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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Odonata Books (Malaysia)
- China Sprout (USA)
- Dezeremi (UK)
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.