Chinese Resources, Learning to Read, Si Wu Kuai Du 四五快读

四五快读 Si Wu Kuai Du: A Review

As you probably already know, I am a big fan of 四五快读. Out of all the Chinese materials I have, I would undoubtedly say this is the best one for boosting his language and literacy skills. Nothing else even comes close.

Anyway, momentous occasion today. We finished all 8 books! YAAAYYYYY!!!!!! 😊😊

Here’s a general overview of our experience.

Stats

Background: My son grew up in a 100% monolingual American English environment for his first 4.5 years. When we started 四五快读 he barely knew any Chinese and I taught him both the character and meaning at the same time, e.g. “This is 天. It means sky.” When we started Book 1, he didn’t even know what 火, 木, 云 meant!

Time: We started when he was 4 years 10 months old and completed at 5 years 7 months old. It took a total of nine months diligently working on it every day for about 15 mins.

As the name of the series suggests, it is designed for 4-5 year olds. Of course it could be used for younger/older children too, but younger children may not have the attention span and older children might find the animal stories kinda lame.

Cost: I bought the set of 8 books from Taobao for around $25 USD

Outcome: He can now read around 700-800 characters (equivalent to P1-P2 level in Singapore), short stories and simple storybooks. Technically the series covers a total of 825 characters but he has forgotten some of them. Most importantly, he has gone from rejecting and avoiding Chinese to really liking Chinese. Every now and then he will read Chinese books by himself without me even asking!

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Comprehensive program – everything is pre-planned for you and flash cards are included
  • Can be used with a child who doesn’t know much Chinese (as long as there’s an adult who is fluent)
  • Builds up a child’s confidence from reading simple sentences with lots of pictures to longer stories with hardly any pictures. THIS IS THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS PROGRAM! It trains kids to not be afraid of long pages of text.
  • No pinyin (I guess some people wouldn’t see this as a pro but I do!)
  • According to the author, child should be able to read about 80% of the words in children’s books after completing this series. I would say this is pretty accurate.

Cons

  • A few typos in every book
  • Printing error!! My Book 5 had like 20 misprinted pages OMG!!!!!!! 🤦‍♀️

I won’t say that my son loves 四五快读 because that would be a lie. There were complaints and whining initially but got used to 四五 as part of his daily routine and didn’t mind it. He is very proud of what he has accomplished and has even brought 四五 to his preschool for Show & Tell!

Some readers mentioned to me that they bought the series but find it so intimidating. I freaked out too and thought there’s no way my kid could learn all that. Here’s a tip: only look at the book you’re on and don’t look ahead. Focus on taking baby steps every day.

Progression from Book 1 to Book 8:

First week (Aug 2017):

Beginning of Book 1 (Aug 2017):

End of Book 1 (Sep 2017):

Book 2 (Oct 2017):

Book 3 (Nov 2017):

Book 5 (Jan 2018):

Book 8 (Apr 2018):

Leisure Reading

During the course of the last few months, I massively acquired Chinese storybooks and read to him as often as I could. We started with 1-2 picture books a day to now at least one hour of Chinese books a day. ME reading, not him, because he needs to hear what it’s supposed to sound like.

The impact of this on his language development was HUGE. His Chinese vocabulary and grammar exploded and he became able to read with increased speed and fluency. You will notice in the videos that somewhere along Book 3, he stopped reading character by character (e.g. 为,什,么) and started recognizing chunks (为什么) because of his increased Chinese ability.

Side Note

Because I did not expose my son to Chinese until 4.5 years old, he has substantial difficulty with pronunciation of tones. I did not take this seriously at first because I thought he would figure it out with time. Well, turns out we got until Book 8 and he STILL did not figure it out by himself and basically sounded horrendous since the stories were now very long. The longer the sentence, the more inaccurate his tones were.

Around the middle of Book 8, I started aggressively correcting his tones using the following strategies:

  1. Correcting him every single time he makes a mistake
  2. Listening to lots of CDs/MP3s of native speakers
  3. Improving my own pronunciation. I’m usually kinda lazy and mumble a lot but I make a conscious effort to pronounce as clearly as I can.
  4. Having him repeat after me, bit by bit. At first he could only imitate 2-3 characters with the correct tones, but he slowly became able to imitate 4-5 characters then longer sentences accurately.
  5. Taking a step backwards and reading EASY books. We practiced My First Chinese Words readers which has one repetitive line per book.
  6. Used the tone marks in pinyin to visualize it (I feel he is a better visual learner than auditory)

After several weeks of my intensive boot camp, he became a lot more aware of tones and got better at certain combinations which are hard for him (e.g. a lot of fourth tones in a row). Overall I would say he has improved markedly because I only have to correct him about 5 times per story now instead of 5 times per sentence!

This is a video of how he sounds now (May 2018). He is REALLY trying to say them right:

Of course, my other job now is correcting his lisp for /s/, /sh/ and making the /r/ sound. Good thing I’m a speech pathologist? *facepalm*

Conclusion

I know we still have a long way to go for language, reading and pronunciation, but I think his progress from the first video until now is very evident. 🙂 For those of you just starting this journey, 加油! Persevere and you will see the fruits of your labor very soon.💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻

Read other blog posts about 四五快读:

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Preschool Reads

Chinese Superhero Books for Kids

For many of us, Chinese is our kids’ minority language and often weaker and non-preferred. Hence it is important to find books that are highly captivating. All the books I buy are specific for my son’s age, level, interests and tastes. He loves superheroes and adventure and all that is 打打杀杀.

I follow this tip from Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: increase the number of Chinese books and simultaneously decrease the number of English books. I’ve cut back on buying English books/materials and we don’t go to the library as often as we used to. This has worked extremely well and my son now often picks up Chinese books to read or thumb through.

Back to what this post is about… I think I have all the superhero books on the Simplified Chinese market. 😝

I listed the books below in order of language difficulty from easiest to hardest — the first four on the list are picture books and the last three are bridge books (difference explained here).

1. 超人兔 Super Bunny series

These stories are short and hilarious and perfect for beginners. My favorite part is the BIG FONT which makes it great for joint reading. I usually read most of the story and have my son read the big words, which are all easy characters. Be forewarned that it has inappropriate language like “臭㞎㞎” (stinky poop) which made my son laugh and laugh and laugh.

2. 青椒小超人 Green Pepper series

I love love love this Japanese-translated series. The illustrations are soooo cute and the stories are all healthy and teach nice morals like eat more vegetables to defeat germs, exercise every day, don’t trust strangers, etc. They are paperbacks but the quality is excellent.

3. 神奇侠 Magical Bandit series

This series is by the famous Japanese author 宫西达也 who has a very distinctive drawing style. These two are quick, easy, and funny reads and my son enjoys the humor. It’s about kids who complain about their boring toothpaste. The magical bandit invents magical toothpaste which turns them into giant food heads. The kids realize their regular toothpaste is pretty awesome and stop whining about brushing their teeth. Ha!

4. 正义联盟故事 DC Superheroes 5-Minute Stories

This book is just okay. The binding is poor and the pages are falling out even though we didn’t even read it that much. The best thing about this book is I learned a lot of my son’s favorite DC superhero names in Chinese and it has pinyin. Don’t buy this unless you have a huge DC fan.

4. 我们的校长是超人 Captain Underpants series

This is my son’s favorite series in English and we love it in Chinese too. The translation is very good and I often burst out laughing. 😆 The best thing about this series is the pages correspond exactly to the English version so it’s easy for him to understand since he’s read it in English a million times.

Although these are chapter books, I find them fairly easy to read (as an adult with okay Chinese skills), with only 5-10 characters per book that I don’t know. The chapters are short so it’s easy to read 3-5 chapters in one sitting. Highly recommend for Captain Underpants fans.

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5. 屁屁超人 Fart Boy series

I have three of these Fart Boy books as part of 阅读123, Set 1. Each book has three short stories. This series is from Taiwan and the language and storyline has a distinctive Asian flavor (e.g. the principal pulling the boy’s ear). It is harder for my son to understand but I do really like this exposure to Taiwan-Mandarin vocabulary and culture.

When we first read this two months ago, my son did not like it because he couldn’t comprehend it. We recently tried it again and he enjoyed it and requested it a few times. So even if your child rejects a book now, don’t give up! Give it a few months and try again.

6. 怪杰佐罗力 Zorori series

I’ve never heard of Zorori before but apparently it is crazy popular among elementary students in Japan (where it’s from) and Taiwan. I find it rather challenging to read because of the up-down print which I’m not used to. The book is also rather long — it is one whole long story without being divided into chapters. Right now this series is sitting on the shelf until we finish Fart Boy and Captain Underpants.

Where To Buy: All of the above books were purchased from Taobao which ships to many countries including the USA. If you copy and paste the titles into the TB search bar you should be able to find them. For details on how to order from TB, refer to my updated TB shopping guide here.

{If you know of other good superhero books, let me know! Follow me on Facebook and Instagram to stay updated on my blog posts.}

Home Library, Preschool Reads

Chinese Home Library: 4 Different Types of Chinese Books

Did you know there are many different types of Chinese books? I sure didn’t! Ten months and thousands of dollars 🤑 later, I am now much savvier.

Here is a brief overview of the different types of books for preschool to early elementary. I am referring to Simplified Chinese books because that’s what I use. The following information may or may not apply to Traditional Chinese books, which differ in many ways.

1. Picture Books (绘本)

These books are designed for parents to read to their children (亲子阅读). Picture books are large and have colorful pictures on every page accompanied by a few lines of text. The print tend to be small and without pinyin because it’s assumed that it will be read by adults.

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{See my list of 10 Best Picture Books for Preschoolers}

Why you need these:

These books have rich storylines, beautiful illustrations, and are great for parent-child bonding when you read together and discuss the pictures. They expose your child to higher-level vocabulary, idioms and content.

2. Readers

These books are designed for children to read to themselves. The font is usually large and they use easy basic characters like the most common 500 characters. The stories tend to be simple and rather lame, because really, you can’t write much exciting stuff using only 500 characters.

You can tell a book is a reader if it includes flash cards or tells you it has X number of characters on the cover. They are also usually called 我会读,我会自己读, or something along those lines. Most readers tend to be small, thin paperbacks because they are for little hands to hold.

Why you need these:

These easy readers serve the primary purpose of helping children increase sight word recognition, and build confidence and fluency/speed. They teach a few new words per story with lots of repetition so kids remember the new words.

Don’t spend too much of your time reading these to your kids. Compare a sentence in a reader “乖乖兔也生气了” (Good Bunny is also angry) to a sentence from a picture book “找到球了,入室盗窃案好像也一起侦破了” (After we find the ball, the burglary case will likely be solved as well). Which one has advanced vocabulary and sentence structure that you want your kids to learn? The answer should be obvious.

3. Bridge Books (桥梁书)

I consider these simple chapter books because they are wordier with fewer pictures. These books are designed for children to read to themselves to practice reading so they can eventually read chapter books without any pictures. There are bridge books both with and without pinyin, and they vary in length and difficulty.

The size of these books tend to be around the size of novels:

Why you need these:

Although these are designed for children to read to themselves, I do read them to my son occasionally to train his comprehension to have less reliance on pictures. I also want to familiarize him with the story so it’ll be easier for him to read them in the future.

The guideline I follow (from the acclaimed The Read Aloud Handbook) is to read to your child at two years higher than his current level. Since my son’s Chinese level is at about 4 years old, I try to read aloud to him books suitable for 6 years old. In English, I read to him chapter books that are for 2nd-4th grade.

Eventually the goal is for him to be able to read these bridge books to himself.

4. Books with Pinyin

All books with pinyin are basically written for kids to independently read to themselves. The books from China do not come with pinyin after around 2nd grade.

Why you need this:

Books with pinyin are an important step to independent reading. Since most preschool-early elementary kids only know several hundred characters, a far cry from the 3000 characters you need to know to read fluently, they need pinyin to read more interesting and advanced books. Kids in China read books with pinyin until they know several thousand characters in 2nd grade, at which point they transition to reading books without pinyin.

In summary…

If you’re wondering which of the four types of Chinese books you need, the answer is YOU NEED THEM ALL. As stated above, they serve different but equally important functions. Make sure you have a good selection of all four types.

As a general rule of thumb, spend more of your time reading advanced stuff to your kid and let your kid read the easy readers/pinyin stuff to himself. This is true for any language.

The other thing to keep in mind is that each of these types of books range in difficulty. Picture books range from extremely easy to extremely hard. Same for bridge books and pinyin books.

Don’t be discouraged even if you have an older child who barely understands Chinese. Ten months ago, my son didn’t know a single word of Chinese and now he is able to understand some bridge books like 屁屁超人. The way to rapidly increase comprehension is start with really easy books like 鼠小弟 Little Mouse series and to keep reading slightly harder books every day. I also do repeated reading with him, e.g. the first time we read it I might translate portions into English. Then second and third time we read it, I translate less and less until he can completely understand Chinese.

My home library has changed A LOT since I started building it about eight months back. I’ve put away some books that are too hard, and ordered more easier pinyin books for my son to read to himself since he’s been wanting to do that lately. We have about 500 books in his bedroom of varying type, level, and topic.

Questions? Comments? You can message me on Facebook or Instagram.

Preschool Reads

Preschool Reads:《植物大战僵尸》Plants vs. Zombies Picture Books

He first played PvZ during our long flight ✈️ from USA-Singapore last August and he’s been completely hooked since.

In Singapore, we bought a few PvZ books from Popular Bookstore like these two comic books:

Little Man is very interested in these comics however they are not appropriate for preschoolers. The print is sooo tiny that even I have hard time reading it. In addition, even when I read them to him, he doesn’t understand the jokes because they are all “冷笑話” (Chinese word plays or puns) more suited for older children.

This series of picture books shown below is much better for beginners in terms of large and clear font and pinyin, full color pictures on every page, and content that is fairly easy to understand.

Each book contains 8 short stories of about five pages each. Sample story shown here:



Each story tells a simple moral, usually along the lines of don’t tease others, exercise every day, don’t yaya papaya 😉…

Little Man really really enjoys this series of books. He enjoys looking at the pictures and even brought them to the bathroom to read while on the potty! 🚽

He also likes to use tracing paper to trace the illustrations. As you can see, he even traced the words and pinyin:

Lately, he has even started reading the stories himself. I think the short length of the stories really helps. He gets discouraged reading the other pinyin books we have because they are too long and/or advanced.

I suggest reading to your child a few times to familiarize with the plant and zombie vocabulary. The vocabulary repeats itself quite frequently so after a while your child may feel confident to attempt reading to himself.

For some extra fun, you can get PvZ 3D puzzles and toy figurines for pretend play:

Where to Buy:

Picture Books:

From Popular Bookstore (Singapore/Malaysia) or Taobao link

3D Puzzles:

Taobao link

PvZ Toys:

I bought mine on Amazon because I needed them delivered in time for his birthday

I usually buy from Taobao myself since it saves a heck ton of $$ but if you don’t feel comfortable doing that there are many agents you can use such as Taobaoring, Bhiner, Yoybuy etc.

Follow our Chinese learning journey on Facebook or Instagram!

English Reading

Parent Guide to Teaching English Phonics

Teaching a child to read does not have to be a painful, difficult, expensive, or time-consuming process. If you know me then you know I like to do things FAST and only spend money when I have to. Like seriously why pay hundreds or thousands when you can do it for (almost) free. I routinely receive catalogs at work for reading programs that cost thousands of dollars, which is utterly ridiculous.

This post is a prequel to my post English Reading: Road to Fluency. Sorry for posting them backwards. These phonics (or phonological awareness) skills can be introduced from a young age, around 1.5 years old.

A few things to note:

  • Follow your child’s pace. Step 1 took us several months to master, but Step 4 a single day!
  • Make use of down time, such as car rides, bath time, waiting time, etc. to review these skills. Most of these don’t require any materials and can be done anytime, anywhere. 🙂
  • Five minutes of practice 3-5x a week is far better than drilling for an hour 1x a week.
  • Steps 1-5 are commonly referred to as phonics or phonological awareness. These skills will not only help your child read English but are also transferable to reading pinyin, zhuyin and indeed any phonetic language.

The best age to start teaching is highly subjective – I will leave it to your parental judgment! I introduced the first few steps to my son when he was around 1.5-2.5 y.o. The concept of rhyming did not “click” with him until 3 y.o.

Step 1. Teach the letter names. Use refrigerator magnets or alphabet puzzles or flash cards and present 1-2 uppercase letters at a time. If your child is older, you can teach 4 or more letters at a time. Point them out in different places such as books, toys, and road signs, and repeat them over and over until your child remembers them. Gradually add a few more until the whole alphabet is learned. Repeat with lowercase letters.

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Alphabet Puzzle

Step 2. Teach the letter sounds. The easiest way to do this is to buy this Leapfrog: Letter Factory DVD for $7 at Amazon/Target, or watch it for free on Netflix. Sing the songs e.g. “M says mmm, M says mmm, every letter makes a sound, M says mmm” on repeat and be silly and dramatic when you do the actions. Since letter sounds are inherent in the letter names, it should not present much difficulty for the child to learn them.

leapfrog.jpg

The most important thing to note is to pronounce the sounds correctly! Many people make the mistake of saying B makes the “bah” sound. I have even seen YouTube videos of this! (Also note that pinyin/zhuyin is NOT pronounced bo po mo fo!) This is absolutely incorrect and will make your child unable to blend sounds later.

Step 3. Identify the first sound in words. Teach your child to listen for the first sound (not letter) in a given word. Use an exaggerated voice by really strreetching out or emphasizing the first sound to make it more obvious to the child. “What sound does dog start with? /d/, /d/, dog!”, “What sound does snake start with? /ssssss/, snake! Snake starts with the /s/ sound.” Do this with your child’s favorite toys and people’s names to increase interest and motivation

Step 4. Blending words and syllables. Play a guessing game with your child by saying “Did you know that you can join 2 words together to make a longer word? Hot and dog make… hotdog! Butter and fly make… butterfly!” You can use a printable to make it more visual, but I prefer to just do it verbally. Not only does it save you time and paper, but more importantly it trains your child’s ears 👂 to listen carefully and develop keen sound awareness.

After your child is able to blend compound words, the next task is to blend syllables, starting with 2-syllable words. Choose motivating words such as family members’ names or your child’s favorite characters, e.g. “Guess what this word is… Mic… KeyMic and key make… Mickey!”. Repeat this with 3-syllable words. “Guess this word… Trans… for… mer. That’s right, Transformer!

Step 5. Rhyming. Read lots of nursery rhymes and books such as The Cat in the Hat. Young kids love Dr. Seuss and they are a great way to introduce some rhyming fun! Point out the rhyming words e.g. “Cat… hat. That rhymes! They both end with at.” My favorite Dr. Seuss book to teach rhyming is There’s a Wocket in my Pocket. After reading the book a few times and the child is familiar with it, leave out the last word and let the child fill-in-the-blank. “There’s a Zlock behind the… (Clock). That’s right, Zlock rhymes with clock!”

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Source: Pre-K Pages

Make up silly rhymes for everything. Your child’s name, your dog’s name, the teddy bear… Teddy Meddy Weddy Zeddy. The sillier the better. 😉 Also point out non-examples “Cat… hat… mat… jump. Wait a minute, jump doesn’t rhyme. It doesn’t sound the same at the end.”

After Steps 1-5, give your child and yourself a big thumbs up 👍 for completing all the necessary pre-literacy skills. Now you’re ready for the serious stuff.

Step 6. Reading lessons. Head over to Amazon and purchase the book The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Lessons. You can also download the first two lessons for free on the authors’ website. It is parent-friendly, child-friendly, extremely affordable at around $20 (price fluctuates a bit), and really well designed.

The authors recommend doing one page a day for kids age 5 and under, but being a little impatient and a tad bit overzealous, I chose to cover two pages a day. At that rate we finished the book in four months. That’s right, from reading ZERO words to reading 1st grade level in four months!

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$20 book that taught my child to read

Step 7. Celebrate! 🎉 Congratulations, you now have a reader! The satisfaction of teaching your own child to read is pretty darn amazing. You have given him or her a gift that keeps on giving for a whole lifetime. 🙂

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HAHAHA! I miss his baby face!

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Pinyin, Teaching Strategies

Parent Guide to Teaching Pinyin

When I first started this journey to teach my son, I was completely clueless about how and where to start and what to do. I’m documenting our learning journey on this blog as a resource for other parents. Obviously I don’t know everything and I’ve only ever taught one child to read. So, just take what I write on here as my reflections and opinions.

When to teach your child pinyin? The short answer is: After he/she can read several hundred characters. 

According to this study, kids in China know an average of 627 characters before learning pinyin in first grade. In my case, I taught my son pinyin when he knew about 400-500 characters.

⚠️ Warning! Do not make the mistake of teaching your child pinyin before he has a solid base of characters – this will only result in over-reliance on it. As stated in this blog post by Parenting Joy, many children fall trap to only being able to read with pinyin and cannot read without it.

Little Man learned English reading first 1.5 years ago before we started pinyin, so he has never confused the two. I don’t have any experience with teaching English phonics and pinyin at the same time so I can’t comment on whether that is confusing to a child or not.

Pinyin is an extremely useful tool when introduced at the right time. Here are the benefits I’ve discovered:

  • Read Chinese books independently. At this point he only knows maybe 500-600 characters, a far cry from the 3000+ characters that you need to know. And yet he  can read harder, more interesting books by himself through the magical thing known as pinyin.
  • Learn new characters. I was completely blown away when Little Man recognized characters that he has never been taught — because he has seen them before paired with pinyin. He can remember the character in a different context, even after the pinyin is removed! (No my son is not a genius. Every child does this.)
  • Review characters by himself. It has made life a lot easier because he can review flash cards by himself on days that I have to work late. He is no longer dependent and incapacitated without me, the sole Chinese speaker in the house.
  • Improve pronunciation. Little Man is English-dominant and his Mandarin tones are frequently inaccurate. The visualization of the tone marks in pinyin help him get the tones right, or at least, better.
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DIY flash cards to review characters

Learning Pinyin:

Pinyin is very easy for an English-reading child – most of the consonants make the same sound as English so you just have to learn the tones and vowels. It took him about a month to learn it through YouTube videos here and here and these Montessori-style cards that I made.

Right now he is about 80-90% accurate with reading pinyin, and he continues to improve through reading books. His current favorites of the pinyin books we have (not a lot) are 植物大战僵尸 Plants vs. Zombies picture books and 我会读 I Can Read.

As an example, three days ago I posted a video of my son reading PvZ in which he stumbled over the word “一次” which he has never learned before. After three days of reading PvZ, guess what? He can read 一次 without any help! Imagine if a child learns one character a day independently, that’s 365 characters a year or 1000 characters in 3 years! In reality it’s probably MORE than that because as a child gets more fluent, he/she will find it increasingly easy to learn new words.

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An easy set of beginning readers
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An easy set of books, great for building confidence and speed

We learned the first 500-600 characters without using any pinyin through the 四五快读 curriculum. However, lately I’ve switched to practicing reading both without and with pinyin: 10 minutes reading books with characters only, 10 minutes reading books with pinyin every day. This is working out well so far to balance both types of reading, which I think are equally important.

四五快读 Book 8 only has the new characters with pinyin. I like this approach of putting pinyin there only when needed and slowly phasing it out.

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四五快读 Book 8. Only new characters in pinyin

If you have taught your child to read Chinese characters and pinyin, please share your 心得 with me! It is always so helpful to hear others’ experience.

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Learning to Read, Si Wu Kuai Du 四五快读, Teaching Strategies

四五快读 Si Wu Kuai Du: How We Use It

We are currently on Book 8 (final book) of 四五快读 reading curriculum, pictured below. The first six books took us about six months, averaging about 100 characters per month. I’ll share how we used the series, but of course you’ll have to adapt it to what works for you and your child.

For those of you that are not familiar with 四五快读, it comes as a set of 8 books. Books 1-6 teach 552 characters total, Book 7 is a review of the 552 characters, Book 8 is a short story collection that adds another 273 characters for a total of 825 characters when you finish the whole series.

As the name suggests, this series is ideally suited for 4-5 year olds and claims to get them reading FAST. (After trying it out, I’d say that it lives up to its claim)

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Set of 8 books

According to the author of 四五, native Chinese children should be able to learn 8-10 characters a day but my son with his weaker Chinese skills could not achieve that. After a bit of trial and error, the magic number that worked for him was 4 characters a day.

#1. Routine

Our daily lesson consists of three parts and takes about 15-20 minutes total:

  1. Introduce 4 new character flash cards and explain what they mean
  2. Review previous characters using flash cards and the book
  3. Read 2 new pages from the book (either 造词 or stories)

Read my post here on how I organized our 四五快读 materials so it’s not a disorganized mess. It is important for each new character to be reviewed for 6-8 consecutive days (read the Parent Guide in 四五快读 Book 1 for more detailed info) so that it is stored in the child’s long term memory.

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Four new characters every day
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Practice reading 造词 or story that reviews previous characters

#2. Behavior Management

If you’re wondering how I get my highly active 5-year-old boy to sit down and practice Chinese reading which is hard and no fun:

  1. We do it every day at the same time so he is used to it as part of his daily routine.
  2. He knows he only has to do ONE thing a day: Chinese. He plays whatever he wants for the rest of the day.
  3. He gets to do his absolutely favorite thing, which is play Plants vs. Zombies with daddy on the PlayStation, immediately after he finishes Chinese. This basically works great because he now requests to learn Chinese. 😀 If you don’t approve of video games then you can use other reinforcers like play dates, going to the park… whatever your child loves, USE IT.
  4. He gets 3 warnings. If I see him fidgeting or otherwise not try his best, he gets warning #1. If he does it again, then it’s warning #2. If we get to three strikes then he’s out — no PvZ that day. I make it clear to him that it is okay to forget words or make mistakes but it is not okay to have subpar attitude!

The initial part of learning how to read is no fun. Accept that. Reading is only fun after you are a great reader. We’ve been through this whole process before in English so he already knows how it is.

#3. Daily Practice

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be consistent and practice every day. A few months ago we were forced to miss three days practice due to 24-hour flight back to the US and severe jet lag. In just 3 short days he forgot something like 40% of the characters he’d learned!

Seriously, regression sucks. It’s a big time waster if you have to keep reviewing forgotten characters.

#4. Moving On

I had a FB conversation with a mom this week and she wondered how I teach my son 28 characters a week when she struggles to teach her kids 10 characters a week. After chatting for a bit, I realized the difference is I do not expect 100% mastery. Just 80-90% is good enough and if your child does not remember the character after learning it for 7 days, just move on.

The reason being that the characters taught in this series are very common characters and they will be reviewed time and again both within the series, and in other children’s books and songs. For example in Book 3, Little Man had difficulty remembering the characters “柳” and “菊” and “荷”. If I got hung up on it, we would probably spend days and days just drilling those three stupid words.

It doesn’t matter. Those characters crop up time and again in Book 3, Book 4, Book 7, Book 8… and various other children’s books. Which means your child will eventually learn it.

Ending Note

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Book 8: New characters shown in red

We are currently on Book 8 (short stories collection), which is different from the first six books because it doesn’t have flash cards and just introduces new characters as part of the story. I’m still figuring out a good system on how to teach Book 8 and what to use after 四五. I will share more when I figure it out!

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