Teaching Kids Chinese by Following Their Passions

“I hate Chinese!” my 5-year old daughter yelled at me, “I don’t understand it.” When she was younger (the cheery age of 2 or 3) she followed along with whatever Chinese lesson I concocted–not caring if she could pronounce the words perfectly or that she could understand everything. She was just happy I was focusing my attention on her. Now, at the tumultuous age of 5, she resisted things that required effort. With fire in her eyes, she reminded me of myself when I was younger and demanded that my parents, “stop speaking THAT language!” It was history repeating itself, and I was afraid my child would grow up like me–ignorant of a language and culture that was apart of her.

I am the little girl with her tongue sticking out. I was very resistant to learning Chinese.

One night, while staring at the ceiling and pondering existential questions (or something), I decided I would have to not teach her harder, but teach her smarter. I thought of how different of an experience it was to potty train my son than my daughter. My daughter needed a schedule, stickers, distant big rewards. When I tried the same program with my son, he failed completely. I ended up needing to potty train him using games and instant rewards. It worked better with his restless, on-the-go personality. So it was only when I catered to the child and his/her situation, I became an effective teacher.

I applied this idea to teaching my fiery 5-year old. When she was little, she loved cut-and-paste worksheets, so I found cut-and-paste worksheets in Chinese for to do. It worked then, but what about now? I took a good long look at her and her passions. I realized she was really into independence and every time she returned home from a book fair she bought Easy-reader books because she could disappear into her room and read them herself. Pretty soon, she had a good collection of 9” x 6” Easy-reader books–it was her pride and joy and she lined them up neatly on her bookshelf. I immediately got the idea to make a Chinese Easy-reader book for her, but I would model it after the many books she already loved: They would have several short stories in one book. The would contain stories that were very simple, or versions of classic tales she was already familiar with. They would have colorful illustrations and games/review exercises at the back of each story. But most of all, they would be simple enough that she could attempt to read them BY HERSELF!

And with that plan, I went ahead and created two Chinese Easy Reader books. Was it effective? That is the important question. Did her passion that manifested itself in English translate over to Chinese?

I have to relate the experience I had when I first showed her the final copy of the book. The covers were bright and glossy, the illustrations I had slaved over were more engaging in person, the new book smell flew out of the crisp pages. I placed it in her hand and encouraged her to repeat after me to read the first page. Suddenly her eyes glazed over and her lips tightened. “Come on,” I urged her, “say dà!” She turned and walked away.

I was stoney silent the rest of the night. I thought my daughter was being cruel, that if she wanted to drive a knife into her mother’s heart, there was no better way. I thought of giving up, never speaking Chinese to her again. But then I thought of myself as a young girl, how many times I had angrily refused to learn Chinese from my parents, but at one point I hit a turning point. I transformed from a recalcitrant girl to a regretful girl. If history repeats itself, so will her regret come one day.

I let it sit for a few days. We didn’t speak Chinese. I didn’t touch the new books I had made for her. We were at an uneasy truce.

Then one night, while we were choosing books to read before bed, I asked her, “can we read the book I made for you?” She nodded. So there we sat, daughter in mother’s lap, and I read to her a simple story in Chinese. I asked her to repeat a few characters, and she did. Then we played the review game together–which she did with more gusto. Then we put it away, and read something else.

It was a small victory that meant so much to me. Instead of being more authoritative in my Chinese teaching, it became more natural when it was eased into our nightly routine. I tried the same thing the next night and the next night with similar success. She became more and more willing to read with me because she knew what to expect (just a short 5-minute moment in Chinese). Could she read a complete story by herself? Not yet, but I could feel her confidence growing when she tried to read a few characters by herself.

Now, everyone’s relationship with their kids are different. Some have kids that readily take up a second language. Maybe mine inherited my stubbornness. However, I think the principle in teaching your child Chinese can be the same. You need to make it fun for them and the only way to do that is to follow their passions. Do what they like and do it in Chinese. That way, when they get to that turning point where they actively want to learn Chinese by themselves, they will have fond memories of learning it with their parents.

Happy Learning!

Love, Enge

My daughter is in the middle, five and full of fire. But I love her.

Chinese Easy Readers Launched!

It’s official! These books are launched! To celebrate, I explain the sale and contest, show a preview of the book, and answer some FAQ in the video below! If you don’t have time to watch, check out the summary below that!

FB Live Book Launch Video

Tiny Chinese Easy Reader books strive to take original and classic stories and simplify them so there are just a few words/characters on each page. Pair this with the online audio, and this becomes a fun, no-stress way to learn some Chinese. Each book includes 3 short stories!

These books are different from the Chinese easy reader books out there because:

1. There are parent tips at the beginning to help guide the reader into just focusing on a couple characters or a couple phrases.

Tips for Parents

2. The traditional Chinese characters and pinyin are far apart from each other on the page. This is very purposeful so pinyin can be used as a pronunciation reference, but not as a crutch. Eventually, the reader can just look at the characters to read the book.

Pinyin and Traditional Chinese Characters are far apart.

3. There are games in the back of each story so the learner can review what he/she has learned. This helps take the words in the book and apply them in a different context.

Let’s Review Game

Both Tiny Chinese Easy Reader books are on sale right now from $10 to just $7.99. The sale is good for just a couple weeks, so be sure to order before March rolls around. This sale is to reward any first buyers/early birds that help these books take off!

Last time, I had a book giveaway–which helped garner excitement about the release, but didn’t have good return in getting reviews. So this time I want to do a “Most Helpful Review Contest” where you can leave a review for the book on the Amazon product page and get a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

What counts as a helpful review? A review that shows you have actually opened and used the book is good start. Talk about if you like the audio elements. Talk about the review games. Post a picture or two. Discuss your kid’s reaction to it (if you are doing this for a child) and what age/language level they are. Even if you have things that didn’t go well for you, write about that too so other people in a similar situation will know what to expect. This contest ends the same time the sale ends, so if you plan to participate, get the book in the first week of the sale and review it in the second week so you have enough time to form an opinion about it. The review can be for the paperback or kindle versions!

I will looks at all the reviews for both easy reader books and choose the one that is most helpful on March 4th, 2020 – I will make a post here and on the FB page to announce the winner! After I notify the winner, he/she will be emailed an e-gift card to spend on…well, whatever the winner wants! If you are buying these books anyway, please take the time to leave your thoughts on the product page. There is nothing that is more helpful to a product’s success than good, honest reviews.

Thank you, to everyone who popped in here to support the launch. It means a lot to me. I hope these books make Chinese accessible to you, and make you chuckle here and there.

Happy Learning!



You’re Invited to a Book Launch!

Finally! It’s here! I’m so proud of these little gems that really fill a niche of encouraging children to read Chinese characters by themselves. Kids learn best through the context of stories, and these light-hearted illustrations and text make Chinese fun to listen to and READ!

So what is this book launch going to entail? First I will explain a special sale that will only run from now until the beginning of March. I will let you see the inside of the book and get an idea of how you can utilize this with your kids–whether you are a Chinese speaker or not. I have some cute video promos to share of my kids reading the book themselves. Finally, I will explain the contest/prize associated with giving the most helpful review for these books.

What should you do now? Make sure to like the Tiny Chinese Homeschool Facebook Page so you don’t miss anything and stay tuned for next Tuesday! If you like what you see, share the launch posts with your friends so more people can enjoy these books.

Happy Learning!