Grace Lin‘s picture books have beautiful and lively illustrations that children love. Her book One Is a Drummer was one of L’s favorites and it almost single-handedly taught him how to count. The books are in English but introduce Chinese culture and especially food in a very inviting way. On the China Sprout blog, Xiaoning interviews Grace about her work and her transition to writing longer novels for older kids.
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As I have written before, memorizing songs and poems was one of the first ways L learned to speak Chinese. There is something about the rhythm of classical Chinese poetry that makes it very appealing to children; they can memorize the rhymes without even realizing that they are learning some of the most beautiful, eloquent, and profound works of literature ever written anywhere.
One of the most common poems, memorized by almost every schoolchild in China, is “Jing Ye Se” by Li Bai. Watch an animation on YouTube:
Here is the poem, in simplified characters with pinyin, followed by the English translation:
chuáng qián míng yuè guāng
床 前 明 月 光，
yí shì dì shàngshuāng
疑 是 地 上 霜。
jǚ tóu wàng míng yuè
举 头 望 明 月，
dī tóu sī gù xiāng
低 头 思 故 乡。
Before my bed, the moon is shining bright,
I think that it is frost upon the ground.
I raise my head and look at the bright moon,
I lower my head and think of home.
This site provides a nice version of the poem, with pinyin and English translation as you hover the mouse over each character.
With a four-year-old boy in the house, we spend a lot of time talking about, dressing up as, watching, and otherwise channeling the great spirit of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. L and his Baba spend many hours telling the numerous, intricate stories from the epic Journey to the West, and the full DVD set of the CCTV animated mini-series (52 episodes), provided by an uncle in Shenzhen, is just about the only movie or TV L watches. He loves the characters: A magical, omnipotent but mischievous monkey; his traveling companions a Buddhist monk, a pig, and a white dragon horse, and all the creatures they encounter on their way to India, where they have been sent to retrieve Buddhist scriptures.
We have many books which tell stories of Sun Wukong’s adventures. L’s favorite, which has beautiful illustrations with tales adapted into short but detailed stories easily digested by four-year-olds, is published by the Shanghai Century Publishing Group (上海世纪出版集团少年儿童出版社) and is hard to find outside of China. But another favorite that is in both English and Chinese, and is more widely available here (including from Amazon) is Tang Monk Disciples Monkey King. This is part of a series by the same authors.
The CCTV-produced animated series is a rich, beautifully conceived piece of work which, with 52 episodes, provides endless entertainment. The full set can be bought on VCD through ChinaSprout. L has memorized and frequently belts out the theme songs from the series. Clips of the songs are on YouTube (see below). Read the rest of this entry »
We don’t own a functioning TV, both because we don’t particularly like to watch and because we don’t want our kids to spend their precious time with eyes glued to a screen. But as L gets older, we have found that YouTube has a great selection of short video clips in Chinese, that only last a few minutes and give some additional language exposure. One of L’s favorites is the Mandarin translation of Sally and Leo, about a stork and turtle who fly around the world learning about different countries. This episode about Japan is the only one I can find in Mandarin. The narration is relatively slow and clear, and easier to understand than many cartoons:
And the English version of the same episode: