Kinder Reads, Learning to Read, Reviews

Review: 紅豆綠豆碰 Comic Books with read-aloud CD

It was love at first sight with these comic books when I saw them last Fall on another blog. At that time, we were 100% Simplified but I knew I had to get these even though they are in Traditional Chinese.

Why we love them

#1. KIDS LOVE COMICS!!!! If you want to get your kid interested and excited about Chinese, here’s a tip: comics!

#2. Each book has 30-40 stories of 4 pages each. Each story takes only a few minutes to read so it’s great for when you have just a few minutes to spare or short attention spans.

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#3. Stories are easy to understand – kids can also use the picture cues to figure out meanings of new vocabulary.

#4. They are healthy and educational – each book has a different theme such as protecting the earth, how to be a good friend, learning is fun, etc. My son has learned so much vocabulary and general knowledge, e.g. what to do in an earthquake.

#5. MP3 CD!!!! You can listen to the audio without the book because the narrator sets the scene and they have different voices to act it out. It’s amazing quality and really fun to listen to. My son surprises me with the Taiwanese phrases he picked up like “我就說嘛!” and “看我的厲害!” Sooooo funny.

If you have a C-Pen, you can easily transfer the MP3 to make your comic books read aloud. This is particularly awesome for non-Chinese speaking parents {Read more about how we use C-Pen}

#6. Affordable price – these are going for just $7.95 USD each. Considering how he loves it and listens repeatedly, I definitely got my money’s worth!

#7. They are a nice bridge to Kang Xuan Top945 Learning Magazine. Many of you are familiar with Top945 magazine which is one of the top children’s magazines in Taiwan with excellent informative articles. However, kids may find it difficult to read this magazine and/or may not be interested.kx1kx2

For me, I used 紅豆綠豆碰 comic books first to hook my kid’s interest before introducing the more difficult 康軒學習雜誌 Top945 Learning magazines. Because my son was already familiar with the Red Bean, Green Bean characters (same voices for audio CDs as well), he was immediately drawn to the magazines even though it is challenging for him.

Where to Buy

For U.S. customers, C-Stems is selling them for $7.95 each! This is lower than competitors’ pricing.

I find all of them to be pretty similar so choose them based on your child’s interest or your own preference, e.g. To focus more on social skills, get the book “交朋友好好玩”. If you want to read more on Chinese New Year, get “沒有紅包的新年”, etc.

Other Reviews

Four copies of 紅豆綠豆碰 was provided by C-Stems.com for review. Opinions are my own. As mentioned above, I already purchased some of these comics myself six months ago. 
Reviews

Customized Chinese Stickers and Gifts

Hello! Here’s another comprehensive post, this time about all the personalized Chinese items that I’ve used and love.

Name Labels

I ordered name labels from Taobao and they’re great! Very affordable at $2-$10 USD, lots of different designs to choose from and great quality. Pro tip: Since these stickers are so light, they can basically ship for free when you consolidate them with an order of books from Taobao.

Waterproof stickers that I use for water bottle, lunch box, school supplies, etc. {Taobao link}

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Iron-on labels for coat, snowpants, backpack and other clothing items. I wanted both English and Chinese names since it’s for school. {Taobao link}

Customized Gifts

Create some fun, unique items and to show the world how proud you are to speak Chinese! 🙂 Think of all the t-shirts out there that say things like “big brother”, “cool dude”, “little princess” etc. but in Chinese. How cool would that be?!

Check out my friend Marissa’s Facebook page Lexi Drew for You and send her a FB message. She was soooo patient with listening to all my ideas 💡 and changing my mind a million times. We messaged back and forth to tweak things to look exactly the way I wanted. Where else would you find a seller with such infinite patience??

Note

Marissa does not know Chinese so you have to send her an image of the Chinese characters you want. I used this Calligraphy Generator website: Type characters into the text box, then click on the fonts below to generate it. There’s so many different fonts to choose from! I also like this Font Generator which has a lot of cute fonts.

Save the images and send them to her:

I love the end products!

Shirt with Little Man’s interest and favorite Chinese saying. T-Shirt=$14

Pencil case with his Chinese name to store our C-Pen. Decal=$5

Pouch to hold baby teeth! Pouch=$5

Questions? Comments?

You can contact me via my Facebook page Hands-On Chinese Fun.

6 years old, Audiobooks, Home Library, Kinder Reads, Learning to Read, Magazines, Reviews

Review: 康軒學習雜誌 Top945 Learning Magazine for 3-12 y.o.

There are several Chinese children’s magazines out there but my personal favorite is Top945 康軒學習雜誌.

Magazines are better than books?!

Did you know that childhood experts recommend magazines over books? Magazines provide diverse knowledge and a wide variety of texts like fiction, non-fiction, poems, and interactive content.

Why we love Top945 Learning Magazine:

#1. Well-rounded vocabulary and General Knowledge – I want him to be able to converse on a wide variety of topics in Chinese, not just his limited interests of superheroes, potty jokes and all that useless stuff. 😝

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#2. Mix of real photos and drawings – My son loves the cute characters of Doudou, Nini and Professor Why. They really hold his attention and interest!

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#3. TWO magazines per month for the elementary versions – This basically covers all of my non-fiction needs and is good value-for-money.

#4. Audio CD with every issue!! – Fabulous way for child to acquire advanced vocabulary especially if parent is not a native speaker.

#5. Ideal for busy families – We listen to this in the car and it makes our car trips so so enriching and productive. I don’t need to do anything except hit the play button. Yay for lazy parenting! 😉

The accompanying CD is REALLY REALLY GOOD. Worth its weight in gold in my opinion. My picky son who refused to listen to anything except 米小圈 for the last several months enjoys listening to them. The speakers have perfect enunciation and are very engaging.

Sample clip from CD (PreK-K version). The voices are younger and cuter.

Sample clip from CD (1st-3rd grade version). The voices are more mature and the language more advanced compared to the clip above:

We are listening to them for the second time now because there’s lots of idioms and complex vocabulary that he only understood about 50% of it the first time. The second time listening, his comprehension increased to 70-80%. I explained some key words to him in English as well. I always love materials that are challenging because that’s how kids learn and improve right??

Little Man is not able to read this magazine by himself yet (aside from the comics), so I am having him listen to build up vocabulary. Next year when he is in first grade, I plan on having him read it so he can learn how to read informational text, towards the long-term goal of reading newspapers as an adult.

***I just found out only the US version of Top945 still comes with CD. If you order from Taiwan it will not come with CD but you can download MP3 from their website. ***

Look Inside

Click on the images below to see the inside pages. Full magazines are available online so you can see every page! Wow.

PreK-Kindergarten version 學前版:prek

1st-3rd grade version 初階版:1st

4th-6th grade version 進階版:4th

Supplemental Teaching Materials

Top945 comes with additional materials such activity books, board games and hands-on activities etc., (Click here for details on what is included with your subscription: PreK-K version, 1st-3rd grade, 4th grade and up).

supplemental
Annual subscription comes with activity books, hands-on toys, board games, etc.

Free Gifts!

Exclusive free gifts for my readers: The first 30 subscribers will receive two of the following comic books with MP3 CDs (worth $30)! These are additional to the other free books you will receive when you subscribe to 1 year or more.

These comic books are AMAZING. The quality of the paper and the audio CDs are top notch and my son absolutely loves them. Really recommend to increase kids’ interest in reading Chinese books.

{Click here for review and sample pages of 紅豆綠豆碰 comic books}

U.S. Subscribers

Click on the links below to subscribe to Top945 Learning Magazine (payment via PayPal). In the comments section, type in “Hands On Chinese Fun” to receive your free comic books!

C-Stems is the official distributor of Top945 and other children magazines like Ciaohu and Little Newton in the USA. An issue of Top945 was provided for review. 


Questions or comments? Contact me via my Facebook page!

5.5 years old, Chinese Resources, Reviews

Chinese Resources: Ciaohu Subscription

Disclaimer: Sample issue of was provided by Apex Brilliant Child Development (A.B.C.D. Inc), distributor of Ciaohu in the USA. Opinions are my own. 

Ciaohu 巧虎 is a popular magazine subscription from Taiwan (shipped worldwide) for young children from babies to 2nd grade+. I’ve heard many parents rave about Ciaohu and was excited to try it out. This review shows the 學習版 ‘Learn’ version for 5-6 year olds which I selected since Little Man is 5.5 years old.

Every issue comes with a magazine, activity book, interactive activities such as games, STEM, toys, and sometimes CDs/DVDs. The content and activities are tailored for your child’s age, e.g. pretend play toys for toddlers and more academics for older kids.

Video review of Ciaohu:

I found the 學習版 ‘Learn’ version to be spot on for my son’s developmental level. The content is just right for his comprehension, attention span, and in line with kindergarten curriculum for Math, Science, Phonics (zhuyin) etc. The activity book also contains ~30 pages of fun activities that kids love, e.g. stickers, mazes, spot the difference.

In my opinion, the main benefit of magazines (as compared to books) is the wide variety of topics and vocabulary. Most of the Chinese books we own are fiction and revolve around my son’s interests of superheroes and mythology. Ciaohu provides a diverse “diet” of non-fiction, various themes, and exposure to everyday vocabulary of native Chinese children.

When Little Man opened the package, he immediately wanted to get started with the Science experiments. I found the instructions very clear and my son was able to follow the directions by looking at the pictures.

I also love large clear font and plentiful illustrations! Large font is really important for beginning readers and my son was able to read some parts of the magazine with me. He particularly enjoyed reading the comic. With some practice, I expect that he will be able to read this magazine by himself.

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Right now we use 95% Simplified at home but the Saturday school my son attends teaches Traditional. I feel that Ciaohu will be good for more exposure to Traditional text as well as practice reading 注音符號 (zhuyin), something that I am learning as well. Don’t be afraid to expose your child to both Simplified and Traditional! Kids can easily pick up both because they are just that smart.

They provide the entire year’s schedule so you can see exactly what materials you’ll be receiving each month and the topics. Schedule for 2018-2019 “學習版” (starts September) shown here. Click the links below for other age groups.

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Check out the Ciaohu website for a preview of these other levels:

Other blog reviews of Ciaohu:

Cost: 

  • 12-month subscription $345 USD ($28.75/month)
  • 6-month subscription $188 USD ($31.30/month)

You will receive one of these free gifts when you subscribe! If these gifts run out, Ciaohu will substitute a different age-appropriate gift.

To subscribe, complete the form below. Email info@ciaohu.com if you have any questions.

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Chinese Resources, Reviews

Chinese Resources: Sticker Books

There are so many things to consider when buying Chinese materials for your child:

  • Chronological age
  • Language age
  • Interests and personality
  • Laziness level of parent 😝

If you’re a lazy parent like me then I have just the thing for you: Sticker books!

The only thing you need to do is cut the sticker sheets out with a craft knife:

And read them to your child, of course. Personally I much prefer reading than thinking of what to say. Because thinking in Chinese 💭 is TOO MUCH WORK.

Here’s what I like about this particular set.

#1. Cheap

TEN sticker books (24 pages each) cost less than $4 USD! IKR?! I think I paid more for each English sticker book when Little Man was a toddler.

#2. Covers a wide variety of topics and age range

Some books have age ranges on them 2-3 years, 3-4 years, 4-5 years, 5-6 years and others are based on topics like Science, Math, Logic, Language.

It goes from simple stories and vocabulary (animals, clothing, occupations) to more advanced concepts like food chains, telling time, character recognition and 成语 (idioms).

#3. Vocabulary and comprehension

Overall they are a good fit for Little Man (age 5) and are great for Chinese language bonding time. It helps me realize the gaps in his vocabulary because sometimes he doesn’t understand when I read him the instructions. Actually I don’t know the meanings of half the idioms shown above so it’s educational for me as well. 😛

Dislikes:

The books don’t lay flat because of the binding. Most of the time I have to hold it flat for Little Man while he sticks the stickers on. GAH. Same problem with many English sticker books that I’ve bought from Amazon so it’s not just these ones.

Also I find it hard to believe a 2-year-old would have the fine motor dexterity to manipulate the teensy stickers. Use your parental judgement on that one!

Buy from:

Taobao link here. Like most items I buy from TB, the shipping costs more than the items.

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Other sticker books I’m eyeing:

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Character Writing, Reviews

Chinese Calligraphy for Kids

This calligraphy set is fun, educational, reusable, mess-free (just water), and so cheap! I told Little Man this is how emperors wrote their imperial scrolls in ancient China, which completely blew his mind. 😂

I’m pretty amazed at how it looks exactly like 墨水 (ink) but is not. It dries off in a few minutes without leaving a trace.  


Little Man is new to Chinese writing so we are using this for practicing a few 笔画 strokes and scribbling right now. I tried writing a few words and realized that my Chinese handwriting is seriously ugly. Guess I need some practice too. 😝

This magical product is aptly named “magic cloth”. The set that I bought comes with 5 cloths, a calligraphy brush and brush holder (pictured above). I like that it has some tracing cloths and some blank cloths. Obviously it’s a cheap brush but it serves its purpose for play! 

Where to buy:

I bought mine from World Taobao for $1.50 USD for the entire set. 

You can also get it from these English websites AliExpress for $3-10 or EBay for $1-15 but you have to be patient and wait 20+ days for it to arrive from China. Magic cloth and brushes sold separately. 

If you’re impatient, then order it from Amazon Prime for $10-20. Magic cloth and brushes sold separately. 

Search the above sites for “kids calligraphy”, “magic cloth”, “儿童 毛笔 水写布”. 

Follow me on Facebook or Instagram for more fun ideas! 

Curriculum Review, Learning to Read, Reviews, Si Wu Kuai Du 四五快读

Curriculum Comparison: 《四五快读》vs. 《基础汉字500》Sagebooks

There are two highly popular curriculum out there for parents to teach their child to read Chinese. In this post I will do a comparison of《四五快读》and《基础汉字500》, also known as Sagebooks or Basic Chinese 500, to help you decide which to get!

Disclaimer: I do not have personal experience using Sagebooks, just my extensive internet research and browsing them at the bookstore.

First, what are they?

They are curriculum designed for the child to learn the most commonly used Chinese characters, by the end of which they should be able to read simple reader books by themselves.

《四五快读》covers more characters at 552 (in the first six books) and 800+ by the eighth book compared to Sagebooks which has 500 exactly. Some parents buy both and use them concurrently, but I think one is sufficient. The characters covered are largely the same.

Cost Comparison:

The total cost for《四五快读》is ~$25, as compared to Sagebooks which cost at least $200-300. A huge price difference!

The other thing I really like about 《四五》is that you just buy one nice complete set of 8 books. Everything is included. Bam.

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In contrast, Sagebooks has 5 levels and 5 books per level, for a total of 25 books. At Popular bookstore in Singapore, they sell each book individually and a few books were not available. Meaning you have to run to several stores or buy from several sellers on Carousell to collate all 25 books. 😣 In addition, the parent guide is found separately on the website, and flash cards have to be purchased or you have to make your own.

chinese_readers__ji_chu_han_zi_basic_chinese_readers_500_very_popular_series_1507083662_4d0029a4

Alternatively, the complete set of books can be purchased online from the HK publisher for a whopping $243 USD, not including shipping. 😱

Teaching Style:

The primary difference between these two is the teaching style. 《四五快读》is more “textbook style”, and the child learns to read characters, phrases, sentences, and short stories (sample lesson shown below).

I really like that it teaches different 造词 combinations for each character. My son has learned a lot of new vocabulary like 大学生,小学生 which I don’t think he would otherwise encounter.

After the child reads each sentence, he points to the picture that matches what he read. A great way to check for comprehension!


Flash cards for the characters are included in the back of each book to cut out. Very convenient. There’s multiple of each character so you can make your own sentences.

I ❤️️ these reading charts which are found every few lessons. The intensive practice really helps my son differentiate similar looking characters like 白,日,目.


As the books progress, the font size gets smaller and smaller, pictures get fewer and fewer, and story gets longer and longer. I love this! It has really helped build up my son’s confidence and reading ability. Overall, I find 《四五快读》very similar to the book I used to teach my son to read in English. This is the main reason why I chose it, because I already know this method works for us.

Sagebooks on the other hand teaches through a “storybook style”. Every lesson introduces a new character and you read a story that has many repetitions of that character as well as previously taught characters. It is like the Chinese equivalent of Bob Books or Dick & Jane books.

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As you can see, each page has a picture and the sentence in characters, pinyin and English. I’m pretty sure my English-dominant son would rely on the pinyin, resulting in me not knowing if he is reading pinyin or characters.

Target Audience:

As the name suggests, 《四五快读》is ideally suited for 4-5 year olds. I think it would be okay for a 3-year-old who has strong Chinese background. The author actually taught her daughter to read 1000 characters before she turned 3!

《四五》was designed for Mainland China parents to teach monolingual Chinese children, however I am using it successfully to teach my American-beginning-Chinese-learner to read. So I would say that it is ok for use with children even if their Chinese is not strong, BUT the parent’s Chinese must be strong! This is because the parent guide is 30 whole pages in Chinese! 😂


This parent guide is a must read and full of important information. Please do not use 《四五》without reading the parent guide first. It would be akin to trying to build complicated furniture without reading the instructions.

I don’t know if there is an official recommended age for Sagebooks, but most parents also use it around 4-5 years old or slightly younger. There seems to be consensus that 3-5 years is the optimal age to teach Chinese reading.

Sagebooks seem to be designed for bilingual children and bilingual parents, because both the books and parent guide are Chinese-English. It is better suited for parents with limited Chinese proficiency.

Time Commitment:

Similar for both. It takes about 15 minutes practice a day, 5-18 months to complete, depending on child’s age, temperament, and how diligent you are!

In summary…

I do not think one is better than the other; there is no one-size-fits-all. If you are consistent with practice, I’m pretty sure either of these curriculum will succeed in creating a reader.

For me, I like things 1) affordable, 2) organized, 3) simple black-and-white, 4) focused on characters only, 5) pedagogy and research based, so needless to say I went with 《四五快读》and LOVE IT. ❤️

Have you used either of these? Share your experience in the comments!

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