Reading is an important part of teaching kids language. However, building a multilingual library at home can be costly and challenging for non-native overseas families. Thankfully, in this digital era, many websites and apps offer stories for kids in Chinese, Korean, and other languages! This post highlights the best websites and apps with free multilingual stories for children.
The first 4 resources are available in numerous languages; the last 6 are free Chinese books for kids. I have explored each of these websites and apps, and by far my favorite is Ximalaya FM. However, please check to see which option is best suited for your family’s fluency and interests.
Free Multilingual Books for Kids
1. Unite for Literacy
This is a wonderful resource for beginner language learners who need listening practice. The books introduce vocabulary and simple sentence structures about common everyday topics through simple stories as well as questions and answers. Almost all images are clear photographs, which is my preference over the typical cartoon.
The downside is that the text is in English only.
Available languages: Arabic, Burmese, Chinese, Cup’ik, Danish, French, German, Greek ( Ελληνικά ), Hindi ( हिंदी ), Karenni, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, Somali, Spanish, Turkish, Vietnamese
2. Storybooks Canada
Storybooks Canada has dozens of stories from the African Storybook with text and audio in the most widely spoken languages of Canada.
Available languages: Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese (Mandarin), English, German, Korean, French, Italian, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Turkish, and Urdu!
3. World Stories
World Stories offers a growing collection of stories in the most common languages in the United Kingdom. Registration is free but required for access to stories. While I like that the focus is on audio narration due to the lack of animation and minimal illustrations, I found the website to be a bit slow and confusing to navigate. I had to click around a bit to figure out how to listen to audio and was stuck on music for a while. However, I do think this website has great potential to help many multilingual families.
Available languages: Akan, Albanian, Arabic, Cantonese, Danish, English, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Kannada, Mandarin, Manx, Pashto, Polish, Portuguese, Scots, Scots Doric, Scottish Gaelic, Somali, Spanish, Turkish, Urdu, Welsh, Yoruba, Zulu
4. Bible App for Kids
The Bible App for Kids has animated bible stories in numerous languages. We have explored this app in the past but currently do not use it as we have decided as a family to do Bible time in English. However, this is a an excellent resource for those who wish to learn the Bible in minority languages. In our experience, the downside would be the distracting animation and games. Each page allows for “exploration” of the image through touch. Once my daughter discovered this feature, she no longer focused on listening and just wanted to touch everything on the screen. The games are also not useful for reinforcing Biblical concepts in the target language. While we prefer to use a regular children’s bible for our learning, perhaps this can be helpful for other families who need more minority language exposure and don’t have a physical bible.
Available languages: Afrikaans, Arabic, Belarusian, Bengali, Cantonese, Chinese (Mandarin – Simplified & Traditional Chinese), Dutch, English (UK), English (US), Farsi, Filipino (Tagalog), Finnish, French, Georgian, German, Greek, Hindi, Indonesia, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Nepali, Norwegian, Polish, Portugese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Zulu
Free Mandarin Chinese books for kids
1. Ximalaya FM
This is hands-down my favorite resource for free Chinese audiobooks. They have thousands of Chinese stories and even free Chinese music, and I can easily find stories that I want by searching the title. However, Ximalaya requires listening comprehension skills. So if you are just starting to learn Chinese, the narration will be too advanced, and you should start with one of the above resources instead. To learn more about Ximalaya, please check out the following articles:
- Free Chinese Audiobooks for Children on Ximalaya 喜马拉雅 (CHALK Academy)
- How to Use Ximalaya FM When You Can’t Read Chinese (CHALK Academy)
- Technology: Downloading Audio From Ximalaya (Guavarama)
App: 凯叔讲故事 on iTunes
凯叔讲故事 has numerous free Chinese stories for children in Mandarin Chinese! What’s unique about is that many stories are narrated by a gentleman in contrast to most children’s stories which are narrated by women. This is important for kids like ours who have only really spoken Chinese with females due to lack of diversity in our local community.
App: 火火兔讲故事 on iTunes
This app has a wealth of free Chinese stories and songs in Mandarin Chinese! The Chinese audiobooks are best suited for preschool and early elementary school-aged children.
4. Little Fox Chinese
Little fox Chinese is a free language learning curriculum that offers 5 levels of reading practice. Level one begins with pinyin, basic words, and daily expressions and progresses to longer sentences through animated stories. The program offers hundreds and stories and songs through their website, app, and YouTube channel. If you’re trying to minimize screen time like our family, you can print out the books and add them to your home library! When we first started to learn Chinese a few years ago, I wish I knew of this program! I think it’s a fantastic option for beginner learners.
For more details, Polygot Kiddos has an excellent review of Little Fox Chinese and how her kids are learning with the curriculum.
5. Stories for Teaching Chinese
The New York University StarTalk Immersion Training Program for Teachers has several narrated and beautifully illustrated stories in Mandarin Chinese. Native families will recognize familiar traditional folktales, such as 司马光砸缸 (Si Ma Guang Breaks a Jar). Please note that some stories discuss relatively mature content, such as the history of opium in China. Parents should first preview the stories and consider deferring some topics for elementary school-aged children and older. Teachers and parents may also appreciate the lesson plan breakdown and options to print the PDF files of each story or view the audiobook on iBooks.
糖果姐姐說故事 (Candy Sister Telling Stories) is an app with narrated Bible stories as well as other stories. The narrator’s voice is pleasant and easy to understand, but the content may more suitable for elementary school kids and up. You can read Mandarin Mama’s review of the 糖果姐姐 CD for more information.
Which free multilingual resource is the best?
For those who are just starting to learn a minority language, I recommend exploring Unite for Literacy and Storybooks Canada. In addition, beginner Chinese learners will find Little Fox Chinese to be a valuable resource. As your child’s proficiency improves, the other resources will help expand your child’s comprehension skills, vocabulary, and grammar while cultivating love and appreciation for the minority language!
Of course, many other websites and apps offer multilingual stories beyond this list. However, I have elected not to make this an exhaustive list of everything that’s available. We all reach a point where we have too many resources and not enough time. If the website is slow, confusing, or overly animated, my recommendation is to skip it and focus on one of the aforementioned resources. However, if there is a truly superb resource that I have neglected to include here, please let me know and I’ll be happy to explore and possibly recommend it!
WHERE TO BUY CHINESE BOOKS FOR KIDS
Physical books are always preferred over digital books, especially for young children. For Chinese children’s book recommendations, please visit and bookmark this link! Every week, I will be adding book reviews to this website!
If you’re wondering where to buy Chinese books for children, please click here for a list of the most popular online bookstores!
To shop low book prices on TaoBao, here is the How-To Guide for using TaobaoRing.