.

Chinese Reader Green inside spread

Chinese Reader Green inside spread

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.

Green Reader text page by page

Green Reader text page by page

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.

Green Reader inside back cover

Green Reader inside back cover

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

Chinese Reader Purple

Chinese Reader Purple

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.

Purple Reader inside spread

Purple Reader inside spread

Purple Reader text by page #

Purple Reader text by page #

Purple Reader inside back cover

Purple Reader inside back cover

Brown Reader sample cover

Brown Reader sample cover

Brown Reader inside spread

Brown Reader inside spread

Brown Reader text by page #

Brown Reader text by page #

Brown Reader inside back cover

Brown Reader inside back cover

Price List for Bigreach.ca Touch Reading Pen

Hi!
Well, the good people at BigReach.ca have said it is fine I share with you the price for their Touch Reading Pen Starter Kit and their Special Offers (Starter Kit bought together with various book sets). It isn’t on their website in English yet. So, here it is: Touch Reading Pen Cdn price list (52kb Word Doc) To order, email order @ bigreach.ca

You might want to hold off ordering until I post that I have bought a set myself (waiting on funds!). I will post my registration # here and everyone quoting it will get a $10 credit towards your purchase. BTW All prices in Cdn. For more information, look at my previous post on eReadbook and the Touch Reading Pens, the “Canadian Update”, and also the BigReach.ca website.

eReadbook Audio Pen Canadian Update!

Audio Book Starter kit 1

Starter Kit Audio Book 1

Well, I got several informative email responses today from Emily, at eReadbook’s Canadian distributor, BigReach.ca. (See previous Post on Chinese English Audio Pen and books)

Turns out that:

  • They have FREE SHIPPING WITHIN CANADA from February 1-28 for Chinese Spring Festival
  • Don’t worry if you have a Mac: The pen itself can be loaded with the audio from the cds that come with the books by putting the cds in your computer and plugging the pen in via USB: no installation of software is required for this
  • If you are worried about doing it (what with a whole load of Chinese instructions and if you have a Mac like me) they will gladly load the audio for the books you have ordered onto the pen you order at the same time before sending your order to you, as a customer service
  • They are VERY helpful on the phone or email
  • They have a starter set that includes the pen, the starter set of 8 books, the Happy Touch Reading Board (I have no idea what this does, and if it needs a PC to make it work, but it has an audio file of over 100M), 8 Touch Reading Cards for Children Radio Drama: Journey to the West (this is the classic Monkey King story), MP3 Player Card and Recording-Comparing Card, USB Cable and Charger, and a cord that attaches to the pen so it won’t fall to the floor.
eReadbook Starter Kit book 3

Starter Kit Audio Book 3

There are many other Packages available at 20-30% off.

If you wish to see the pricing, I am not sure that I am allowed to post it here, since it is not right now online at their site, but just email Emily at order @ bigreach.ca and say that you saw the pen and books on this blog, and I imagine she will send you the whole list of Starter Kit and various packages and pricing that she sent me.

What with free shipping to Canada now, it is a good time to buy if you are seriously interested.