Odonata Chinese Readers (1200 Simplified Chinese Characters) – Book Review

红蜻蜓学前阅读计划 is a Chinese leveled reading series for kids from Odonata publishing. The 学前阅读计划 Red Dragonfly Preschool Reading Plan covers 1200 Simplified Chinese characters. However, the books may also be useful for beginners in Kindergarten and the lower elementary years.

Related: How I Taught My Child 1000+ Chinese Characters as a Non-Fluent Speaker

Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

About the Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers

Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

Odonata Chinese Leveled Readers Review

The Odonata books are affordable and helpful Chinese leveled readers for families learning simplified Chinese characters.

We have done Sagebooks, Greenfield, & 四五快读 (in this order), and the stories are most interesting and varied in the Odonata Chinese readers.

Pros:

  • Covers 1200 characters
  • BIG noticeable font; the text is also separated from the pictures
  • Pinyin for new words is small & unobtrusive on the bottom of the page, away from the text
  • Lots of human-based stories but also anthropomorphic ones
  • You can get flashcards, workbooks, and audio CD at extra cost.
  • You don’t have to buy the full set; each book level and supplemental materials can be ordered separately
  • Starting from book 1, page 4, a short sentence is already introduced!
  • Portable: The paperback series uses a staple binding, which means that the books are thin and don’t take up much space. The pages are stiff like card stock and not as flimsy as regular paper, though they can wrinkle if not handled with care.

Cons:

  • 幼儿900字-1200字 9th to 12th Hundred Words have no CD
Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

Our experience with the Odonata Chinese leveled readers

General timeline using Odonata Chinese readers

This past summer, my daughter flew threw the Odonata preschool readers in less than 2 months.  Since we had already completed other major leveled readers, most Chinese characters were familiar to my daughter.

However, because I am learning Chinese along with my children, the pace at which she completed the books was too fast for me.

Like our experience with reading 四五快读 together, I was slower at remembering new characters.

Figuring out where to start

She started flipping through the books at the 400 characters level with only an occasional forgotten character here and there. The first few levels were too easy, but she looked at some on her own.

Starting around the 800-900 characters level, she encountered more new characters.

Although the first few levels were probably unnecessary, I prefer to buy full sets just in case. Also, I think full sets are easier to sell later!

Reading schedule

Mondays were our “homeschool days” (detailed trilingual schedule here), and we would read a few of these books during “Chinese time.”

While my daughter was intrigued by the Odonata stories, the rest of the week was generally spent reading other Chinese picture books.

I’m not sure if my daughter looked at the books in the first few levels on her own, but I decided to start our cooperative reading at the 300 level when the stories began to have longer sentences.

As usual, we took turns reading.  For example, I would read one page, and then she would read the next.  Although my daughter’s reading level is far superior than mine, she always wants to hear mommy read.  I also need to practice to improve my skills and, most importantly, model dedication, effort, and humility.

As with all books, I did not expect my daughter to memorize all 1200 characters.  In fact, I think she probably retained about 1000-1100 characters, depending on the day!

Some days, characters are very easy for her to remember; other days, she needs some time to think about them.  I am not worried at all though, because I know she will re-encounter these characters in other Chinese picture books.

If it’s an important character that we keep seeing in many books, then we can play a game or create an activity if necessary.

Challenges with using Odonata Chinese readers:

Odonata has no Audio CDs for the most advanced level

Starting at around 800-900 characters, we needed audio CDs due to our limited spoken fluency.  Unfortunately, no CDs are available for the most advanced books.  There were many unfamiliar words and phrases that I had to look up in my Pleco dictionary app.

Since my daughter’s Chinese teacher was out of the country for several months, I did the entire series with her.  In any case, I prefer that my daughter’s teacher focuses on speaking spontaneously and not spend much time on reading.

We desperately need to improve our spoken Chinese skills, but we do not have enough contact with native Chinese speakers.  So character retention is always limited by this challenge.

Related: 6 Ways My Child and I Are Learning Mandarin Chinese from Audiobooks

Less spaced repetition compared to other Chinese leveled readers

The Odonata preschool readers typically introduce several new words per book.  As the level increases, each book includes several new words with Hanyu Pinyin.

However, since the books are like true stories, there is not as much spaced repetition like Sagebooks.

Preference for other Chinese story books

Over the summer, since my daughter discovered her love for audiobooks on Ximalaya, she preferred to read books that she had heard before.

Since the highest levels of the Odonata readers had no audio, she was less interested in the books outside of our “homeschool” time.

Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

What’s inside the Odonata Chinese leveled readers?

Here’s a peek at each of the levels!  The first page of each book shows the number of new words per book, word list, and title.

Yellow: 幼儿首100字 1st-Hundred Words

Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters
Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

Green: 幼儿200字 2nd-Hundred Words

Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters
Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

Blue: 幼儿300字-400字 3rd to 4th Hundred Words

Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters
Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

Red: 幼儿500字-800字 5th to 8th Hundred Words

Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters
Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

Purple: 幼儿900字-1200字 9th to 12th Hundred Words

Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters
Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters
Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters
Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

Future considerations:

Odonata flashcards

While writing this review, I discovered that EDU Mandarin Learning Center has flashcards on Quizlet for the entire series!

At some point, I would like to study the flashcards and practice re-reading the books so that I will be ready by the time my younger child is ready to read!

Although I think my daughter could benefit from reviewing the upper level books, I’m not sure that my daughter wants to re-read these series.

Odonata writing workbooks

I am also debating about getting the writing workbooks for my daughter to learn how to write Chinese versus regular worksheets that you can print on the Arch Chinese website.  I might opt for the latter since I bought a subscription for worksheets. 

However, I do like that Odonata has words not only alone but also in the context of a sentence and also some activities.  Therefore, kids can learn proper sentence structure while practicing writing.

Two workbooks options are available at each color level:

  • 学写字一上 (Learn to write)
  • 学华语一下 (Learn Mandarin)

I will update this review if and when we get the workbooks!

Odonata Chinese Leveled Reading Series 1200 Simplified Chinese characters

Other Chinese leveled readers for kids

For a head-to-head comparison of the major Chinese leveled readers, please refer to this post: Chinese Leveled Readers: Comparison of Graded Books for Kids.

Here are detailed reviews of other Chinese leveled readers that we have used.

Tips for boosting Chinese skills

Happy learning and reading, friends!

12 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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 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!

  3. 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 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!!

    Fion

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