I’ve been learning Chinese with my daughter for the past few years, and we finally have what I have been searching for this whole time!
When we first started to learn Chinese, I was looking for a talking pen like Leapfrog that could read individual Chinese characters. However, I was disappointed with the available options.
Now, I’m so thankful to have the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System, an engaging picture book series that teaches Mandarin Chinese – simplified or traditional Chinese characters – with the help of a reading pen!
Considering the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System
Before this reading pen, my daughter learned 1000+ Chinese characters through various leveled readers and by listening to audiobooks. We have completed Sagebooks, Greenfield, 四五快读, Odonata in simplified Chinese….
After considering various reading pen options, I decided it was worth buying. My daughter and I wanted to learn traditional Chinese characters; I still get my tones mixed up; we have limited exposure with native Chinese speakers; and I have a second child to teach.
I wish we got it last year when I was first eyeing the set, and I’ll tell you the details why!
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Taiwan Le Le Culture Co. Ltd and have received no compensation for this review. All opinions here reflect my personal experience.
Review of 台灣樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System
台灣樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System is a leveled reading system that teaches 1000+ Chinese characters through 300 booklets. The books are authored by Ju Yao (also known as Cathy Lee) who co-authored the Greenfield 我自己会读 leveled readers.
Available in simplified and traditional Chinese; approximately 340 characters are different between the two language versions.
The Chinese reading pen uses Taiwanese Mandarin, and video examples of the series will be provided at the end of this article.
The series is geared for:
- Children age 4 to 8 years
- Non-native speaking Chinese families
- Educators as a curriculum for beginners or as supplementary reading materials.
The contents of this article include:
- Where to buy the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System
- What’s included with the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System?
- Overview of the 3 Levels
- Topics covered
- Comparison to other Chinese reading pens
- How my children (ages 2 and 5) are using the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen series
- Free flashcards and supplemental materials
1. Where to buy the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System
- Taiwan Le Le Culture Co. Ltd. Online store
- Please refer to their store for current rates of the following:
- Single Book Set (Red, Yellow, Green)
- Whole Set (Red+Yellow+Green)
- Chinese reading pen
2. What’s included with the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System?
The series offers the following items which can be purchased separately:
- 3 color-coded levels of difficulty
- Red = beginner; yellow = intermediate; and green = advanced
- 100 books per level
- Zipper storage bags with handles
- Mandarin Chinese 点读笔 / 點讀筆 (diǎn dú bǐ / reading pen) + charger
3. Overview of the 3 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Book Levels
- 100 booklets; 8 pages per book (only 7 pages have text)
- 525 new characters
- Each page has a large illustration with 1 line of text (a word or simple phrase) in large font
- Reading pen can narrate each word individually and also sentence by sentence. Reading pace is very slow at this stage.
- 100 booklets; 8 pages per book (only 7 pages have text)
- 340 new characters
- Each page has a large illustration with 1-2 lines of text (phrases and short, simple sentences) in large font
- Reading pen can narrate each word individually and also sentence by sentence. Reading pace is very slow at this stage.
- 100 booklets; 12 pages per book (only 6 pages have text)
- 230 new characters
- Illustrations and text are now on separate pages with 3-5 lines of text (a few sentences) in large font
- Reading pen narrates key words individually also page by page. Reading pace is more natural at this pace.
4. Topics covered in the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System
- 日常活动 / 日常活動 (Rìcháng huódòng / daily life)
- 动物 / 動物 (dòngwù / animals)
- 学校活动 /學校活動 (xuéxiào huódòng / school activities)
- 家 & 家人 (jiā & jiārén / house & family)
- 关键字 / 關鍵字 (guānjiàn zì / essential words)
- 身体 / 身體 (shēntǐ / body)
- 自然 (zìrán / nature)
- 食物 (shíwù / food)
- 天气 / 天氣 (tiānqì / weather)
- 數字 (shu zì / math)
- 顏色 (yánsè / colors)
- 衣物 (yīwù / clothing)
5. Benefits of the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System
“Literacy through literature”
- Beautiful pencil illustrations
- Covers a variety of age-appropriate topics; many stories are realistic while others are fictional
- Opportunity to practice a wide range of relevant vocabulary
- Characters are repeated within a story and other stories; recognition is encouraged child-led motivation of re-reading the stories
- Booklets are thin, light, and portable. I can keep a dozen of these in my handbag and read with my kids when we are waiting around (eg, dance class, restaurant).
- Page numbers are included (We like knowing how far we are in a book, even though each are very short)
- NO Pinyin or Zhuyin! This means that you learn the characters directly without relying or being distracted by additional text. I struggle to read Chinese characters whenever Pinyin is present, and my daughter has no interest in learning either phonetic system at this time.
Chinese Reading pen
- Very clear and crisp audio. It is more clear than the pen that I showed in this post, and far better than our C-pen and Qiaohu pen.
- Clean, white design makes the books the center of attention (in contrast to other reading pens with bright cartoon mascots)
- Adjustable volume
- Turns off automatically after 3 minutes of inaction
- Ergonomic shape is comfortable to hold and doesn’t roll around
- Headphone jack option
- Audio capabilities:
- In the red and yellow books, every character is read very slowly. The pen can also read full sentences.
- In the green books, only key words and full pages are narrated at a more natural pace. This encourages more fluent and independent reading. In addition, the reading pen speed prepares children for listening to longer passages, such as with more widely available CDs and audiobooks on Ximalaya.
- Saves so much time from having to look up words in the dictionary! For example, it takes just a few seconds to check whether 倒 should be dǎo or dào, which I often confuse. In contrast, often when I check my dictionary app, I end up down a rabbit hole of checking my email and social media and get distracted from reading.
- Although we love our CD player, we don’t have to worry about finding the right spot, scratching, or losing a CD.
- I contacted the company about an illustration error that we discovered, and they replied prompted and thanked me for letting them know! They have also been very patient with all of my questions prior to ordering the books.
- Flexible purchasing options for various budgets and learning needs:
- Can purchase the levels separately. For example, if your child needs extra books for reading practice, you can purchase the green (advanced) level set.
- Reading pen can be purchased separately
- Website offers vocabulary lists in alphabetical Pinyin order (exclusive to customers only)
- Facebook support group, Facebook page, and Instagram page
6. Downsides of the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System
- More expensive than 四五快读 and Odonata but comparable to Sagebooks and Greenfield
- The default volume is a bit loud. We always lower the volume by 2 taps, so I wish the default was set at a lower volume. At least it’s adjustable!
- No flashcards – No worries! I made flashcards in the following language versions:
- No English translation – I have included English translations of each word in the flashcards!
7. Comparison to other Chinese reading pens
- Better Chinese offers a reading pen system retailing at $440. I really dislike the cartoon illustrations (which are inferior to Le Le’s pencil illustrations), and only 104 story books are included. However, the potential benefits include 36 songs (which we don’t need since we has plenty of music already) and their package includes an app with animated stories (we already have plenty of YouTube options and are trying to minimize screentime). You can see a product demonstration here
- 爱看屋儿童早教点读笔学习机 is available at Taobao and includes various simplified Chinese books and some English books. Many of the books are baby board books that we don’t need, and I was uncomfortable about warranty support with a Taobao product.
- I was not interested in reading pens from Taobao (simplified Chinese) and Gloria’s Bookstore (traditional Chinese). Those sets typically included books with isolated words and not sentences/stories (we are past that stage), and/or had overly decorated reading pens (cartoon cow, bear, flashing lights, etc).
8. Photos of the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System
樂樂 Le Le Chinese – Red (Beginner Level)
Red Book 62 teaches body parts and adjectives through step-by-step drawing instructions! This book can be paired with human body learning activities!
Red Book 88 teaches the days of the week, which can be paired with these hands-on calendar activities.
樂樂 Le Le Chinese – Yellow (Intermediate Level)
Yellow Book 9 is a simple story of 2 boys who are bored playing on their computer and watching TV, so their dad suggests that they help wash his car. This is a story that older children might be able to relate to!
Yellow Book 100 teaches vehicle names while comparing their speed. The books about vehicles could be paired with these educational transportation activities!
樂樂 Le Le Chinese – Green (Advanced Level)
Book 7 is a beautiful book about practice and perseverance despite physical limitations. Before reading this book, my kids had watched this video of Zheng Gui Gui, a pianist who was born with no fingers on her right hand. She was on China’s Got Talent several years ago, and her performance is inspiring.
Book 20 is about writing Chinese nursery rhymes and features the classic song, 五指歌 (Wǔzhǐ gē / Five Finger Song).
9. Videos of the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System
Here is a video overview of the red, yellow, and green levels. With the green books in the video, you can hear how the Taiwanese Mandarin pronunciations differs from Mainland Mandarin:
- And – 和 (hé) versus (hàn)
- Trash can – 垃圾桶 (lèsè tǒng) versus (lā jī tǒng)
Other differences in the books include:
- Tomato – 番茄 (fānqié) versus 西红柿 (xīhóngshì)
- Taxi – 计程车 (jì chéng chē) versus 出租车(chū zū chē)
- Bicycle – 腳踏車 (jiǎotàchē) versus 自行車 (zìxíngchē)
Although my daughter’s teachers speak 普通话 (Pǔtōnghuà / Mainland Mandarin), Chinese is a heterogeneous language, and I would like my children exposed to various accents.
Here’s another sample of the Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System comparing the red, yellow, and green levels. You can hear the difference between the narration pace at each level.
This last video features my 5-year-old daughter reading 噴水的龍 (Book 46) from the green (advanced) series.
10. How my children are using the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen series
Both my 5-year-old daughter and my 2-year-old son LOVE THESE BOOKS! We have been using the series for the past few weeks, and I’ll share the difference uses for my two children.
Learning traditional Chinese characters with my 5-year-old daughter
When I ordered the series, I intended to use the Chinese reading pen for my own practice. When we previously received a 巧虎 reading pen, she lost motivation to read the workbooks independently and was just using the pen. Therefore, I was wary of letting my daughter use the Le Le reading pen.
My lofty plan was to practice before reading to my kids….Then almost 2 months flew by, and I didn’t study at all!
Ground rules for using the Chinese reading pen
Then I decided that my daughter and I would just read them together. I made a rule that we would only use the pen if we were not sure of a word, but we had to try reading first. I also told her that we shouldn’t waste the battery if we don’t need it, and that the power might run out when we actually need the pen.
Why we read the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese books in numerical order
Although the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen series can be read in any order, I told my daughter that we had to follow the number sequence to keep track of our progress.
We followed the color order so that my daughter would get plenty of practice with new characters prior to advancing to the higher levels. Also, because we had to read the Green set last, she was motivated to read the preceding books as quickly as possible! (She has plenty freedom of choice otherwise).
Our reading timeline
During a week when my family was home sick and stuck indoors from heavy rain, we flew threw these books! The most productive day was the first day: I had one-on-one time with my daughter who was so excited about our bonding time and read 100 red books in 4 hours!
For the yellow and green books, we read many of these together with my son, which meant slower reading. My daughter didn’t want to wait for us, so she forged ahead while my son and I re-read some of the stories.
When we needed the reading pen for different books, we would just pass the pen back and forth to each other after checking a word!
Interestingly, my daughter was too impatient with the slow pace of the reading pen for the red and yellow levels, so she used the pen only when necessary. Otherwise, she could figure out many new Chinese words through the context of surrounding words and illustrations.
We joked that the 点读笔 / 點讀筆 was a 慢读笔 / 慢讀筆 (màn dú bǐ / slow reading pen), and we pretended that when my daughter would touch the sound wave icon, she was a 快讀筆 (kuài dú bǐ / fast reading pen).
Did we really need to get these Chinese books?
Because my daughter read most of the books twice in about 2 weeks, I questioned whether we really needed to get this series.
However, after seeing her use the pen independently to figure out new words, I was so glad that we got it. She didn’t need to wait for my help, and I could rest my eyes a bit by not having to check the dictionary phone on my app!
I was also wondering if my daughter would like the books. She loved the Greenfield books two years ago, and apparently, she still likes “easy” books. Despite the relatively sparse amount of text compared to what my daughter is reading in simplified Chinese, certain topics and illustrations in these series were interesting to my daughter.
We also learned a few new words that we had not learned previously, such as 海盗 (hǎidào / pirate). An example of a new phrase was 各就各位 (Gèjiùgèwèi / idiom for “everyone take your position”), which you say before a race 各就各位，預備，跑！(Gèjiùgèwèi, yùbèi, pǎo! / On your mark, get set, go!)
In addition, since I have been putting in less effort in my Chinese studying compared to a few years ago, I am struggling to improve my Chinese, and my daughter’s learning has outpaced mine every step of the way.
Since we are a non-native speaking family, leveled readers have been immensely helpful for giving us structure for learning, expanding our vocabulary, and building reading confidence. We need all of the support that we can get!
How we kept track of words and books
To keep track of the books we read, we first organized the books so that they were all facing the same direction. When we finished the book, we turned the book around as shown in the image below.
For unfamiliar Chinese characters, I tried to keep track of them on Post-It Notes. However, my daughter was usually able to remember the word the second time she looked at the book. Therefore, I did not continue to keep track.
Generally, my strategy is to write down unfamiliar characters on Post-It Notes and review them through games and activities, as you may have seen in other articles on this website. I’m not concerned about being laid back with these books, because my daughter and I will continue to re-read the stories with my son, and my daughter will get practice through other books.
We didn’t get a chance to use the flashcards that I made for the books, but I might consider using it in the future for my son.
樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Book-based activities
Some of the stories include simple activities that you can do with your kids! Examples include dog origami, penguin craft, drawing faces, writing practice, and Chinese speaking practice such as a basic version of 接龙游戏 / 接龍遊戲 (jiēlóng yóuxì / solitaire).
Here’s an easy origami craft that my daughter did on her own! I love that these books encourage interactive learning and hands-on ways to apply new vocabulary!
Although my daughter and I completed the series on our own, she was excited to show our teacher the 接龙游戏 / 接龍遊戲 book. The 3 of us took turns coming up with words while our teacher wrote them down.
We also brainstormed sentences that contained these words. This game is helpful for speaking and/or reading practice!
What we plan on reading next
Now that we have completed the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese in traditional Chinese, we are going to gradually practice reading the traditional Chinese translation of 四五快读 and the 亮亮的成長 books. My daughter will also continue to have exposure to traditional Chinese characters through 巧虎 (Qiǎo hǔ / Clever Tiger) and Stream of Praise Music Ministries.
However, our main focus as a family will be on improving our speaking skills and using simplified Chinese resources which are more affordable and readily available to us. We are also resuming the simplified Chinese chapter books 加油小米啦 that we have been reading on an off the past year.
Reading with my 2-year-old son
Enjoying random stories
Currently, my son is choosing random books that he wants to read, and we are reading them like regular picture books. Since he’s only 2, we are mainly exploring the illustrations. Occasionally, he or I will point out the few characters that he knows, but his 99% of his focus is on the pictures.
Although you can read books by topic, my son loves to just grab books from any part of the bag. He has “played” with the reading pen a few times, but mainly he loves to snuggle in my lap read these books over and over again!
The need for human reading was the same with my daughter. Both of my kids wanted the real deal – mommy reading to them in my less-than-optimal Mandarin. I loved that I can keep my attention on reading to my kids by quickly checking a word with the reading pen without looking at my phone.
Future Chinese teaching
For my son, I am not sure that I can use this as a stand alone Chinese reading series. I think this series is perfect for reading practice and exposure to a wide variety of relatable topics.
However, I plan on teaching my son characters through a combination of hands-on activities, Sagebooks (simplified Chinese), Greenfield (simplified Chinese), in addition to 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese leveled readers (traditional Chinese).
When he is older, I plan to help build his reading stamina and prepare him for chapter books through the 四五快读 series. Of course, time will tell if we follow this order, and I will update you all on what we end up doing in the future!
11. Free flashcards and printables
I made flashcards for all of the levels in the following language versions:
- Simplified Chinese with Pinyin/English
- Traditional Chinese with Pinyin/English
- Traditional Chinese with Zhuyin/English.
Another great resource is Heidi Lee, a mom who is using the Le Le books with her son. She also created very helpful book topic labels and flashcards in traditional Chinese! If you’re unsure about whether to get the Le Le Chinese books, please read her review and download her printables on Facebook.
We highly recommend the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System!
In summary, the Chinese reading pen is truly a game-changer for learners of all ages. I highly recommend the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen system for:
- Non-native parents who would like to support their child’s Chinese learning.
- Adult learners who want to learn common parenting and everyday vocabulary.
- Busy, native-speaking families
- Homes with limited space – this would make a wonderful mini starter library!
I hope this company continues to develop more Chinese reading pen books in the near future!
More Chinese books for kids
- Reviews of various Chinese leveled readers
- Chinese Audiobooks and Books with CDs
- Online Chinese Bookstores with Chinese Children’s Books and More
Tips on creating a Chinese learning environment at home
- Teach Your Child a Second Language at Home with 5 Key Steps
- Raising Multilingual Children as a Non-Fluent Parent: 7 Lessons Learned in 2017
- How To Get Your Child To Speak the Minority Language
- Encourage A Child to Love and Speak the Minority Language with 5 Strategies
- How to Find a Foreign Language Teacher for Your Child
- 5 Reasons Books are the Best Gifts for Multilingual Kids
Teach kids how to read Chinese
- When and How to Introduce Chinese Characters to Kids?
- 5 Basic Tips for Memorizing Chinese Characters
- 10 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Read
- Create a Print-Rich Environment with Labels that Promote Literacy
- How I Taught My Child 1000+ Chinese Characters as a Non-Fluent Speaker
- When Should My Child Learn Hanyu Pinyin?