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.

Home Library, Learning to Read, Preschool Reads

Chinese Home Library Part V: Finale

This morning Little Man completely out of the blue said “I really like my library mom, thanks for my library.” AWWW. 😊 Allow me to bask in this moment because just a few months ago he flat out refused to read any Chinese books!

Here’s how I organized the ~350 Chinese books and ~150 English books we currently have. We have far fewer English books since there are five awesome all-English libraries within 15 mins of our house.

We used to have just one 3-cube bookcase in his bedroom, mixed English and Chinese books, and completely overflowing. This was a really terrible set up because most of the Chinese books are paperbacks with very thin spines, meaning my son pulled everything off the shelf onto the floor to look for what he wanted. URGHHH!!! Also many books were overlooked because he just didn’t see them.

In our new organization system (that I just put in place yesterday!), the 3-cube bookcase is now entirely for English books in one corner of his room. He also got a nice comfy beanbag chair for Christmas which he loves.

On the other side of his room, I bought an Ikea Billy bookcase and 12 Samla bins for Chinese books. I have it set up like a typical USA classroom library, which is books organized by genre and level, and forward facing as much as possible so that it grabs the child’s attention. Now he can browse books by bin without pulling them all into a giant pile on the floor. WIN.

The bottom two shelves are 绘本 picture books (designed for adults to read to kids) and the top shelf are 桥梁书 readers (designed for kids to read to themselves). I got a 3-shelf bookcase because it’s the perfect height for him at 5 years old. Ideally I would love the picture books in bins facing out too, but… space constraints.

The picture books are generally arranged by height from tallest to shortest. My OCD self really wishes all books were the same size so they can look perfect, but alas. For the readers on the top shelf, they are sort of arranged by reading level from left to right, with Bin 8 being the easiest and Bin 11 the hardest. I think Bin 6 looks a little pathetic being half empty so I am looking to buy some more books to fill it up. 😛

A few people asked me for book recommendations so I’ve listed the books with the following rating scale.

  • R = Recommended
  • Ok = Books that are not the greatest but my kid has somewhat enjoyed and learned something from them
  • TBD = To be determined because we haven’t read them yet. HAHA.

Note: 95% of my books were purchased online from Taobao but I am not able to give you direct links to them as TB sellers sell out of items fast. Also the prices fluctuate quite a bit so search around for the best price. If you are interested in the books, please copy and paste the title in Chinese and enter it into TB search. Alternatively, you can also copy the image and do an image search.

Picture Books:

 

100层的巴士 The Hundred Decker Bus (R)

生气王子 The Angry Prince (R)

我变成一只喷火龙了 I Turned Into a Fire-Breathing Dragon (Ok)

帕拉帕拉山的妖怪 The Monster of Papa Pala Mountain (Ok)

过年啦 Chinese New Year (R)

首先由一个苹果 First There Was An Apple (R)

开车出发系列 Tram series (Ok) – Better suited for 2+

100层的房子系列 100 Story House series (Ok) – Better suited for 3+

Bin 2:

 

你看起来好像很好吃系列 Tyrannosaurus series (R)

青蛙弗洛格系列 Frog series (Ok)

小猪佩琦系列 Peppa Pig series (Ok)

Bin 3:

 

屁屁侦探系列 Butt Detective series (R)

可爱的鼠小弟系列 Little Mouse series (R)

Bin 4 and Bin 5: 

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奇先生妙小姐系列 Mr. Men and Little Miss series (Ok) – Print quality is disappointing

Bin 6:

 

 

 

中国传统节日绘本系列 Chinese Holidays series (R)

上下五千年系列 5000 Year Chinese History series (TBD)

Bin 7:

 

爆笑虫子漫画系列 Larva comics series (Ok)

植物大战僵尸漫画 Plants vs. Zombies series (Ok)

闹闹漫画乐园系列 Nao Nao comics series (Ok)

Bin 8:

 

我会读系列 I Can Read series (R)

亲爱的小熊系列 Little Bear series (Ok)

笨狼的故事系列 Stupid Wolf series (Ok)

Bin 9:

 

青蛙和蟾蜍系列 Frog and Toad series (Ok)

我爱阅读 蓝色系列 I Love Reading Blue series (Ok) – Some people like this but I don’t. I ended up selling them.

Bin 10:

 

我爱阅读 黄色系列 I Love Reading Yellow series (Ok) – Some people like this but I don’t. I ended up selling them.

阅读123系列 Reading 123 series (R)

Bin 11: 

 

成语故事系列 Idiom stories series (TBD)

十万个为什么系列 10,000 Why series (Ok)

And finally… here is a bookcase in the basement that I refer to as my “dumping ground”. This is an old bookcase that I use to store books that are either too advanced or outgrown or books that are crap. We have a lot of books like Dr. Seuss and Elephant and Piggie that my son used to love but rarely touches anymore. So they get sent to this dumping ground for a year or so before they are purged. HAHA.

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Read the rest of my Chinese Home Library blog posts:

A special THANK YOU to Guavarama for her Building a (Traditional Chinese) Chinese Library posts. They are so informative and I refer back to them frequently.

Questions? Feel free to contact me via Facebook or Instagram

Home Library, Online shopping

CHL Part IV: How to buy Chinese books from Taobao

I thought I was done buying Chinese books for a while since I just bought 259 last month… but… could I resist the BIGGEST SALE EVENT on November 11??

Of course not. 😛

So I bought another 26 books as shown below. Ok now I am seriously, really, truly done building our Chinese Home Library.

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The total cost of books + shipping to USA was $55.80, or $2.15 per book. Compare to USA e-bookstores selling books for $7-$20. Buying from TB means you can get 4x as many books for your money!

A quick comparison of TB vs. USA e-bookstores:

Pros:

  • Significant savings of 50-70%
  • Huge selection of books
  • BOOK SETS. You will save the most by buying box sets of I Can Read, Reading 123, Plants vs. Zombies, etc. 

Cons:

  • 3 weeks shipping time
  • More time consuming process
  • Issues such as counterfeit/lost/damaged items! However, you can minimize these by following the tips below.

FYI: I’m sharing my experience shipping to the USA because that’s where I live, but TB also offers global shipping to other countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Click to see shipping rates.

Before you start, please note:

  1. Taobao is a China website and every single word is in Chinese. While it is possible for non-speakers to navigate it, it will be very challenging.
  2. As with buying books in Singapore, you should always BUY IN BULK. It will not be worth your time or money to buy 1-2 books, as the minimum shipping fee is $13. The more you buy, the lower the shipping per item.
  3. You have to make two separate payments. The first payment is the cost of books + domestic shipping to warehouse in China (usually free). When all your items have arrived at the warehouse, you pay for international shipping to your address. Cost of international shipping is based on weight. I buy mostly paperbacks (平装) and a few hardcovers (精装) to save on shipping.

Are you ready?? Buying from TB is not easy, but will save you hundreds (or thousands) in the long run.

Step 1. Register for a Taobao account. 

Use a computer to register for an account on World Taobao. If you experience problems with setting up your account, please refer to this article.

Step 2. Download the Taobao app. 

I prefer the app as it’s easy to browse, check delivery status, and get notifications.

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Step 3. Change your location to USA.

When you do this, it will automatically convert and display prices in USD. Much easier than trying to convert RMB in your head.

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Step 4. Browse and add items into your cart.

There are two ways to do this:

1) Browse by bookstore

I’ll recommend these bookstores because I’ve had good experiences, they have high ratings of 4.8/5, and large inventories of books. You can browse by category, age, sale items, or search the storefront.

当当网官方旗舰店 – Dangdang has a huge selection of books but they are not as responsive to messages like the smaller sellers

笨妈妈图书专营店

二十一世纪出版社图书专营

旭阳图书专营店

2) Search for item in the search bar

There are usually a lot of sellers selling the same item. I filter by 天猫 (TMall) and 销量 (sales volume). I always choose TMall when if available because they are bigger businesses and accept Visa. The prices may be slightly higher than regular TB, but it’s completely worth it for peace of mind knowing that you’re buying from a real business and not some guy peddling fake goods.

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Of course, you should always read the reviews about the item and seller. I suggest you buy from as few sellers as possible. Less trouble that way, and you get free domestic shipping too.

Step 5. Confirm the items in your shopping cart and check out.

Make sure you have the correct address and mail carrier before you click “提交订单”. You cannot change it after you click this button! You’ll have to cancel and do everything all over.

Domestic shipping is usually free if you meet a minimum purchase and it will show “免邮” at checkout. You have three choices for your international mail carrier and the default is EMS. I choose USPS because I had a bad experience with EMS in the past.

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Step 6. Payment by Alipay.

After you place your order, it will show up in the tab 待付款 (awaiting payment). You have to pay by Alipay, which is the Chinese version of Paypal. Set up an Alipay account and enter your credit card information. Don’t worry, this is just a one-time annoyance because you won’t have to enter credit card information again in the future, just your Alipay pin. Obviously, don’t forget your pin number!

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Step 7. Wait for items to arrive at USPS warehouse.

I’m pretty impressed with the speed of Chinese sellers and couriers. Items are dispatched within hours and arrive at the warehouse in 2-3 days. If there are any issues or questions, the seller will message you via the app. They often send a message to you to confirm your order before they mail it.

It takes a couple more days for items to “入库” (be entered into the USPS system). Extremely detailed tracking information can be found by clicking on the 待收货 delivery van.

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Once all your items have been entered into the system “正常入库”, you will have the option to consolidate and pay for international shipping.

If you have any prohibited items (e.g. electronics, magnets, liquids), they will be rejected by the USPS warehouse. They will text you (in Chinese of course) and ask you how to proceed. You can tell them to mail it back to seller to return it 退货.

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Step 8. Pay for international shipping.

International shipping is based on weight of the package. To give you an idea, my package of 26 paperback picture books cost $29.57 USD in shipping. I got a discount of 36 RMB this time and I don’t even know why. 11-11 promotion maybe?

After you click “确认订单”, your order will show up on the awaiting payment tab. Pay by Alipay again, same as Step 6.

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Step 9. And you’re done!

Check your app over the next few days to make sure your package is on merry way to the USA. Expect it be stuck at the port of entry for days and days for inspection. After inspection is cleared, it will finally make its way to where you live, YAY!

Step 10. Wait for it to arrive

It usually takes about 3 weeks total from when I first order the books to get them in my hands.

That’s it!

Congratulations, you successfully navigated a Chinese website AND saved yourself lots of $$! Seriously, one of the many benefits of being bilingual is being able to shop on TB. 😆

Total books: 26

Cost of books: $24.57

Cost of shipping: $31.23

Total cost: $55.80 ($2.15 per book)

11/29/17 Update:
Delivery arrived yesterday!!

I wasn’t able to get much tracking info from TB app, it didn’t update the tracking once it arrived in the USA. However I was able to track the package on the 佳成USPS website and it showed the transit path through different US cities before finally arriving at my house.

I’ve used USPS several more times since and have had satisfactory experiences. I will continue to use them.

4/11/18 Update:

Some readers had some questions so I thought I would post a FAQ here.

FAQ: How much does shipping cost?

Obviously I have no way of knowing exactly how much your shipping will cost, but as an estimate, expect to pay around the cost price of the books. E.g. If you paid $50 for books, you will pay about $50 for shipping to USA. The more books you buy, the cheaper your shipping per item will be. Do not buy just 1 or 2 books because you will pay a minimum of $13 shipping per package, completely not worth it for a couple books.

Here’s a recent order I placed:

Total books: 45 (14 hardcover, 31 paperback)

Cost of books: $74.96

Cost of shipping: $78.16

Total cost: $153.12 ($3.40 per book)

FAQ: Shopping on Taobao is soooooo intimidating!!! AHHHH!!!!! 

It really is not that bad. It’s only hard the first time. Every time after that it’s super easy and you can even place orders on your phone in the middle of the night half asleep. I do this all the time. 😛 If you can read basic Chinese, you can do it! Just try it with a small order of around $20-$30 to test the waters.

FAQ: What items can I buy on Taobao?

There is a long list of prohibited items that you cannot ship internationally. For example, USPS would not ship a Bunny Story Machine 火火兔 because it contains a battery, and I had to pay 12 CNY (about $2) to have them mail it back to return it. In general I just stick to buying books and occasionally games/toys.

If you would like to purchase the Bunny Story Machine or other electronics or sensitive items, you have to use an agent such as Viatang, Bhiner, etc. Of course you have to pay them an agent fee plus miscellaneous fees.

FAQ: Does USPS repackage for you?

NO NO and NO. They do not check that your order is accurate or undamaged or anything at all. Don’t even ask me why USPS in China apparently cannot afford a box because they literally wrap everything up in plastic and duct tape and mail it to you:

For this reason, I strongly caution you against ordering anything that might be fragile. If you are ordering something with a cardboard box, do not expect the box to arrive in good condition. Mentally prepare yourself that whatever you order may be destroyed during shipping.

FAQ: Are the books from TB of poor quality?

It really depends! Some of them are EXCELLENT quality, even better than English books. Others are soooo awful, like they were printed by a color printer running out of ink. If you check my Chinese Home Library post, I’ll try to keep it updated on the books I have.

FAQ: When are TB sales?

Their biggest sales of the year occur on 11/11 and 12/12, but there is generally a sale once a month on various dates. What I do is add everything into my cart and wait for the next sale to check out. The savings can be quite significant! For example, the 3D 西游记 book goes on sale all the time, from 250 CNY to 150 CNY ($35 USD to $25 USD).

If you check your cart every so often, they will let you know of upcoming sales. E.g. right now it shows that on 4/18 those items in blue will go on sale. In addition to that, be sure to click on the “领卷” (coupon) button in the corner and it will show you store coupons, e.g. 5 CNY off a 68 CNY purchase, 10 CNY off a 99 CNY purchase, 20 CNY off 199 CNY purchase.

FAQ: Can I pay by credit card?

Yes, the first time you pay, you enter your Visa credit card information to Alipay (similar to PayPal). Every time after that you don’t have to enter your credit card anymore, just your Alipay PIN number. Some readers told me their credit cards were declined, which could be due to fraud prevention. Call your bank to ask them to approve it or try a different card.

Questions? Contact me via my Facebook page.

Home Library, Online shopping, Preschool Reads

Chinese Home Library Part III: How to Buy Books for Cheap

As the title states, this blog post is about sourcing Chinese books at the lowest cost possible. While I do love bookstores, buying 250 books off the shelf would cost at least $1500 USD. Not to mention they likely wouldn’t have all the books I want, which means a heck lot of time and inconvenience running to multiple stores. Not feasible.

Instead I chose to order online from China, which is both convenient (done long distance from the USA) and affordable ($340 USD for 259 books). However, it is not that easy and took me forever to figure out how to do it. A big thank you to my friend LY 😘 for helping me navigate the complicated world of Chinese e-commerce.

(By the way, this entire post is only applicable for buying books in Singapore 🇸🇬 or Malaysia 🇲🇾. If you don’t live in or plan to visit these countries, then this post will not help you. I have ordered books from China shipped to the USA, but that’s a whole different story.)

What you need to know about buying books from China, summarized in 6 words:

#1: BUY IN BULK

#2: PLAN IN ADVANCE

#1: Bulk Buying

The thing about EZBuy Prime (details below) is that shipping will cost $2.99+$8 per order, whether you buy 1 book or 100 books or 1000 books. Obviously then you should buy as many books as possible to get more bang for your buck.

Keep in mind that shipping charges apply per order. If you check out five times, you will pay the fees five times. Be smart and make one giant order.

#2: Plan in Advance

If you are like me, living overseas and wanting to pick up books during a trip back to Singapore, then plan to order two months in advance of your trip. This allows for sufficient shipping time (could take a month sea shipping), and so you can take advantage of promo codes (available once or twice a month) to save even more.

Before you start…

Make a list of all the books you want to buy. I had 20 sets of books I wanted to order, covering a good selection of picture books (for me to read to my son) and readers (for him to practice reading to himself). Refer to my post here if you’re not sure how to make a book list.

Once you are armed with your book list, continue below.

Step 1. Understand EZBuy

You are probably wondering what EZBuy is if you’ve never used it before. EZBuy is an agent that will help you buy from Taobao (e-commerce giant) in China, and it is in English which makes things that much easier. They will take care of handling issues, which are bound to happen (see Step 11 below). All prices shown on EZBuy are in Singapore dollars (SGD).

I used EZBuy once before and was very satisfied with their service. Their shipping cost is also reasonable and even cheaper than buying from TB directly. EZBuy was recommended to me by several friends and seriously, it’s awesome.

What is complicated about it is that there are two types of EZBuy service: Prime and Buy-For-Me, and chances are you will need both. Read on.

Step 2. Download both EZBuy and Taobao apps

I prefer to browse using my phone but you can also do it on your computer.
Step 3. Register for EZBuy and Taobao (optional) accounts

This step is easier to do on a computer rather than phone. You will need a Singapore phone number to register for EZBuy as they will send you verification codes and other stuff. (I registered using my brother’s Singapore phone number and had him text me the codes.)

Step 4. Search for your desired items on EZBuy and add it into the Prime cart if Prime is available

Prime is the cheapest way of shipping books from China and you should most definitely choose Prime if it is available. Click “add to cart” and toggle the button to Prime. Out of the 20 sets of books I wanted, 13 were available on Prime.

If everything you want is available on Prime, then lucky you, you can skip Step 5 and go directly to Step 6.

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Step 5. Cut and copy links from Taobao to EZBuy

If you’re not too picky then you could just stick to Prime books and skip this part. But I had my heart set on a few series like 奇先生妙小姐 Mr. Men and Little Miss, 鼠小弟 Little Mouse, and 我爱阅读 readers and had to have them.

For items that are not available on Prime, you can have EZBuy buy them for you, hence the name “Buy-for-Me”. Open the TB app to search for the item you want. There will likely be many sellers selling the same product so read the reviews carefully to see which sellers are reliable and sell authentic 正版 books! (In case you didn’t know, there are TB sellers that sell “fake” books. Beware of prices that are too low compared to competitors. )

After you have located the item you want, copy and paste the link from TB to EZBuy.

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After copying the link, hop back to the EZBuy app. A message will automatically appear asking if you want to buy the item. Click OK to add it to your shopping cart.

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Step 6. Wait for a promotional period

Confirm that you have all the items you want in your Prime cart and Buy-for-Me Shopping Cart. Be ready for check out, but do not check out yet! This is because EZBuy has fairly frequent promotions. For example, they ran a Halloween special for free agent fee + 15% off shipping from October 29-31. By waiting to place my order during this period, I saved $36 SGD ($26 USD). 👍

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Sign up for their mailing list or check their website frequently for the next promo.

Step 7. Sign up for EZBuy Prime membership

Once you hit the promo period, sign up for Prime membership by clicking “Join Prime”. Since I am making a one-time purchase, I got the trial membership which is $9.90 for 5 days. If you live in Singapore, the annual membership for $99 might be worth it for you.

Step 8. Checking out

It’s finally time to check out! Confirm that all the items in your cart are correct. Items may be sold out or the price may have increased drastically. This happened to me for 2 items. 😬 Don’t worry, just search for a replacement. There are hundreds of TB sellers all selling the same product.

You will have to do two separate check outs:

Prime:

The total cost =Cost of books + $2.99 + $8 (Delivery fee to your address. Waived if you pick up the package yourself from a collection center) + 7% sales tax + 4% agent fee (Waived during promo) + 3% credit card fee (Waived if you do a Singapore bank transfer). 

Basically, expect to pay an extra 15% in miscellaneous fees.

img_0456Buy-For-Me Shopping Cart:

The total cost =Cost of books + 4% agent fee (Waived during promo) + shipping cost based on weight of books (15% off during promo) + 3% credit card fee. Notice the shipping cost is zero at check out and not computed until later. img_0455

Step 9. Credit card payment

This step sounds so easy, right? Wrong. If you are a USA buyer like me, very likely your credit card transactions will NOT go through due to fraud prevention. I suppose I should be glad that U.S. banks are so vigilant but I actually got pretty annoyed when card after card got declined. Fret not. Call the phone number listed on the back of your credit card, verify that it’s you making the purchases and ask them to FFS please authorize it. Once Chase authorized EZBuy (listed as 65daigou), all transactions went through after that.

I also found that I was not able to pay via the app, but could do so via the EZBuy website. Do not ask me why.

Step 10. Pay for shipping for Buy-For-Me items

You do not pay for shipping for the books in the Buy-for-Me shopping cart at check out. It is calculated ~3-5 business days later when the items arrive at EZBuy’s warehouse in China and they weigh the package. Check your EZBuy app over the next few days and they will let you know when your items arrive. Once all the items have arrived, consolidate it into one package and pay for shipping.

FYI my shipping cost was $60 SGD (or $45 USD). This sounds like a lot, but it averages to only $0.25 per book since it was for 179 books. Which goes back to what I was saying about BUYING IN BULK.

Step 11: Problem solve 

Problems such as lost/damaged/wrong items are pretty common when buying from TB. Thankfully EZBuy will take care of them for you, which is why I ❤️ them. They will notify you via the app and you can easily text back in English.

This time, out of 20 items ordered, two of them had issues. Issue #1 was that TB seller increased the price before EZBuy could purchase it for me. In this case I decided to proceed with the order and “top up” the extra few dollars.

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Issue #2 as shown below. I decided to cancel this order and EZBuy refunded my money very quickly. I then ordered from a different seller.img_0472

And now all my books are on their way to Singapore, where they will await my pickup in December. Yay!

In summary…
Total number of books = 259

Cost of books = $370 SGD ($285 USD)

Cost of shipping and misc. charges = $76 SGD ($55 USD)

Total cost = $446 SGD ($340 USD)

Cost per book = $1.72 SGD ($1.30 USD)

Obviously, $1.30 per book is FAR less than buying from any bookstore or e-bookstore. Which makes this entire ordeal well worth it. 🙂

With this hefty purchase, I’m confident our home library will be well stocked. But I’m sure I will still pick up some more books from brick-and-mortar stores such as Grassroots Book Room, Maha Yu Yi, and of course Popular Bookstore, because books are awesome.

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Can’t wait to check out this beautiful bookstore! @Grassroots Book Room

Stay tuned for more episodes of my Chinese Home Library series. Like and follow my Facebook page to stay updated.

Home Library, Preschool Reads

Chinese Home Library Part II: How to Choose Books

In my last post I shared about all the dumb mistakes I made buying Chinese books. This time around I was determined to do a better job by planning several months ahead of our Singapore trip.

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Goal:

Have a sufficiently large home library to build Little Man’s language and reading skills for the next two years. He is chronologically 5 years 1 month old but his comprehension level is lower than his age. Thus, my goal is to build a Chinese library appropriate for 4-7 years old.

Step 1: Extensive research

I started by reading hundreds of book reviews on Guavarama, Mandarin Mama, Parenting Joy, Growing Hearts 123, Chalk Academy, etc. as well as reviews on Taobao, Dangdang, and Amazon China. THANK YOU 😘 to these bloggers who shared their kids’ favorite books. I found Guavarama’s Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series particularly helpful, although I’m not always able to find 简体 simplified versions of the books she recommends.

Since I work at an immersion school and know many Taiwanese/Chinese native speakers, I shamelessly peppered them with questions about what they read as kids, what they read to their kids, what kinds of books are popular, etc. A Taiwanese friend told me she loved a set of Chinese history books called 《吴姐姐讲历史故事》, and she recalls her mother telling her many 成语典故 (idiom stories). Holy cow! 😱 It completely blew my mind that kids in Taiwan read 5000-year-Chinese-history and chengyu for fun. img_0400I did not actually buy this set because it’s a gazillion pages of Chinese text and way too hard (for me). 😛 I did however get a set of 《上下五千年》history for young kids that has more illustrations and pinyin!

Step 2: Narrow it down

After all my research, I had a more comprehensive understanding of Chinese books available out there. The next step involved finding the best fit for my son. Obviously, every child’s interests, preferences, and Chinese proficiency is different so I can’t just blanket buy all books that other parents recommend.

What I know about my son:

  • Likes funny and action stories
  • Likes book/CD sets
  • Likes cute, cartoony illustrations (Seriously this is one of the most important factors for him. He does not touch books that have realistic illustrations)
  • Does not like non-fiction
  • Does not like stories about nature and animals
  • Does not like books he has already read in English
  • His favorite English books are Captain Underpants, Wayside School, and Where the Sidewalk Ends, which all involve naughty children and wild storylines

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Since I have just one child, the entire library can be tailored to his preferences and to an extent my own. My primary goal at this point is to hook him in and get him interested in Chinese, even if all he reads is junk. At some point we may venture into actually good literature. 😉

Step 3: Make a preliminarily list

I envision my home library as similar to a 1st grade classroom library in a typical US school, consisting of picture books and readers, organized by reading level and subject. Type A dream:

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Picture from First Grade Made

Little Man is making steady progress in reading, and I expect that in the next couple years he will be able to read easy readers (1 sentence per page), and mid-level readers (a few sentences per page). I also wanted some short chapter books that I can read to him.

I thought I should include some non-fiction books even though neither of us like them. A library wouldn’t be complete without some non-fiction books right?

My preliminary list looked like this:

Step 4: Solicit feedback

I posted the above list on FB and Instagram and received lots of helpful comments, such as Tintin is too hard for a 5 y.o., as well as other recommendations like 《屁屁侦探》(Butt Detective 😂) which I knew would be right up my son’s alley.

Based on the feedback I received, I crossed half the items off my original list! Back to the drawing board. 

Step 5: And… buy them. 

This is what my final list looked like:


But yet more changes occurred. I really wanted to get 40 yellow 我爱阅读 readers but it was out of stock and only the first 20 were available. 😣 I also changed my mind and decided to get Usborne non-fiction books instead of National Geographic. I figured the lift-the-flaps would at least get him flipping through the pages rather than ignore non-fiction altogether.

I finally bit the bullet and placed this order:

 

The total cost came under budget at $340 USD for 259 books, or $1.31 per book. I can’t wait to get them and really hope they will meet our reading needs for the next two years. I will slowly review these books as we read them.

Wondering how I purchased them at such a low price? Click here for Part III of my Chinese home library series!

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Home Library, Preschool Reads

Chinese Home Library Part I: What Not To Do 

Earlier this year I read an excellent book on bilingual language acquisition. The author stressed how important it is to build a home library with 500 books. 

FIVE HUNDRED. 

At that point, our home consisted of maybe 3 Chinese books. Hence began a frenzy of Chinese book acquisition of 100+ books, most of which I regret buying


In this post I will share what I’ve learned about buying books for my angmohkia (AKA. westernized child who is dominant in and prefers English). Save yourself hundreds of dollars 💵 from NOT buying these books. You’re welcome. 

Mistake #1: “Good character” books

A large percentage of Chinese books are about how to be a good kid and have good manners. If your child is used to English books with funny and exciting adventures he will not like these. Because BORING. 

Seriously why are there so many of these… 🙄

Mistake #2: Books that are written for children in China 🇨🇳 

Can you say culture shock? My boy was horrified that animals and people get beaten and DIE in these books. Up until then I did not realize that all English books have happy endings and nobody ever dies. 😬

Seriously though, culture in China and USA are polar opposites. My son does not relate to Chinese books that are too… Chinese. 


Mistake #3: Books that are too childish

My son is currently 5 years old with the comprehension of a 3 year old. I cleverly (or so I thought) sourced out books that are at his level of comprehension so he can understand them. 

BIG MISTAKE. My son outgrew these toddler books years ago has zero interest in reading them. 

Note: The books shown below are actually pretty good. They are just not developmentally appropriate or interesting to a 5 y.o. 

Mistake #4: Books by non-professional authors 

Most English books are by renowned authors and illustrators, and you can be assured that they are of a certain caliber otherwise they wouldn’t be published. Not so for Chinese. There are many Chinese publishers that will publish works by any random person. I don’t think you can even call them authors. 

Quality control?? 

Mistake #5: Novelty books 

Books these days come with a lot of bells and whistles. Toys, push buttons, projector, magic pen… you name it. While they do capture the child’s interest at the start, the novelty wears off really quick!

For the $20 I spent on this fancy schmancy book, I could’ve bought four quality hardcover picture books. Not worth it IMO. 😣

So there you have it. This is part I of a series of posts I will share about building our library at home. 敬请期待! To be continued… 

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