Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers Book Review

红蜻蜓学前阅读计划  Odonata Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

Wondering how to teach your child more than 1000 Chinese characters? The Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers 红蜻蜓学前阅读计划 can help kids reach this milestone! This affordable series teaches children how to read Chinese through stories. My daughter and I used the Odonata books, and I’ll share why you might also want to.

What are Odonata Leveled Readers?

Odonata is a popular Chinese publishing company in Malaysia. They developed the Odonata Leveled Reading Program 红蜻蜓学前阅读计划 for children to learn Chinese characters at home or primary (elementary) school.

The edition we used was published in 2011, which is the focus of this review. An updated edition was published in 2020.

What’s included in the Odonata Leveled Reading Program?

Odonata Leveled Chinese Readers

The full set of 红蜻蜓学前阅读计 Odonata Leveled Readers includes 40 storybooks that teach over 1200 Chinese characters.

Each level is color-coded, starting with yellow for beginners, then green, blue, pink, and finally purple for advanced readers.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive Chinese literacy lesson plan, you can order additional resources:

  • Audio: CDs are available for the first four levels. For higher levels, the Youdao Dictionary Pen can help narrate unfamiliar words.
  • Flashcards 字卡: If you don’t mind screentime, free Odonata Chinese Quizlet flashcards are available through EDU Mandarin School in Malaysia. You can order physical flashcards to review 600 Chinese characters at an additional cost.
  • Workbooks 辅助作业: If your child is learning how to write Chinese, Odonata Publishing has created two types of workbooks for each level.
    • 学写字一上 (Learn to write): These workbooks have traditional Chinese writing worksheets with character grids.
    • 学华语一下 (Learn Mandarin): These Chinese workbooks have fill-in-the-blank activities and other reading exercises.

Related: Printable Chinese Writing Worksheets

Benefits of the Odonata books

What’s so great about the Odonata Leveled Readers 红蜻蜓学前阅读计划?

  • Big words: The Chinese characters are large and clear on a white background.
  • Learning through stories: Starting from book 1, page 4, a short sentence is introduced along with two main characters, children named Ming Ming and Li Li. Through incrementally longer stories, children can learn up to 1200 characters.
  • Minimal Pinyin: Only new Chinese words have Pinyin that is small & unobtrusive on the bottom of the page, away from the text
  • Cost: The Odonata books were more affordable than most Chinese leveled readers, and you can order each level separately. In spring 2018, I purchased the full set directly from Odonata for $60 US dollars plus $54 US dollars shipping. The total cost was $114 US dollars.
  • Thin: Each book is made of cardstock-like pages with a staple binding. Because each book is short and quick to finish, they can give a child a sense of accomplishment.
  • Portable: As a bonus, the books are easy to take on the go and don’t take up much space.
The complete Odonata Leveled Reading Series teaches 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

Recommended: Best Chinese Books for Kids Organized by Age and Topic

Drawbacks to the Odonata books

  • Audio: As mentioned earlier, multiple sources are needed to hear native Mandarin narration. Why would you exclude the most complex levels (幼儿900字-1200字 words)? I have no idea. Years ago, when we first read the Odonata books, I spent so much time looking up words in my Chinese dictionary app.
  • Multiple new characters: Compared to Sagebooks, where only one Chinese character is taught at a time, Odonata books introduce multiple new words in each book. As such, there is less repetition and less opportunity to practice each new character in each story. However, new characters can be reviewed through fun activities. Each book can be reread as needed.
  • Illustrations: This varies from family to family, but neither of my children liked the drawings in the books.

Related: Top Chinese Teaching Tips from Educator Cathy Ju Yao

Comparison of Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers 红蜻蜓学前阅读计划

Here’s a quick comparison of the inside of each level!  The top of the first page lists new Chinese characters introduced in each book.

New Chinese characters list at top of inside front cover page
New Chinese characters are listed at the top of the first page
红蜻蜓学前阅读计划  Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers Yellow
Yellow level: 100 Chinese characters
红蜻蜓学前阅读计划  Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers Green
Green level: 200 Chinese characters
红蜻蜓学前阅读计划  Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers Blue
Blue level: 300 to 400 Chinese characters
红蜻蜓学前阅读计划  Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers Pink
Pink level: 500 to 800 Chinese characters
红蜻蜓学前阅读计划  Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers Purple
Purple level: 900 to 1200 Chinese characters 幼儿900字-1200字

Common questions about 红蜻蜓学前阅读计划 Odonata Chinese books

Over the years, I’ve received countless questions about the Odonata Leveled Readers. Here are answers to the most common questions.

Do you have to be fluent for the Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers?

No, you don’t need to speak Chinese fluently. But yes, you should be fairly conversational. Before learning to read Chinese, it’s important to focus on boosting listening and speaking skills.

Related: How I’m Learning Chinese as a Busy Parent

Do you need to get other leveled readers before Odonata?

Maybe, maybe not! It can be hard to predict.

The best Chinese leveled reading books depend on the family’s fluency and support system, plus the child’s personal preferences.

Parents who cannot read Chinese benefit from books with audio narration. When we first used the Odonata readers, we did not have the luxury of the available audio today. Even so, audio is not available at the highest levels.

The Lele Reading Pen System is our favorite program that teaches 1000 Chinese characters with Mandarin audio if you can splurge. Many families like ours also use Sagebooks to learn the first 500 Chinese characters.

If you are a parent who is fluent and literate, you might be lucky enough to use Odonata as the sole Chinese leveled reading program.

Do you need to get all of the Odonata books?

Maybe, maybe not! If your child has used other Chinese reading programs, you’ll probably be able to start at a higher level. It’s hard to say exactly which level because each reading program varies in the order of Chinese characters they teach.

As a non-fluent family, my daughter and I first completed other curricula (Sagebooks, Greenfield, 四五快读). We also read fun Chinese chapter books like Little Bear. As a result, the first few Odonata levels were too easy; my daughter flew through them. Eventually, she started to find unfamiliar characters around the 800 to 900 level.

However, I recommend buying full sets if you don’t know exactly where to start. Complete sets are also probably easier to sell in the future.

What if your child refuses to read out loud?

This common issue may or may not be related to the Odonata books. Perhaps your child feels the pressure of the spotlight. Maybe they’re tired or worried about making a mistake. In any case, it’s normal for children to prefer their parents to read out loud.

When you sense resistance, consider what might be the cause. Also, take turns reading. Cooperative reading is a wonderful way to model effort and humility while supporting your child.

Even though my daughter’s Chinese reading was far better than mine, she always wanted to hear mommy read. Often, I would read one page, and then she would read the next.

Related: Why Your Bilingual Child Isn’t Paying Attention to Books

Are the Odonata books available in traditional Chinese?

Unfortunately, these leveled readers are only available in simplified Chinese. Please see my article at the end of this post for traditional Chinese graded readers.

Where to buy Odonata books

Has your family used the 红蜻蜓学前阅读计划 Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers?

If you end up trying the 红蜻蜓学前阅读计划 reading program, I’d love to hear what you think! Please share your review in the comments. I’m curious whether you used workbooks, flashcards, or other Chinese leveled readers to supplement.

Fun ways to learn Chinese


  1. Might you you consider updating your review for the newest Odonata readers released in 2020+? Looks like A LOT of changes have been made (incl. fewer/longer books & no Luka support yet) & am wondering if this older review still holds. Can only really find 1 review online for the newer set.

    1. Hi Vannie, thanks for your question. We purchased the Odonata Leveled Readers in 2018, so we don’t have personal experience with the updated edition. However, I did find a comparison of both editions from Owlissimo, an educator in Singapore. I hope this helps!

  2. Hi Betty,

    Your blog has been so inspiring as I started teaching my kids Chinese a year ago. We have a set (red, yellow and green) of LeLe books. Is odonata similar? My kids are 8 and 6. The 8 year old kind of out grow LeLe as he is already reading at 3rd grade level on English >.< Thankfully the 6 year old still enjoy the humor. Would 4, 5 fast read a better bridge book?

    Do you have any recommendation on curriculum on home teaching after Sagebooks? We are almost done with Sagebooks! But I'm nervous that I don't know what to do after.

    thanks a million! Always enjoy your blog and all the great resources!!


  3. Jenny Huang says:

    Hi Betty,

    Do you have an opinion on the Odonata learn sentence series? My daughter is 3 and I wonder if I should start even lower than the first 100 words. I am fluent in Mandarin and use mostly traditional Chinese but am teaching myself simplified.

    1. Hi Jenny! I don’t have those books, but looking at the preview, they look repetitive and pretty basic. If you are fluent, can read TC, and have other books at home, you might not need them for yourself since TC and and SC have a lot of overlap. If you weren’t fluent, I think they would be helpful for beginners. That being said, the cost of the sets are fairly low, and your daughter could use them for extra reading practice someday. I tend to feel that one can never have too many books. 😛 Please let me know if I can help with anything else!

  4. Hi! At what age did you start your daughter on this series of books? Thanks!

    1. Hi Lili! My daughter was 4.5years old when she read these books. I have heard of kids as young as 3 and as old as 9 years old using Odonata books though!

  5. thanks for your wonderful blog. I haven’t had time to look through everything. I just purchased the Sage 500 books and readers. Does Sage first 500 words overlap heavily with the Odonata words for the first 500? I’m just wondering if there is a good transition strategy of where to bridge over? We are also teaching traditional characters at this moment and wondering if available in traditional? Keep up the great work! You are so organized and amazing in what you’re doing.

    1. Hi Jean! Thank you for your kind note and for reaching out! Each reader set introduces different words in different order. It’s always helpful to read and review Chinese characters in different contexts, so you can use different leveled readers at the same time. With my daughter, I bought Odonata later, but with my son, we’ve read a few of the books along with Sagebooks. Unfortunately, Odonata is only available in simplified Chinese. You can try LeLe, Greenfield, or 四五快读 for traditional Chinese. 四五快读 is published only in simplified, but another mom generously translated the reading exercises & flashcards into traditional Chinese.

      1. Hi! I would love to know where to access the traditional translation for 四五快读?

  6. I bought this set thanks to your review =D We’ve listened/read Book 1.1 twice.

    P.S. It’s 40 books total (5 sets of 8 books), not 48.

    1. Hi Lydia, hope the books have been helpful for your family! And thank you for catching that – I’ve fixed the number!

  7. Your blog is so helpful and encouraging! Thanks for this great review.

    1. Thank you so much, Sharon! I really appreciate the feedback!

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