I have videos of my 老大 (oldest child) Chinese reading throughout this website, but I thought I would organize major milestones in one place! Since we are in another long plateau/maintenance phase, it’s humbling and rewarding to look back and see the growth over the past few years! As you may know, 老大 and I started the Chinese learning journey when she was 2 years old, and I was committed to learning the language with her. Together, we learned a handful of spoken Chinese phrases and Chinese characters. However, we weren’t really consistent until 老大 was 3 years old and I was on maternity leave with my son.
Here are just a few videos showing how she went from reading single words to more fluid reading from age 3 to 5 years. Since everybody is curious about character count, she learned up to 1200 Chinese characters but forgot a couple hundred and has been hovering around 1000 characters for a few months. She reads simplified Chinese 99% of the time, though she has learned an unknown number of traditional Chinese words through 巧虎 (Qiǎo hǔ) workbooks and random activities with me. Please refer to this detailed post about how I taught her to read Chinese despite my lack of fluency. I pray that it can be of help for your family’s learning journey! 🙂
Age 3 years 4 months
Reading a story that I wrote about our family’s trip to the zoo
At this age, I often wrote short Chinese paragraphs and stories for my daughter to read. This helped me practice my Chinese skills while giving my daughter motivation to read since it was relevant to her. There is a grammatical error in my writing on the 3rd page that our Chinese teacher later corrected and explained to us. While 老大 has good character recognition, she reads single words without connecting them together. Also, her tones are intermittently off. At this point, she is oblivious to punctuation, such as commas and periods. Around this time, we started using Sagebooks 500.
Age 3 years 10 months
老大 had completed the Chinese Greenfield leveled readers over the summer and seemed ready to start bridge (early chapter) books. Her tones were improving considerably. After this video was taken, her teacher taught her how to blend 儿‘s with preceding words. Although she is able to read rather fluidly by this time, she was intimated by long passages of text and often lost her spot while reading. While she liked the stories in this series, she still preferred to read books with only 1-2 lines of text per page. A couple months after this, we started 四五快读.
Age 4 years 3 months
四五快读 Book 8
This Chinese reading series was very helpful for improving reading stamina for 老大! In this video, she sounds tired because it’s past her bedtime and she’s sick with a cold. But she wanted to stay up and keep reading! (Anything to avoid sleep, right?)
Age 4 years 4 months
This video depicts the power of Chinese audiobooks. 狼和七只小山羊 was one of 老大‘s favorites at the time, and she memorized the story almost verbatim. This month, she had re-enacted the story over and over again with her toy animals! Sorry about the bad camera angle – my husband and I prefer to keep our kids’ faces off social media and the internet.
Age 4 year 9 months
This is one of my daughter’s favorite authors! She listened to Chinese stories like this on replay via Ximalaya FM, and it significantly helped improve her listening, speaking, and reading skills! Our Chinese teacher was away for several months, and Mandarin audiobooks were the main way that we had exposure to native Chinese speakers.
Age 4 years 11 months
My daughter’s Chinese reading level has been about the same over the past few months: no major improvements or jumps in progress. This reading is actually not as smooth as the above video, and you can hear her getting stuck on a word half-way through the book. But we are just enjoying stories that capture her interest and enjoy talking about them together! In addition, we are working on being aware of how our voice sounds while speaking and reading, and how we can convey emotion and respect with our tone.
Although my daughter is able to enjoy chapter books like 加油小米啦, we are still mainly reading picture books so that my 2-year-old son can also enjoy the story and illustrations. In addition, since we are not fluent, we rely on visual cues to understand and remember new words
Age 5 years 2 months
玛蒂娜故事书系列 (I Love Martine Series)
My daughter’s weekly Chinese teacher has been out of the country for a couple of months, and we have been listening to lots of Ximalaya to keep up with native Chinese exposure. My daughter is obsessed with this series and loves listening to the stories over and over again. Since she’s fascinated by medicine and hospital-related topics, book 46 is currently her favorite. I recorded her reading this a couple weeks ago when she was ill, and it took about 18 minutes to read the story. Since she was sick for much of December, we did not do much reading after that video, just resting and listening to Ximalaya audiobooks. Then, she re-read this story, and it was very fluid, taking only ~13 minutes! Audiobooks can make a huge difference in reading skills!
Recording Chinese reading practice
In case anybody is wondering, I was able to convince her to record a few stories by explaining to her that I like to listen to her reading after she goes to bed! She also thinks that it’s nice to share stories and encouragement with other Chinese-speaking families because she has been inspired by Chinese storytelling on YouTube. Therefore, she has modeled the introduction of each reading from narrators that she has enjoyed! Since my daughter doesn’t like me hovering over her with my phone camera, I have been recording with this camera stand.
Do you have any questions about how to teach kids Chinese characters and reading? Please let me know and I’d be happy to try to help point you in the right direction!
Advice on raising multilingual children
- Teach Your Child a Second Language at Home with 5 Key Steps
- How To Get Your Child To Speak the Minority Language
- Raising Multilingual Children as a Non-Fluent Parent
- Encourage A Child to Love and Speak the Minority Language with 5 Strategies
- How to Find a Foreign Language Teacher for Your Child
- 10 Ways to Get Your Child to Read Throughout the Day
- 6 Fun Ways to Assess Reading Comprehension With Kids!
Helpful articles about how to teach kids Chinese
- When and How to Introduce Chinese Characters to Kids?
- When Should My Child Learn Hanyu Pinyin?
- The Case for Zhuyin (BoPoMoFo) (Mandarin Mama)
- Fun & Educational Chinese Activities – A How-To Guide