We’re so thankful for the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System, an engaging picture book series that teaches Mandarin Chinese with the help of a reading pen!
I’ve been learning Chinese with my kids for the past few years, and LeLe was exactly what I was hoping for from the start! 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.
Good news: The LeLe Chinese leveled readers are great for non-fluent and fluent families. They are available in both simplified AND traditional Chinese! I’ll give an overview of the books and explain how my 2 kids have been using them. Please make sure to watch the videos at the end of the post as well!
This post was originally published in March 2019 and has been updated with new information.
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What is the 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 written by Ju Yao (also known as Cathy Lee). Ju Yao also co-authored the Greenfield 我自己会读 leveled readers that I reviewed here.
Le Le Chinese books are geared for:
- Children age 2 to 8 years (or older) in a home or school setting
- Fluent and non-native speaking Chinese families
- Learning to speak and read common Chinese words.
What’s included with the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System?
- 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
- The Chinese reading pen uses Taiwanese Mandarin.
- Please make sure to watch each video at the end of the post to hear how the pen functions at each level.
Overview of the 3 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 individual words and full phrases/sentences.
- Reading pace is very slow.
- 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 individual words and full phrases/sentences.
- Reading pace is very slow.
- 100 booklets; 12 pages per book (only 11 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.
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)
- 数字 / 數字 (shu zì / math)
- 颜色 / 顏色 (yánsè / colors)
- 衣物 (yīwù / clothing)
- Beautiful pencil illustrations
- “Literacy through literature” is their motto: Covers a variety of age-appropriate topics; many stories are realistic.
- 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. Before the pandemic, I would keep several in my handbag and read with my kids while waiting at dance class, restaurants, etc.
- Page numbers!! We like knowing how far we are in a book.
- NO Pinyin or Zhuyin! This means that you learn the characters directly without relying or being distracted by additional text. Whenever Hanyu Pinyin is present, I struggle to read Chinese characters. Neither of my kids are learning Pinyin or Zhuyin currently.
- Online Chinese literacy games
- Printable English translations on their website (for customers only).
Chinese Reading pen
- Very clear and crisp audio
- More clear than this discontinued Chinese pen set that we loved, and far better than the Ciaohu talking pen.
- While older kids can use the Youdao Reading Pen with these series, I do not recommend Youdao for younger children. As explained in my review here, the Youdao Reading Pen requires coordination and careful scanning.
- Clean, white design (in contrast to other reading pens with gaudy cartoon mascots)
- Turns off automatically after 3 minutes of inactivity
- 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, 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 my dictionary! For example, I often forget if 倒 should be dǎo or dào. With the Le Le pen, I can find out within seconds. 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.
- Adjustable volume!
- Previously I felt the default volume was a bit loud. We always lower the volume by 2 taps, so I told the company that I wished the default volume was lower.
- They responded with the following instructions:
- Remove the SD card from reading pen
- Connect the SD card to your computer and find the file “config.ini”
- Scroll down to find this section shown in the picture
- Change the default setting from 4 to 2
- Insert the SD card back to reading pen and turn on the reading pen
- The response from the Le Le team has been fast, patient, and friendly. When I contacted the company about an illustration error that we discovered, they replied promptly and thanked me for letting them know! They have also been very patient with all of my questions prior to ordering the books. After writing this review, they have already made improvements to their content based on feedback.
- 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 rather than all 3 sets.
- Reading pen can be purchased separately
- Their website has vocabulary lists in alphabetical Pinyin order – exclusive to customers only.
- $$$ At the time of this review, the full Le Le sets costs approximately ~$750 USD. Individual sets have been selling out quickly this year.
- If you’re looking for a systematic curriculum for learning Chinese characters, you would have to create your own (eg, Leitner Box) or use Le Le in conjunction with another program.
Photos of each level
Here’s a peek inside a few of the Le Le Chinese books!
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 about 2 boys who are bored of their computer and TV, so their dad tell them to wash his car. Older kids might be able to relate this!
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).
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.
Our family’s experience
When I bought the Le Le books, my daughter was 5 and my son was 2. They are now 7 and 4, respectively.
Before getting Le Le, my daughter learned 1000+ simplified Chinese characters through other leveled readers and by listening to audiobooks. She completed Sagebooks, Greenfield, 四五快读, Odonata in simplified Chinese and was reading Chinese picture books and Chinese bridge books? So why on Earth would I buy another set of Chinese leveled readers?
Le Le only became available in late 2018, after we had already purchased the other options. But I was very attracted to the reading pen and large number of books and Chinese characters.
To avoid redundancy with the existing simplified Chinese readers that we had, I got Le Le in traditional Chinese so my daughter could still learn something from it in addition to my son.
How my kids have been using the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese series
My daughter – Learning Chinese characters
My daughter was 5 years old when she used Le Le Chinese to learn traditional Chinese characters. As mentioned above, my daughter could read 1000+ simplified Chinese characters prior to Le Le. She also knew some traditional Chinese through 巧虎 (Qiǎo hǔ / Clever Tiger) and Stream of Praise Music Ministries.
Although the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese books can be read in any order, I told my daughter that we had to follow the number and color sequence. (She otherwise has plenty freedom of choice).
As with other readers, my daughter was extremely determined to finish each level as quickly as possible. On the first day, she was excitedly read 100 red books in 4 hours!!! (As a laid-back mom, I don’t know how I ended up with a tiger child lol). For the yellow and green books, we read many of these with my son, which meant slower reading. Since she didn’t want to wait for us, she forged ahead while my son and I re-read other stories.
Because my daughter read almost every book twice in 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!
After completing this series, she has occasionally reads the books to her little brother. Otherwise, she has moved on to chapter books.
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 above.
For unfamiliar Chinese characters, I initially wrote them on Post-It Notes. As you may have seen me share before, our strategy has been to write down unfamiliar characters on Post-It Notes and review them through games and activities. However, my daughter was usually able to remember the word the second time she looked at the book. Therefore, I did not bother continuing to write these down.
Neither of my kids got a chance to use the flashcards that I made for the books.
My son – General reading
When my son was 2 and 3 years old, we mainly explored the illustrations. Occasionally, he would point out the few characters that he recognized, but 99% of his focus was on the pictures. Since he strongly prefers animals and vehicles, I sometimes set out books with related activities (eg, animals of the world printables).
For systematic learning of Chinese characters, my son has been using my DIY curriculum, Sagebooks program, and Le Le for reading practice.
Our thoughts about the Le Le Chinese reading pen
When we previously had a 巧虎 reading pen, my daughter lost motivation to read the workbooks independently. Therefore, I was wary of letting my daughter use the Le Le reading pen.
I made a rule that we would only use the pen if we were not sure of a word; 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.
Interestingly, my daughter was too impatient with the slow pace of the reading pen for the red and yellow levels, so she only used it when necessary. 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).
As for my son, he began to use the pen independently around age 3.5 to 4. Most of the time though, despite my imperfect Mandarin, he prefers to snuggle and hear mommy read! So I’m glad that I can quickly check a word with the reading pen without looking at my dictionary app.
Activities inspired by 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese books
Some of the stories include hands-on activities that you can do with your kids! Examples include dog origami, penguin craft, drawing faces, and 接龙游戏 / 接龍遊戲 (jiēlóng yóuxì / solitaire).
Other activities in Le Le books can be incorporated into regular everyday life, such as cutting a watermelon and learning the phrase “切一半 (qiè yībàn).”
Free Le Le Chinese flashcards and printables
I made Le Le Chinese flashcards in the following language versions:
- Simplified Chinese with Pinyin/English
- Traditional Chinese with Pinyin/English
- Traditional Chinese with Zhuyin/English
- Traditional Chinese with Jyutping/English (red level only) contributed by reader Sarah Nyugen (thank you!)
How to use Le Le Chinese flashcards
Despite spending so much time creating the flashcards, my family has not yet used them. Therefore, I’m really happy that many of you have told me that you were able to use them, such as with the Leitner Box System.
If you kids are turned off by flashcards, you can try these fun and simple Chinese reading games.
Is Le Le Chinese necessary if you have other leveled readers?
Most families don’t use as many leveled readers as us. Some use Le Le alone, while others pair Le Le with one other reading program. Please read my detailed Comparison of Chinese Leveled Readers for more information.
Where to buy 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen System
This program is available at Taiwan Le Le Culture Co. Ltd. Online store. You can buy the 3 sets separately or all together. The Chinese reading pen is an optional add on. Please refer to their website for current rates.
In summary, I highly recommend the 樂樂文化 Le Le Chinese Reading Pen system for:
- Parents with limited to no Chinese fluency who want to support their child’s learning.
- Adult learners who want to learn common parenting vocabulary.
- Busy, native-speaking families
- Homes with limited space – the set would make a wonderful mini starter library!
Do you have the Le Le Chinese Reading System?
If you end up getting these books, please share in the comments below!
We’d love to hear about your learning experience and if you agree or disagree with our review!
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