We finished Sagebooks, now what?
Who else felt lost after Sagebooks? 🙋🏻♀️
There's a lot of focus on *character recognition* in early Chinese literacy
Totally understandable given Chinese isn't phonetic, so can't sound out unfamiliar words. You just gotta... know it lol
It also doesn't help that ppl measure "fluency" by # of characters ("must know 2k+ to be considered literate!") which leads us to think knowing LOTS of characters is the *prerequisite* to independent reading.
Recently, families have mentioned that finishing Sagebooks felt a little like "falling off a cliff". They're done the books. They know 500 characters. But we're not independently reading yet!
Maybe we just need to know MOAR characters. What if we knew 1000? 1500? When can my child read on their own?
Here's the thing.
The best way to get better at something... is to DO the thing.
The best way to help a child get better at independent reading, is to—wait for it—give them lots of opportunities to independently read!
And... independent reading skills != just character recognition (what Sage is great at teaching)
Yes, it requires some character recognition, but it ALSO needs:
- the skills to handle/decipher unfamiliar characters
- the stamina to read a book cover-to-cover
- the comprehension skills to see a story as a whole rather than just a sentence in front of them
- the habit/discipline to read on their own regularly
And one can independently read with surprisingly FEW characters
If there's one thing I might've done differently with my 4yo, I would've probably started consistently using Greenfield/Lele 8-page booklets earlier (like shortly after finishing level 2 Sage)
In English, we don't make kids know 500 words first and then throw full-length picture books at them to read on their own. Rather, we start with simple readers with very, very simple content.
We can use similar strategies in Chinese. Practice independent reading by having kids read books, *full* books (however simple the content) on their own.
(before you @ me, I know it's not a perfect analogy given English has phonics as a very powerful tool, but you get the idea)
Character recognition is just the *means*, not the goal.
*Independent reading* is the goal. Let's not lose sight of that ❤️
When I was processing these thoughts in my head, I was reminded of a viral infographic I saw in my previous life in tech. While they used it within a different context, it captured how I feel about early reading really well, so I adapted it to the context of early Chinese literacy below 🤪
Illustration credit: Henrik Kniberg from Crisp Consulting