Parent Spotlight - Peggy
The Parent Spotlight Series is a set of blog posts featuring different parents in their journeys to raise bilingual children.
This has been in the works for a while, and I'm very excited to share Peggy's story here (!!) Part of the why I do these Parent Spotlights, is to showcase a variety of families — with different backgrounds, and who may be starting at different points in their lives.
By seeing others who may be in your shoes, I want y'all to feel like you can do it too ❤️
When I first saw Peggy's story (through facebook groups we're both in), I really wanted to invite her to share her story here because of *when* she started her Chinese literacy journey with her child — when he was 6 years old!
Social media can make it seem like the only way to start language learning is super young; every ig- or fb-famous family seemed to have started their literacy journeys when their child is in utero 🤪
And if you're a parent who is juuust stumbling into this world of multilingual parenting, with kids who are "older" (and who may already reading English well!), it can feel like you've "missed the boat".
But Peggy's family is proof that kids can still learn to read Chinese independently (at bridge/chapter book level too!!), after having already learned to read in English!
She generously shared sooo many awesome tips and resources below. so I'll let her take it away...
Peggy, tell us about your family and kids
Hello, I'm Peggy! 😊 Enoch is my only child and he just turned 8. My hubby and I were both born and raised in Hong Kong, so we're native Cantonese speakers, and we speak ~99% in Cantonese at home.
We're also very blessed to have hubby's parents living close by who speak native Hong Kong Cantonese, and the church we go to is a Cantonese-speaking church :)
Although we live in a city where over 98% of people we meet daily are non-Chinese, we have a pretty good Cantonese environment before E entered preschool and kindergarten.
I'm a work-at-home mom, so for working moms, don't lose heart!! Read on for more tips to establish and maintain a Chinese reading routine!! 💪
How did you start teaching Chinese?
Not counting the random Chinese characters and labels I place around our home, and the sporadic effort I put in teaching E some Chinese characters in his toddler years, I officially bit the bullet and started "Mommy's Chinese Spring Break Camp" when the pandemic started 2 years ago (March 2020).
Partly due to the frustration that we couldn't go to spring break camp we signed up for, and partly because I finally felt a burning need to teach him how to read Chinese before the sensitive period for language closed (which according to Maria Montessori, is from birth to 6. And he just turned 6 at that time!), I was determined to create a SUPER FUN Chinese learning camp that would be more fun than the camps we signed up for outside 😜🤣🤣!!
AT THE BEGINNING...
I was pumped and set up a tiny classroom in our living room, and prepared to teach E Chinese the TRADITIONAL way – how I was taught when I was young – with textbook reading and repeated character writing (I did show him 2 short videos, one from the textbook and one for an idiom, thinking it'd be more fun 😛).
E was such a good boy that he did what I asked, reading a few words from the textbook story and writing a few characters, and was happy with our new "school".
However, by the second or third day, I realized that it simply didn't work! E quickly lost interest listening to me, and started losing his attention. He walked away shortly after our class started!!! :(
This was our first class where I used a curriculum online. I think the traditional way of teaching didn’t suit him, so I turned the class into more hands-on and child-led later part of the week 😄
In my heart, I knew he always learns best with things HANDS-ON, so I frantically searched online for ideas to make Chinese learning hands-on for him!!
I started using games to teach Chinese characters instead of just reading from textbooks, and it worked!!!!
[Note: I followed the curriculum called Meizhou Huayu during the day for their Chinese word list and stories, and used hands-on ways to teach. At night, we read Le Le books (that E absolutely love!!) for leisure reading before bed for consolidation. More on this in the Approach to Teaching Chinese part below.]
Some fun things we did in our "Mommy's Spring Break Camp":
- Opened a Hong Kong Noodles and Congee Shop to revise characters like 「牛」in「牛丸」,「魚」and「河」in「魚蛋河」in the Meizhou Huayu lessons. The activity also made the words he learned meaningful in daily life!!
- Made Chinese rice bowls to go with our noodles shop (art and culture)
- Cooked egg fried rice following the Le Le book「蛋炒飯」we read! I put the Le Le book in front of him like a recipe, and pointed out the words that corresponds to the ingredients and steps he was working on. (We also baked cookies and other stuff following Le Le books! 😆)
- Drew from a pile of zodiac animal word cards, and acted out the gestures and sounds of the animal while learning the 12 zodiac animals (Meizhou Huayu Level 2 Lesson 8 Story)
- Opened a Hong Kong style Barber Shop where he designed and wrote his shop name, learned the word「髮」and things on the price list (art, culture, math)
- Made orange trees with oranges to learn numbers (Hey, it's the orange season!)
- Incorporated his kinder math – like “part-part-whole” – using Chinese numbers
- Used word cards to build silly sentences as a family activity
He opened a congee and noodle shop. Here's his stereotypical waiter get-up lol
Chinese Curriculum we used at first: Meizhou Huayu (Completely free and love!!!)
Chinese leveled readers we use: Le Le Chinese Reading System (Absolutely love and recommend!!! More details in the Approach to Teaching Chinese part below.)
BUT, it was draining for me to think up new games and ideas every day. Every morning before my son woke up, I would panic if I haven't found anything fun for him to do 😭😭😭
So I truly appreciated the very passionate mom bloggers who shared their fun and easy ideas for me to try and adapt when I was at a blank, like Chalk Academy (more games and Christian) and Fortune Cookie Mom (more Cantonese/Hong Kong specific)!! Pinterest was also my go-to!!
Suggestions on HOW TO START:
🖍 It is of paramount importance to make Chinese learning fun for kids at the beginning to get the ball rolling, so that they will love Chinese and appreciate the culture, rather than seeing Chinese-learning as a chore, a torture or another homework to finish in their little minds.
🖍 It is also very important to make learning meaningful FOR THEM, not for us. If they can find a good reason for themselves to learn the language, it'd be a lot more motivating to learn Chinese.
For my son, the reason for him to learn to read Chinese is to be able to understand the restaurant menu, because he doesn't want to not know what to order when he goes to Hong Kong!! 😄😄😄
It might not sound like a very important thing to us, but to my son, it was very important! So, try to find what motivates your child to learn Chinese!
🖍 Chinese learning has to be child-led as well! Anything that interests them can increase your progress by leaps and bounds!
🖍 Make connections from the Chinese characters he learned to real life! It'll make the characters stick and make things meaningful! Like we cooked egg fried rice as we read the Le Le book 蛋炒飯 mentioned above.
“...[I] felt a burning need to teach him how to read Chinese before the sensitive period for language closed (which according to Maria Montessori, is from birth to 6. And he just turned 6 at that time!)” —Peggy
What are your language goals?
To be honest, I didn't have a goal when I started. I just wanted him to know how to read some Chinese 😅 I didn't dare to dream too much and just let the journey lead us.
After he reached the ability to recognize 1000 characters in December 2020, I was really happy with our accomplishment, but still not sure what's next. Maybe 2000 characters in 2021? 😅 Should writing be our next goal?
From some Chinese groups I joined, a lot of parents push their kids to write, but I don't want to be influenced by other moms, so I just kept my own pace and continued whatever we have been doing.
Interestingly, Enoch took interest in writing Chinese himself some time in 2021 and I couldn't be happier!!
📖 Long term goal for me now, after reading this article written by the author of Le Le Readers Yao Ru (Chinese), is to help Enoch reach 2500 – 3000 characters before the age of 11 😄 I think it's a very doable goal!!!
📖 I would also like to keep the habit of reading Chinese daily with E until he's 12 (at least)!!
By the way, E's goal last year was to read my adult Chinese Bible 😊 There're many names in the Bible which make reading hard, but he can read a lot more after we went through Pokémon and The Romance of Three Kingdoms last year!
📖 I would also like him to be able to read Chinese Bible independently!
📖 Maybe able to write simple passages independently 😊 (He writes with the help of the Elementary Chinese Dictionary app now)
“...I don't want to be influenced by other moms, so I just kept my own pace and continued whatever we have been doing.” —Peggy
What is your approach to teaching Chinese?
Here are some thoughts about our learning journey 🤗🤗🤗 Definitely not all smooth... but it was a happy journey with other moms who are in this together 🥰🥰🥰💪💪💪
PART 1: LISTENING & SPEAKING
Since we speak ~99% Cantonese with Enoch at home since birth, his Cantonese listening comprehension and speaking ability is native. When we went back to Hong Kong, he blended in just fine ☺️
In my opinion, listening comprehension has to be established BEFORE learning to read. It would be much, much harder to explain the meaning of every Chinese word if the child didn't know the language at all.
After he entered kinder, when we noticed that he was speaking in English a lot more, we enforced "only Cantonese at home" 😅 It was truly scary to witness our mother-tongue being threatened after him merely spending two quarters in kinder!!!
Then the pandemic happened and we were able to speak ~99% Cantonese all day long again, which saved us big time!!!
From my experience (looking at my friends around whose ABC kids only speak English to them now), it is crucial to ONLY speak Cantonese consistently to your children, and not interpret/translate things to English for them.
If you're not a native Cantonese speaker (or second-generation Chinese/Jook Sing), watching Cantonese stories online, and playing Cantonese stories at home or on the go, can greatly improve their listening comprehension!
It is, however, quite hard to find quality Cantonese audio books for children 😢 I recommend Cantonese Mommy's Youtube channel, because her pronunciation is good, and children can understand what they hear with the help of pictures in the books!! 😊
PART 2: READING & WRITING
Enoch didn't start from zero, because I read both English and Chinese books to him since he was in my tummy 😊😊😊
We were very blessed to have friends who mailed us kindergarten textbooks and DVDs from Hong Kong. We bought some books when we traveled to Hong Kong as well.
All these early childhood books helped Enoch get acquainted with Chinese characters and learn about Hong Kong culture before I officially started teaching him read Chinese 😊😊😊
He probably recognized ~30 Chinese characters with my random teaching input in his preschool years.
When I finally put serious thought into teaching him how to read Chinese in 2020, he was already in kinder reading English books two grades ahead. So, it's never too late to start even if your child is older, or if your child's English reading level waaaay surpasses his non-existent Chinese reading level!! 💪💪💪
::: Our Approach to Learning Chinese Reading :::
📚 These are what worked for us (more details about each item further below):
- Of course Le Le Chinese Reading System 樂樂書!!!
- Meizhou Huayu 美洲華語
- LOTS of play and activities, especially at the very beginning to build interests!!
- Leitner Box
- Supplementary textbooks from Taiwan: Kang Xuan 康軒、Han Lin 翰林
- After Le Le (how I wish there were more levels in Le Le!), lots of picture books your child loves and on their level 😊
😛 Now the full elaborate rundown of our approach below:
📚 During the day, I use some kind of Chinese curriculum as the backbone to follow for what Chinese characters and grammar to learn 😊 I used lots of hands-on activities and games to start the ball rolling, and incorporated read-alouds as part of the Chinese learning routine.
Our Chinese learning time usually lasts about 30 minutes during afternoon snack time. Longer when there're games and activities. (I believe putting yummy snacks and learning Chinese together can make Chinese learning feel more relaxed and joyful! 😋)
📚 I use different curriculum during the day depending on 1) the time of the year, and 2) topics my son’s interested in.
I follow the textbooks very loosely — I pick the lesson text to read, and then mention the grammar in the text. For example, when it’s spring, I pick articles related to spring/plants/bugs to read (maybe across the 3 textbooks and across grades), and orally practice the grammar part. I tried to include games/activities 1-2 times a week when I had the time and energy to do so 😅
📚 At bedtime, he reads aloud Le Le books (or other Chinese books after we finish Le Le) as leisure reads for consolidation and extra word input, and to promote/sustain interest. I can’t thank Le Le books enough for making reading sooooo fun and not a chore to do!!! 🥰🥰🥰
📚 For the Red and Yellow Le Le sets, I let him pick books he wants to read, but also sneaked in books that have words we learned during the day in order to have more repetition without him knowing it.
When we reached the Green set, I picked 5 books for him to read each week, and changed out another 5 next week to make sure that he got the most out of all the books. He can freely pick any Le Le books he wants to read on top of those though!
📚 I stopped reading English stories to him. I read only Chinese stories before bed, because his English reading ability was high enough that I don't have to worry, and I want him to focus on Chinese reading.
👆 I point at the words when we read, and I ask him to do the same. I still point to the words when we read now! 😄
🐛 Fast forward 17 months, Enoch is able to read Chinese chapter books/bridge books independently and became a Chinese bookworm!!! 🥳🥳🥳
More on Chinese curricula/readers we use:
1. Meizhou Huayu 美洲華語 (Completely FREE and love!!)
The first curriculum we used 💕💕💕
We started from Level 2 because I like the illustrations and stories a lot more than level 1 😜 . I wasn't sure if we can just jump to level 2 but it turned out fine 😄
In each lesson, they have a passage 課文 and a story 故事 in the same theme, and they both come with an animated clip. Enoch loved watching the "cartoon" and reading the subtitles, i.e. the passage, which makes reading aloud more interesting.
The passage is supposed to be the reading material, but we also read the stories for more vocabulary and repetition!
I love Meizhou Huayu because the content is written for ABCs, so children can relate more to the stories about their daily lives in the US, like stories about the Thanksgiving Parade at Macy's, setting up a lemonade stand to save money, growing pumpkins, and going camping and fishing with family.
Textbooks from Taiwan can seem quite irrelevant to their lives at times; that's why I have to pick which ones to read.
I also love that the whole curriculum is extremely well thought out, as each grade includes some Chinese classics like Journey to the West, Chinese legends and folklores, history, and poems, which introduced us to the world of Chinese classics and culture!!
Enoch immediately fell in love with Journey to the West when it first appeared in Level 2. Each grade onward also included a story from Journey to the West, with gradual increase in difficulty. Moral values are emphasized throughout the stories too!!
2. Le Le Chinese Reading System 樂樂 (Absolutely love and recommend!!!!!!!)
When I first got the set, I really had no clue how to use the books 😝😅
With the help of the very passionate moms in the Le Le community on FB, I found that it's best to read the books in THEMES, because you get more repetition of the words that way. I think the themes make it very easy for me to pick books that relate to the textbook passages we read during the day for consolidation.
(Tip: There's a list of themes on the back of each Le Le book for easy navigation!)
📚 Both Enoch and I looooove Le Le books because these tiny books have very interesting stories, and always have a funny twist in the end! Enoch looked forward to reading his Le Le books every night!!! As an adult, I find them very fun and entertaining too (I think it’s very important for the parent’s psyche as well 😂)!!
📚 The themes and content are things children experience in their daily lives, so whatever you do during the day, you can almost always pair them with a Le Le book, e.g. egg-hunting, buying groceries, going to the zoo, celebrating Chinese festivals, etc.
📚 Le Le books inspired me to do many fun activities: cooking fried rice together, baking cookies, making origami crafts, trying Chinese ink painting, etc. The parents in the Le Le community shared a wealth of fun activities to pair with the Le Le books too, so I didn’t have to rack my brain to think up activities!!! 🥳🥳🥳
Enoch loved acting out the scenes in the books when he read them at night! I also often turn the Lego builds E made into Chinese learning moments because of the diverse content in Le Le books!!
📚 I also love that the books are very educational, like introducing penguins around the world, metamorphosis of butterflies, and how to eat Peking Ducks! The books promote great moral values too, like sibling love, helping out, and encouraging kids to persevere and not give up!
📚 I think the short-story format in Le Le books makes it very easy for kids to finish a book and feel accomplished! Finishing 10 books in a row feels great and it boosts confidence! 😄 (Easy to hold in their tiny hands too! 🖐)
📚 After you finish Le Le (or other leveled readers), you might feel lost and not sure what to do next. I thought bridge books was the answer, but E was not interested in them AT ALL 😅😅😅
Another problem was that it got harder to learn new Chinese characters fast after reaching 1200+, because the characters get more difficult and they're less frequent than before.
It was harder to find books with similar words for repetition, and the repetition from them was not as frequent/as good as Le Le 😭.
I also don’t have the time and energy to do that too (lose track which characters he learned) 😅😅😅
✨ What worked for us ✨
I kept buying books every month and checked HyRead a lot (ebooks from Hong Kong Public Library) to find what interests E most and let him read lots of the books he loves, including picture books and comics!!
Getting him hooked was the key!!!
I prefer buying physical books because it's better for the eyes, and we can take them everywhere!!! We bring Chinese books to read on our vacations too! Little Kozzi has a great selection of books to choose from!! 😄
You may find buying Chinese books super duper expensive, and you absolutely don't want to do that, but think of it this way: Any extra-curricular activity like playing the piano or sports would cost you at least $100+/month too!!! That's how I justify my book-buying budget!! 😄😄😄 Plus this “extra-curricular activity” will mean sooooo much to you, your family and your child's heritage!!! It will be sooooo worth it!
📚 Since Le Le Books help children learn 1000 Chinese characters, a lot of the Sage 500 parents I know jump to Le Le after Sage (all the moms in my Le Le reading group did Sage before)!! 😄 But for us, only Le Le alone was enough! 💕
✨ For discount code for Le Le Books, please go to my blog 😊
✨ Le Le Learning Group on FB [You can join even if you didn't buy the books for all the wonderful Chinese learning ideas and resources!!!!]
📚 Leitner Box system:
We also discovered the Leitner Box system from the Le Le group moms, and started using the system in June 2020 to make sure that the words Enoch learned are better retained.
We did it for about 6 months until he reached more than 1200 characters, and we kind of phased it out with busier schedules and a lack of goal in mind during the second year 😅
We took the advice from Irene Chang (Le Le group leader) to just do extensive reading, and trust in children’s ability to absorb new words while they read 😄 That’s what we’ve been doing for the second year!
Although I no longer count how many Chinese characters E recognizes, I noticed that he continually reads harder and harder books with ease. I think he’s probably around 4th grade level in Taiwan right now, because I just started having him read Han Lin textbook passages again last month and he did well! 😭🥰😍
3. Kang Xuan 康軒 (Taiwan textbook, Chinese website interface)
This is the second curriculum we tried.
We skipped their Zhuyin phonics lessons in Elementary 1A, and used Elementary 1B (一下) two months after we started learning Chinese. We used both Chinese and Math for more vocabulary input and reading practice. Their illustrations are beautiful and stories are cute!!
I especially love using their math to sneak in Chinese reading. I just presented it as math practice, and E learned a lot of Chinese characters there!! 😆😆😆 It's also a very practical way to learn Chinese!
Unfortunately, the online access closed after the summer of 2020 and is only available for teachers now, but you can buy their textbooks through different places.
Kang Xuan also offered partial access due to the pandemic this year, so you can get a taste of what it offers
4. Han Lin 翰林 (Taiwan textbook, completely FREE!!!! Chinese website interface)
This is very similar to Kang Xuan 康軒, but I think it is more difficult than Kang Xuan (for the Elementary 1 I tried), so we didn't use it that often at first.
However, as access to the Kang Xuan textbook content ended, we went back to Han Lin for more reading practice. I picked the ones that are easier for Elementary 1. I also use their math and Kang Xuan math interchangeably.
Since their year 109 curriculum rolled out, I actually love their content and illustrations more than Kang Xuan's for second grade!! (Taiwan textbooks update each year, and the quality can vary tremendously if you choose different academic years! I recommend Year 109 and 110 Chinese for Grade 1 – 3)
You’ll have to register for a free account to login. For parents who can't read Chinese, I plan to create a how-to post on registering for a free account in my Squeaky Dumplings blog later! So stay-tuned!!! 💕
5. 生活學中文 Living Chinese (Completely FREE and in Cantonese!!!! With English interface and translation!)
I created a detailed post about Living Chinese here.
I started teaching E how to read Chinese after he’s 6y1m.
At first, I didn’t know better and tried to teach him the way I was taught in school — reading text and writing some characters, and he was bored to death for the first few days. I quickly switched my strategy to learn through play and hands-on stuff.
Because of that, I didn’t give him anything formal to write, except perhaps using water to write on the chalkboard when we learned 雨, and a bit of chalk writing when he initiated it.
That was the first few months. I didn’t want to kill his interest in Chinese so I didn’t force it.
Sometimes when I see people post about their child writing, I would have the urge to follow them too. I would try letting him write, but my son continued to find traditional handwriting practice a real drag.
He however loves to trace the characters on the 康軒 e-learning website!!! He would happily trace all the characters in the lesson passage 課文, and felt accomplished after tracing all, and turning them into a different color!!
I used that opportunity to teach him stroke orders, and the structure of characters (like "left and right", "top and bottom", etc.) We did this for a few weeks or a month, and stopped after 康軒 stopped sharing their e-learning platform.
After that, my strategy is to make the writing "meaningful" to him. For example, when he opened a shop in pretend play, I’ll let him write out all the items he sold, etc. His handwriting in English from school helped him too, because he became more used to writing things in general (he had to write journal at school every day).
In other words, we had done minimal writing up til then. I continue to tell myself not to force and push despite what other parents were doing. And suddenly, a year after we started Chinese reading, he started to show interest in writing!!!
When we used a Leitner box, I "involved" our Lego family to join us, and my son wrote many new characters on the back of my cards to teach and test his Lego people!!! He said he looooved writing so much that he kept writing and didn’t sleep till 1 am!!🤣 Since he’s so excited, I didn’t stop him and let him wrote to his heart's content 😛
Once in a while, I’d involve him to write for our needs, like writing down our camping list and schedule (I started writing some in Chinese first), and writing our back-to-school shopping list.
Since he loves 小妖怪 a lot, we designed monster cards together and he wrote A LOT without noticing!!!
And his love of texting helped him too!! 🤣🤣🤣 Since grandpa texts in Chinese, I let him text with grandpa and my friends in Chinese, with the help of the speech-to-text function. I also utilized his love of texting and created a "never-ending scrolling phone" for him to text me and he loooooves it!!! He also writes letters to his friend who’s not in our state 😛
In short, involve writing that your child finds meaningful is the way to go!!!
As we enter our third year learning Chinese, I still don’t force him to write and he would just trace the characters when we use Living Chinese.
With the tracing practice, and the knowledge of stroke order and structure laid in the past, he gets the stroke order correct most of the time without looking at the numbers on the characters! So tracing works!!
I also think that as he gets older, he feels more comfortable practicing handwriting than before, so I just started letting him write 2 characters a day and see how it goes! Fingers crossed that we can keep this going!!
So my suggestion for when to start writing is, when your child’s hands are ready for writing, and when s/he is willing to write!
“When I finally put serious thought into teaching him how to read Chinese in 2020, he was already in kinder reading English books two grades ahead. So, it's never too late to start even if your child is older, or if your child's English reading level waaaay surpasses his non-existent Chinese reading level!” —Peggy
What is the most difficult thing about raising bilingual kids?
⏰ Time is not on our side!!!
For us, it's especially hard to keep the Chinese reading routine after in-person full day school started again.
As I also work at night sometimes, time we can spend together is so scarce, not to mention the difficulty in continuing to read Chinese when he already has to practice the piano every day 🤪
When he first went back to school, he was very tired every day, and he didn't want to read much after school (we usually read Chinese during afternoon snack time). So, instead of letting him just read textbook passages, I played card games and board games with him, like the Tokyo Olympics UNO card game I created, Pokemon Quest in Chinese, Pokemon family card game in Chinese, and we created a Three Kingdoms board game ourselves to play (and we bought one from Taiwan to play too)!
Alternatively, I would let him read whatever storybooks he likes so that he won't feel too tired, or lose interest. We stopped reading textbook passages for over half a year, and finally just got back to reading some again last month.
I think following a curriculum once in a while helps me gauge what level he's at, and curriculum texts can introduce vocabulary that he might not otherwise read from the books he loves :)
So, no matter how busy our life is (especially for working moms!), MAKE TIME and make it a priority to read after school, and squeeze a bit of time before bed to read. Be it just 5 minutes of reading the easiest books! Developing a HABIT OF DAILY READING is key!
[The Le Le Reading Community on Facebook holds 14-day reading challenges frequently, and with prizes, to encourage families build this crucial reading habit!! The group leader Irene also created another Chinese reading group (not only for Le Le books) to promote Chinese reading among overseas families as well, and we just finished a 100-day reading challenge recently!! Seeing other parents and kids reading daily encourages everyone to do the same, and I encourage you to do so too! 😊😊😊]
“...no matter how busy our life is (especially for working moms!), MAKE TIME and make it a priority to read after school, and squeeze a bit of time before bed to read. Be it just 5 minutes of reading the easiest books! Developing a HABIT OF DAILY READING is key!” —Peggy
What is the most rewarding thing about raising bilingual kids?
💖 My son can communicate with us in my mother tongue — Cantonese!! 🥳🥳🥳
Although my English is pretty good, it's still my second language. There're so many things like exclamations, idioms, colloquial expressions and all kinds of nuances that can only be expressed in Cantonese!!!
I'm truly thankful that we don't have any barriers in expressing our true feelings!!
Plus, he can communicate with grandparents, relatives, and friends, and whoever speaks Cantonese wherever we go!
💖 He appreciates and loves our culture even more after I started teaching him how to read, because there's no way you can separate a language from its culture!
He feels proud of and embraces his Chinese identity!
He shares what he reads in school (The Romance of the Three Kingdoms 🤪) and teaches his classmates how to write Chinese characters!!
💖 He loves watching/listening to news in Hong Kong, and I feel like being bilingual opened a door of knowledge and treasure for him!!
Especially after COVID, I found that knowing other languages enabled me to learn things outside mainstream media in the US, which was extremely helpful in learning how to protect ourselves and others early on.
Any advice for parents who are waffling about whether to start?
🏖 Summer break is coming, and I think there's no better time to start than during breaks!!! 😄
This is especially true for kids who started going to preschool/kinder/elementary school — starting your Chinese reading journey during breaks would make your life a lot easier: there's no daily of drop-off/pick-up commute time; there's more flexibility during the day, and there's less pressure and fatigue from school!!! 👍 Kids can get excited about your Chinese break camp too!!!
📚 I can't recommend Le Le Chinese Reading System enough!! Buy this and your Chinese teaching life will become much, much easier, smoother, and a whole lot more enjoyable!!! 😄😄😄 (If I had another kid, I would buy the set much, much earlier!!!)
I think for a child to love learning Chinese, it is so important that the child loves what they read!! The Le Le set is very fun (even for me) and my son loved reading the books daily (he would excitedly pick the books to read himself too).
👩 Connect with other moms/ parents!!
Your Chinese teaching journey will not be alone, and your child will have reading buddies to practice with!!
We see huge improvements in all the kids!!!
After we finished Le Le, we continued to meet and read other books. We built friendships and shared our lives along the way, and it'll be the second anniversary of our Le Le group this July!! 🥳🥳🥳
I hope that we can keep reading together until they're teenagers!!
Where to start finding other dedicated parents?
The Le Le Reading Community would be a great place to start (you don't have to buy Le Le to join, and there are many great learning ideas and resources in the group).
👦💖 Reading tons of books YOUR CHILD LOVES is the way to get better in Chinese FAST!! Buying tons of books that YOU love however, might not help much!
So I just keep buying books every month to find books that E likes 😛Surrounding him with books plus strategic book display like this.
After a while, I saw him consistently picking up Chinese books to read by himself (instead of English), and raised a Chinese bookworm!!! 🥳🥳🥳🥳🥳You can do it too!!!
✏️ Reading and writing Chinese have to be separated!!! Don't use writing as a means to teach reading!! Kids will be bored to death!!!
You can also "test the waters" with your child and see which kind of books s/he loves here before buying the physical books!!
🥟 Check out our learning pages for more Chinese learning ideas and resources!! 😄😄😄
“Reading and writing Chinese have to be separated!!! Don't use writing as a means to teach reading!! Kids will be bored to death!!!” —Peggy
What is on your wishlist?
Le Le Books in other advanced levels after the Green set!!
I wished (still wish) we can have such a large amount of books in at least one to two more levels after Green (maybe help recognize up to 2000 characters) :D
That would have saved parents so much time (sweat and blood) hunting for a large amount of interesting books at the right level!!
Any funny stories can share?
Because it's so rare to hear anyone speaking Cantonese when we go out, whenever we heard one outside, E would get super excited and want to make friends with them!!! 😆😆😆
That was how we met Cantonese Mommy and her son in the zoo!!
We also met an old gentleman traveled from San Francisco in another zoo once, and E treated him like his own grandpa, chatting blissfully after we met, and waving at him whenever we saw him around in the zoo!!! 😂😂😂
The power of speaking your mother tongue!!!
What are your favourite books?
Oh!!! So many!!!
I'll just list a few that Enoch absolutely loves here!
Most recent fave: 汪喵偵探系列 Detective Woof & Meow series
The story plot is more sophisticated with a twist (not a kiddie plot), which I think is what got Enoch engaged, since he enjoys more complicated storylines like The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
The vocabulary inside can be hard, but because of the very cute and funny cat and dog characters with pictures and an occasional comic page, E loooooves reading them and learned a lot of higher level words, and would even read the stories to me at bedtime (so that I'll know how fun the books are too)!!!
野貓軍團系列 Wild Cats Crew series: This was the first Chinese book that Enoch loooooves so much that he would read by himself and volunteered to read to everyone in our Le Le Reading Group!! 😆😆😆
小企鵝歡樂旅程系列 Little Penguins' Fun Journeys series: E also loved reading this to his friends!!!
Anything else you'd like to add?
Add oil!!!! You can do it!!!! 💪💪💪
A QUICK RECAP...
Chinese Leveled Readers We Use:
Le Le Chinese Reading System (Absolutely love and highly recommend!!!!!!!)
The Le Le Chinese FB Learning Group (You can join even if you didn't buy the books!)
Chinese Curricula We Use:
- Meizhou Huayu 美洲華語 (Free textbook!!)
- Han Lin 翰林 (Free textbook!!)
- Living Chinese 生活學中文 (Free app!!!):
- Kang Xuan 康軒 (Partial free access)
Thank you, Peggy!
If you're interested in other multilingual parenting journeys, check out our previous parent spotlights: