People by Peter Spier – Book Review and 人 Chinese Character Learning Activities

人 (Rén / Person) is one of the first Chinese characters that anyone can learn, and the timeless People book by Peter Spier is a wonderful for introduce the beauty of diversity to kids! Here is a quick review of the beautifully illustrated book that celebrates different races and cultures!  Included are low-prep literacy activities that you can try with your child!

People Peter Spier Book and 人 Chinese character hands-on activities for children

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人 (People) by Peter Spier

Review of 人 (People) picture book by Peter Spier

人 (People) is a picture book that was originally published in English and has been translated to simplified and traditional Chinese. We only have the hardcover English version, and I have been translating the words to Mandarin Chinese while reading some parts in English with my children.

Although the content contains many encyclopedic facts, the text of the English version is largely written in a conversation manner.

In the 人 (People) picture book, Spier celebrates human-kind and our wonderful diversity.  We are similar in many ways, and we are also uniquely different in the way we look, eat, play, speak, and worship.

Both of my children (2.5-year-old son and 5.5-year-old daughter) were captivated by the detailed illustrations.  There is so much to discuss on each page, and each read brings about a new discovery.

Try this: 15 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Read

Photos of 人 (People) by Peter Spier

People by Peter Spier:  We come in various dimensions and colors!

The book begins with how we all start small despite being different shapes, sizes, and colors.

人 (People) by Peter Spier picture book for children

I love this part:

“People are funny: Some with straight hair want theirs to be wavy, and others with little curls want theirs straight.” 

People by Peter Spier: Different faces and standards of beauty

The subsequent page continues with the truth that beauty standards vary from culture to culture.  This was a great opportunity to discuss with my children the importance of respecting different appearances.

人 (People) by Peter Spier picture book for children

People by Peter Spier: Cultural games

We also learned about games that are played in unfamiliar cultures.

人 (People) by Peter Spier picture book for children

People by Peter Spier: Language diversity

And my daughter was excited to learn about Sign Language!

人 (People) by Peter Spier picture book for children

People by Peter Spier even has a page about various written scripts.  It was enlightening for my oldest child to see that her 3 languages are only a few drops in a big bucket. Regarding the image below, I’m unfamiliar with the various Chinese scripts here.  But my daughter was excited that she could read the Korean words!

人 (People) by Peter Spier picture book for children

人 (Rén / Person) Chinese character learning activity

My 2.5-year-old son has learned a dozen or so Chinese characters over the past few months, and he had learned 人 through our Chinese characters magnet puzzle toy. He was curious about the colorful pieces after seeing his big sister have fun building Chinese characters!

For this particular character, my son thought it was hilarious when I pretended the blue and pink 人 pieces were walking!

Teach 人 Chinese Character with Hands-On Learning Activities

Suggested teaching materials for the 人 Chinese character:

  1. Large print out of 人 Chinese character – click here to download
  2. Small pretend play people figures (eg, Melissa and Doug, mini figures from LEGO sets)

If your child has trouble learning a concept, different hands-on approaches can help facilitate understanding.

Although my son can confidently identify the 人 Chinese character from the 3-dimensional toys, I printed 人 in large, Kaiti font so that he could see that the 2-dimensional print was the same character.

When he saw the large character, the first thing he did was touch it, and he was surprised that it was not rough!  He had expected a coarse texture after feeling Montessori Chinese character sandpaper boards.

Teach 人 Chinese Character with Hands-On Learning Activities

The following ideas are activities that my older child always enjoyed: tracing Chinese characters with various objects. To keep it real, my son has no interest in this, perhaps due to his young age, or maybe it’s just not his thing. And you can see which ones intrigue your children!

Trace 人 Chinese character with pretend people figures

You can lay the pretend play figures on the 人 Chinese character and/or have the figure walk along each stroke.

Remember to follow your child’s lead for learning as resistance to paternalistic ideas can spoil golden learning opportunities.

Grimms Rainbow Peg Dolls

Though my son was more focused on building a little house for the people figures, he had a lot of fun! He remembered the Chinese character and really enjoyed the Peter Spier book!  Yay for learning!

People by Peter Spier - Book Review and 人 Chinese Character Learning Activities

In summary, I highly recommend the Peter Spier book to accompany a 人 Chinese character lesson!  In addition, this is a timeless picture book for your home library!

More books to celebrate people and diversity

Tips for teaching kids Chinese

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