Grade: 3rd-4th (中年級)
About a year ago, in my haste to get Thumper to start reading, I had her try and read a passage from Magic Treehouse. She refused to after a few lines. My daughter is not the type to painstakingly work through a book chapter by chapter, like some children I know, in order to read. Not knowing zhuyin well was one factor, with the other being comprehension.
I guess all things have its own time. We found the set at Oakland Asian Library more than a month ago. Noone had checked it out! The first time I checked out 10 books and the last time 15. We’re almost done with Oakland’s set of 35 books. Sadly, though other regional libraries have them (San Francisco Public being one of them), they’re not available through my local Link+.
So far, there are 51 books published total. The Chinese version is actually bilingual, with English on one end of the book and Chinese on the other. In terms of content, especially the beginning ones, they’re very short reads, about 100 pages each.
I first heard about Magic Treehouse through a fellow parent in preschool. I believe her 7 year old was reading it. She highly recommended them because it was basically non-fiction written in a fiction format. I have to agree. Especially with it being harder for children to encounter subject vocabulary in Chinese. So any chance you get where the subject vocabulary isn’t dry is a good resource I say.
Thumper has already listened to many of these books in English at 6, when we were in Taiwan 2 years ago. (Proving right that listening skills are 2 years ahead of speaking or reading). We even heard the 8 episodes of Chinese version from ximalaya.com a year ago. She’s been clamoring for them again recently. I bought these English sets from audible.com. Basically the $14.95 monthly fee accrued points and it was super cheap to buy multiple sets with those points. You can obviously also check it out from the library.
I was surprised to learn that Magic Treehouse often shows up on Taiwan’s Elementary school book lists for 3rd grade and up. I did a quick flip through the books and I would agree. The fonts are big and it should be an easy read if you know zhuyin, but the vocabulary is just slightly more advanced. Though in English I know so many children already read these as first graders. I wonder if the translations result in harder vocabulary or something. I’ve heard of first graders in the U.S. reading them in Chinese. But since I don’t know these kids, I don’t know if they can read due to zhuyin but don’t understand or if their Chinese is good enough that they understand what they’re reading too.
I’m hoping that in another half a year I can read it to Astroboy.
Right now, Thumper’s whizzing through 1-2 books a day. She can finish 1 on a ride down to our co-op, probably takes her just 30 minutes. However, if I were to ask her what the book was about, she starts telling me about it in English. Argh I say. If there is any lesson I learned here, it is that I need to let her listen to more audio books in Chinese first. I don’t know if it’s because she’s an auditory learner OR that she’s skipping through Chinese words when she reads (since she can guess meaning without pronouncing the words) OR that that’s a feature of language learning, you learn it better listening to it first. I’m almost ready to just record them myself, since the audio isn’t available for Magic Treehouse.
I wasn’t sure in the beginning if I should buy the whole set, since a set is available at Oakland. But right now, I’m leaning that way. Partly because you really just get 2 books for the
inflated price of one. Partly because Thumper is randomly telling people things like, “Oh, dolphins have a blow hole. I read it in Magic Treehouse.” That one happened the other day when we were doing Parts of the Fish presentation. So obviously it’s really good for subject matter study and if we ever want to explore a particular subject in the future, it would be nice to have it on hand for her to read.
I actually also bought the non fiction research Magic Treehouse books while I was in Taiwan 2 years ago from Mollie. At that time I thought I had struck gold and got the real thing second handed. Only to realize once I got home that they’re more like encyclopedias than fiction. Maybe I can offer those books to Thumper now.
I found a bookseller in Taiwan who was willing to ship the whole set of 51 books to the US for $335. I even coordinated an order for friends who wanted them and wish I could get more people to buy or borrow them. People probably think I’m crazy for coordinating group buys when I get nothing out of it. Would you believe me if I said that I really really really like books and reading and wish we know other people who are reading the same Chinese books as we are? It somehow feels like the road to learning Chinese is then more crowded 熱鬧.