I’ve had some people ask me for opinions on what books to buy from 基礎漢字500 Sagebooks recently. I usually try to be balanced and take people’s needs and desires into account and say things like, “Well, if you don’t really need it, then don’t get it.” However, I realized recently that I actually have some very strong opinions.
If you’re going to use Sagebooks to teach your child to read, don’t do it half ass and just order the readers or the treasure boxes, get everything!
I’m going to assume that you want to use Sagebooks. Because I don’t think I can convince someone that doesn’t want to be convinced. Mandarin Mama has a good post about what Sagebooks is. I personally think, if your child speaks Chinese fluently, and you want them to learn to read in 1 year, then this is the best option out there.
“But…..but…!” you say.
1. My child already recognizes 150-200 characters!
That’s great. Still get the first 2 sets. There will be characters in there your child doesn’t know. It will build their confidence that they can actually read Chinese easily. This will be very handy when they move up to 3rd and 4th set and have to actually learn the characters. The child can practice reading passages quickly enough to sound like an fluent reader. They learn different vocabulary words that use those characters.
You can use it to also teach components to help them recognize new words in later sets.
2. I just need the treasure boxes for my child to practice reading
There are many other much more interesting picture books out there, many with pinyin (Hong kong) or zhuyin (Taiwan). If your child knows 500 characters, they know enough to read those other books by themselves with the help of zhuyin/pinyin. You can then just skip buying Sagebooks. if your child doesn’t know 500 characters, then see #1.
3. But I want them to practice reading characters without pinyin/zhuyin
Then get the readers too. Otherwise the books will have a lot of characters they don’t know. It’s just like reading in English. They suggest children choose books where there are at most 5 words they don’t know in any given page. Same in Chinese. The treasure boxes are to practice reading fluently, not stopping at every other word to ask mom/dad how to pronounce a word.
If they know majority of the characters, then see #2. Lots more interesting and better books out there for reading enjoyment. With that many characters recognized already, they wouldn’t be relying on pinyin or zhuyin when they read.
If they don’t know that many characters, then get the readers. Sagebooks is a curriculum. The curriculum learns one character at a time. If you want to teach your child multiple characters as they read, get Kang Xuan, Meizhou Hua Yu, Greenfield or use regular picture books. There’s no need to spend that much money on buying just the treasure boxes.
4. I just want to teach them the characters, so I only need the readers.
The whole point of the treasure boxes is, after reading 3-4 pages for each character, the child has now progressed to reading a whole 20+ page book, almost all with characters they’ve learned already. Great confidence builder. The treasure boxes are like a review, plus practice for the child to read longer text.
I think this point bears repeating. The whole reason we want to use Sagebooks is to encourage reading in Chinese. So of course you want to give them story books to read after they’ve just learned all those characters!
Otherwise, tons of other textbooks out there that teach characters. You can get Kang Xuan, much cheaper. They teach 10 characters each chapter. You practice reading those characters in small passages. This one gives children the idea they can read even knowing two characters. Different philosophy. If you buy the philosophy of reading from the first character learned, and want to use the curriculum, then get the treasure boxes.
Off tangent here, but related to the whole point of Sagebooks. Don’t use it to teach your child to write. You’re going way too slowly if they’re learning to write characters at the same speed. Most curriculums teach 6-10 characters a week in writing only. Again, the whole point of Sage is to learn to read ASAP, before the child enjoys his English books way more than the Chinese books. If you need 800-1000 to read comfortably without the child relying so much on zhuyin, then focus on reading first. That alone takes you 1-2 years. You might as well buy cheaper textbooks if you’re going to focus on reading and writing at the same time.
5. I don’t need the rabbit comic book.
Sure. You don’t need it. But why not get it? They know 500 characters. They’re now going to be reading a book where they should know just about every word in that book. Wow! Where else will you find that? You’ve already gone so far as to get both treasure boxes and readers, then complete the set and get the final book.
6. I don’t need readers, I can teach that part myself
Or maybe your child’s after school, immersion school, or Saturday school is teaching characters already. But, are you looking at other curriculums because you want your child to read? Learn to read ASAP? Not just 6-10 characters a week? If you want to use this as a curriculum, then buy the whole curriculum. If you think you can do better in teaching characters, then buy textbooks that are cheaper.
This is like #4 above.
7. I’m going to get the whole set……No I changed my mind, let me try it with just one book.
As I mentioned, I can’t convince you to get the books. There are several paths to learning to read in Chinese, this is just one of them. If you decide on learning to read Chinese characters first, I happen to think this is the best curriculum available for that purpose. Prices only go up, not down. So if you’ve decided on this philosophy to teach reading, then get the whole set.
Some people are undecided and want to dip their toes. Or they read actual usage reviews and just aren’t sure. There are samples out there on Youtube, look through and see if it jives with you. Borrow a friend’s set. But really, don’t bother just getting one set of books. You really can’t tell if it will work with just one set.
Again, there are several ways to learn how to read Chinese. THEY ALL WORK. If it doesn’t work, it’s in the implementation, not the curriculum. So if you happen to agree with this philosophy, then get the whole set. Sagebooks is great for preschoolers and early readers.
Have I convinced anyone to get everything? My point is, Sagebooks is a curriculum, a text book of sorts. Everything goes together. Maybe you could buy just some parts and not others, but then it wouldn’t be as effective. Yes, totally my opinion there. With no anecdote to back up, other than feeling, since I have bought everything. What I’m afraid of is people getting half of the curriculum, and then say the curriculum didn’t work for them. In fact, I almost feel like you’re wasting your money buying a partial set.
As my trainer told me, if you can buy it, don’t spend the time making the material. You could be spending that valuable time teaching your child to read. Think of your own hourly wage. Is the time it takes to make your own material less than what it costs to buy the books? And yes, I know I don’t take my own advice here sometimes.
I’ve only met two types of people who buy partial Sagebooks, usually just the first set to try. People either don’t buy the rest (and I assume drop using the curriculum), or end up buying everything because they see it works. (And the price goes up with every group order I do in terms of other fees). I think if someone has the goal to teach their kids to read in 1 year, and will actually spend the 15 minutes a day doing it, then they should plunk down that money to buy the whole set.
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