“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.

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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!

Trunki Sale til 8am PST Monday 31 at Haute Look

Well, I’ve been oogling the Trunki for several years now. One should realize as a parent that if something has a limited number of years of use, which most things do for children, other than bowls and cups (I still have my bunnikins bowl from childhood, and still eat out of it at 47!), one should buy it sooner rather than later, for the longest life per purchase.
(click image to go to trunki uk website)

But no, I bookmarked Trunki when my son was like 3, and looked at it in a store in town when he was four, and never bought it. Now at 5 1/4 he is nearly beyond the recommended years of use, but I decided to go for it, as there is now a super deal at Haute Look on it. This is a discount site for “haute couture” but also has deals on home decor, toys etc.

I’ve been dying to get a Trunki since my son has pretty much outgrown his stroller (I can still force him into them if he is sick and grumpy and I have to get someplace or walk for a long time) and we travel to visit my parents all the way across the country. It just seems like a great way for HIM to be responsible for his carry on and not me. Strollers are THE best for airline travel as you can take them gate to gate, loaded with all your coats, carry-on, purchases etc, and just dump them as you board the plane. And the airline has them ready for you to pile everything into as you deplane. But last year when he was 4.5 yrs old, it was really pushing it… my son didn’t sit in it one wee bit, I just pushed all our stuff. I understand bag ladies and their shopping carts. So loathe to give it up and carry everything for myself and my son.

Trunki movie!

But the Trunki has sit-on ride-em allure, as well as being easy for the child to pull. AND gives a place to sit and rest when tired, and can even be pulled by the parent with the child on it. They suggest 2-6 yrs old but I looked up reviews online and discovered that parents of 7 and even 9 yr olds were happy to have them. Perhaps the child’s legs are too long for riding but they loved to have their own pull-along suitcase, and a place to rest their butts in lines. So I went for it.

My friend got me to sign up to Haute Look and I discovered Trunki on sale for $27.99 instead of the $49.99 in shops here in town. We each got one and sent them both to the same address so we could share the $10.95 flat-rate shipping to Canada. So even with shipping, taxes and import, we are paying $38.50 apiece instead of $56.95 tax included we’d pay in town. And delivered to our door instead of slogging through snow and paying nearly $3 bus each direction. yay! So, since I think this is a GREAT deal and a GREAT product, I’m passing it on.

I guess I’m not the only one who thinks it is great, as when I discovered it online several years ago, the company was independent and now it is “Trunki by Melissa & Doug”… funny how these big companies keep getting bigger by snapping up the independents. I guess the owners played monopoly a lot as children!

The sale at Haute Look ends Monday 31 at 8am PST (so 11am here in Montreal), so you have to act quickly to get the Trunki there, but there will be new sales daily coming up if you are interested in signing up. My friend who invites me buys clothes for both her kids, as well as herself, on sale there. Great deals (though I am more a practical than fashion gal). Full disclosure: I get $10 credit if you sign up clicking my link and you buy something eventually (anything, at a later date)… though don’t shop for my sake!et

Kids Learn Chinese Pinyin dvd set

Excellent intro to Chinese phonics!

By Taotao’s Mom from Montreal, Quebec, Canada on 1/26/2011
5out of 5

Pros: Clear teaching style, Familiar characters, Entertaining, Repetition of pinyin song, Engaging, Live action scenarios

Cons: A few errors (cards,booklet)

Best Uses: 1-4 grade, Learn pinyin, Learn tones, Everyone, Preschoolers, Education

Describe Yourself: Single mom, Adoptive mom, Mom to preschooler, Elementary chineselearner

Kids Learn Chinese Pinyin dvd bundle

I was hesitant to buy this dvd set as I didn’t want to confuse my son in learning his letter sounds (he knows them pretty well in English, and as he goes to school in French here in Quebec, he is learning them again in French), but I did, since I think that 5 yrs old is a great age to learn the fundamentals of reading in any language.

I was very pleased with this set which has the same excellent quality as the Baby Learns Chinese (both 3-dvd sets). Fortunately in English they titled it “Kids Learn Chinese Pinyin” though in Chinese it still says “Baobao xue han yu” (Baby learns chinese), as by the time kids are ready to be learning to read letters they are usually old enough to be turned off by “baby” products.

The animated characters are a bit babyish for older kids, but my son is familiar with them so they were a good entry point for his interest. He also knows and loves the ABC song in english and french, so the fact that they use the same melody for the pinyin beginning sounds song, and then the pinyin endings song both attracted him and frustrated him (since he didn’t know the words).

The dvds are set up so that each dvd shows a section of the pinyin beginning sounds and ending sounds. All three dvds together cover all the sounds. Each section starts by introducing some sounds, which are said by the animated characters and then real life children, while we see the letters on the screen. One can put simplified characters or traditional characters and chose to put english subtitles or not.

After introducing the lesson’s sounds, they sing the pinyin song, like the abc song we know. This is great, in that we sing it over and over many times as we go through all 3 dvds (6 lessons). My only complaint is that they only show the letters AS they say them, instead of having a whole line of text, or the whole song, written on screen. So it is really hard to sing along. There is an included text booklet with each dvd, which we use as a guide, but it is hard to watch a screen AND read a booklet concurrently. My son finds it frustrating, so I printed up a large page with the pinyin letters in order so he can look at the lyrics as he sings. I find that is one drawback to their method.

After the song, we have a little role-playing scenario, ie getting up in the morning and leaving for school, meeting a family in the playground and asking names and ages, shopping for food with daddy, buying an ice cream cone… the children are played by preschoolers and the parents are played by children perhaps 7-9 yrs old. This is very engaging for my son, and it puts the words, and the sounds he is learning, into a very realistic context with normal sentences. This is excellent since many learning materials use words or sentences with no conversational context.

We get the little drama once, then we get it broken down word by word, sounding out the pinyin, then we get it again. This really aids in comprehension, and learning to pronounce the written pinyin makes much more sense than just a spelling test drill.

The scenarios chosen are good for children’s interest: going to school, buying ice cream, going to the playground. Even so, this is a dvd my son watches together with me (I am also learning Chinese) rather than choosing to watch on his own, as it really is more of a school-textbook like learning material than entertainment like the River Dragon King, Let’s Go Guang or Ping Ping and Walker dvds. But it really does teach a LOT more chinese, not just a smattering of words and phrases within a basically english story.

The only drawbacks I have found is a spelling mistake on the flashcards (which my son really likes btw) and sometimes the text booklet doesn’t match the dvd’s audio exactly.

I really recommend this series for parents whose children are beginning to understand ABCs and reading.

(legalese)

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!

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2010. That’s about 12 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 38 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 97 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 6mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was April 27th with 69 views. The most popular post that day was Practice your reading with Chinese Readers!.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were forum.brillkids.com, cluttergirl.typepad.com, chinese-forums.com, haomama.us, and WordPress Dashboard.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for ereadbook, chinese reading practice, wenjonggal, readingeggs, and e-readbook.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Practice your reading with Chinese Readers! February 2010
8 comments

2

eReadbook Touch-Reading Pen February 2010
11 comments

3

Hatching a reader with ReadingEggs January 2010
6 comments

4

Liang zhi Laohu: Two Tigers song January 2010
2 comments

5

Free 4-wk Trial of ReadingEggs phonics April 2010
4 comments

Maintaining bilingualism in adopted kids

Hi!
Long time no write. Just super very busy. Very super busy.

But I was pointed to this article Raising a Bilingual Child in Adoptive Families online magazine. Most of it is just reminders for me. But also reminders that my child has jumped from one group to another since August.

Big Boy is no longer at home all day with mommy except for a couple days of daycare. We used to do a lot of Chinese play together, hide and seek, Kingka game, watch Dora in Chinese etc. And now we just have a few hours in the evenings and weekends. So his Chinese exposure has really tapered off.

Also at now five years old, he has gone out of the toddler age where I can really just plop him in front of any dvd and he is thrilled. He actively uses the dvd player himself now and doesn’t have to rely on me to change the language to whichever he wishes to hear. He does bargain a bit: “… but will you let me watch another dvd if it is Chinese?”… “Yes!”… but I have to watch he doesn’t switch it to English when I’m not watching. Many of our materials have alternative English or Mandarin soundtracks (vs language learning dvds like Mei Mei, The River Dragon King, Walker and Ping Ping where the dvd is in English and the Chinese is words and phrases integrated into the English). I am happy to report that he does voluntarily chose Chinese language learning dvds out of our dvd library. And I keep adding new dvds to keep his interest fresh.

But I can no longer “force” him to listen to me read Chinese books out loud badly. And we have lost our weekly Chinese native speaker friend, whose current work schedule doesn’t allow for so much extra engagement.

Baby Learns Chinese Phonics bundle

On the other hand, he is coming of an age to be able to formally teach a language or go into language learning classes. I have bought the Baby Learns Chinese (sort of a misnomer for phonics program!) Phonics dvds for him for Christmas: I think he is ready now that he knows his ABC in English and French and has a good basic understanding of letter sounds from ReadingEggs.com Though I do have some concerns that the different sounds for letters in pinyin phonetics and English phonetics might confuse him (see previous post).

I am thinking that now he may be of an age to start Saturday Chinese Class… which is a Chinese community offering here. I believe the classes may be French/Chinese so would be more appropriate now that his French has improved exponentially with five day a week French preschool. He seems to be doing very well academically (vs behaviourally!) in the total francophone learning environment. So taking him to a Saturday Chinese Class for french speaking students might work now. Though I am not sure I want to add more school days to the life of a boy who has just just turned five. (or to lose my weekend relax time!) I’ll look into it.

But I do have to recognize that his interests and needs are evolving as he gets older and enters “school age” vs “preschool” (hah! I guess that is a funny thing to say about a kid who is officially a “preschool student”… an oxymoron when you think about it!)

So, for us, I read this article with a “trilingual” eye, as our bilingual needs are already taken care of. We are anglophone, living in a mostly English dominant continent, with anglophone extended family and friends. Living in a francophone environment, with preschool, daycare, friends and neighbors dominantly french.

How are you doing with a second or third language? How are you dealing with changing language needs as your child changes from baby to toddler, from toddler to preschooler, from preschooler to school age?

Some Montreal resources:

Montreal Chinese School: seems to be traditional characters, Sunday mornings or afternoons. Also seems to be geared towards kids whose first language is Mandarin.

JiaHua School of Montreal: They do have classes for children whose first language is not Mandarin, with the goal of integrating them into the regular Chinese classes with Mandarin speaking students, on Saturdays, starting at age 5.

McGill Playgroup for adopted Chinese Children I have friends who go to this who like it, though I think it is just a bit of a fun brush against their culture rather than real language learning.