This is Part 6 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series. In Parts 1-5, I gave some background on children’s books and how we pick them, and did a survey of local libraries and publishers and Taiwanese authors and started describing my Board Book and Picture Book Collection.
This post is split into two, the next part on Bridging books is actually Books for Lower Elementary, Part 1.
In this research paper on Reading 123 閱讀123 (p. 23), they say that an Eslite magazine started the term 橋樑書 by borrowing the English term Bridging Books, which is used to describe Early Readers (also known as Easy Readers, Leveled Readers) and Chapter books. Even more interesting to me, chapter books, which is the bridge between early readers and children’s fiction (3rd+ grade level) was introduced in the 1980’s!
In any case, Taiwanese publishers coined these two types of books 橋樑書 Bridging books. What this means is that it actually encompasses a very wide range of books, from children just learning to read, to regular lower elementary books.
In the footnotes of this research paper, they level Bridging Readers this way:
- Level 1: <5K characters. Around 64 pages. Illustration to text ratio 1:1
- Level 2: 5k-10k characters. Around 128 pages. Illustration to text ratio 1:2
- Level 3: 10k-20k characters. Only some illustrations.
- Level 4: 20k-40k. Few illustrations
There are tons of books that are illustrated but are not picture books. In my search for Bridging books, I found that most books that are illustrated are labeled as such, and it can go up to 3rd or 4th grade level reading. My aim here is to list mostly book series specifically marketed as 橋樑書 Bridging Books, particularly books that are sets. These kind of books tend to be “designed” (e.g. they invite authors to write them) with the right illustration to text ratio.
I love buying set books for a few reasons. 1) I don’t have to research each individual book for its quality. The whole set often has a certain quality to it. So then I just have to decide if I want to get a large number of books or not. 2) Because they’re sold as sets, they tend to have further discounts than buying individual books. Getting more bang for the buck is always good!
So yes, I was wrong in my original post. Because Briding books encompass Lower Elementary. What I’m going to do is to make this a post on Early Readers, namely books in Level 1. I will list all the other books (Level 2-4) in my Elementary post instead.
More Waxing on Books for Early Readers
Astroboy is just starting to read, and I’ve been itching to get him to read longer books. But I realized recently, due to his language comprehension level, his age, and how fast he reads each page, he really needs to stay in the picture book section for awhile.
However, not all picture books are good ones to read by oneself due to use of higher vocabulary. My goal really ought to be to focus on Sagebooks, leave the zhuyin reading during quiet reading time and continue to read to him more than he reads to himself. Otherwise I’m going to hit into comprehension issues with him.
So yes, the first step in Chinese Early Readers is actually picking appropriate picture books. However, if a child is much older (like Thumper was), there is a specific list of books, in order of progression that I use to ramp up to Level 1 books, I will call those Level 0. They’re listed in this PDF as part of the <5000 characters set. But I think it really needs to be separated out as that step between picture books and the longer chapter books in Level 1.
I also talked about how Thumper learned to read in Chinese Books for Our Beginner Reader.
Book Series Index
For the Level O books, I’m listing them in order of difficulty. This is the order I suggest to friends when they ask me.
- 信誼 Hsin Yi Publishing 我的語文小書包 My Language Backpack、我的故事小書包 My Stories Backpack
- 格林 Grimme Press 大吉象和小豬寶 Elephant and Piggie (16 books)
- 企鵝 Penguin Press 亮亮的成長 Something About Vicky (60 books, 20 pages)
- 斑斑的生活故事 The Caterpillar Family (10 books)
- 華信 Hua Xing Publishing 托托的成長 Franklin Series (12 books)
- 格林 Grimme Press 小熊看世界 Little Bear
- 信誼/上誼文化 Hsin Yi 青蛙與蟾蜍 Frog and Toad
- 遠流 Yuan Liu Publishing 羅北兒故事集 Arnold Lobel Series
These books should all have < 5000 characters. They are either more like chapter books, or have individual short stories.
- 小兵出版社 Xiao Bing Publishing 小小兵有絕招 Little Xiao Bing Knows Some Tricks (12 books, 48 pages)
- 小兵出版社 Xiao Bing Publishing 小小兵有品德 Little Xiao Bing has Morales (12 books, 48 pages)
- 信誼/上誼文化 Hsin Yi 兒童閱讀列車 Children’s Reading Train (30 books, 3-4k characters)
- 東雨文化 Kingin 露露和菈菈 Lulu and Lala (15 books, 72-80 pages)
- 小兵出版社 Xiao Bing Publishing 小兵童話精選 Xiao Bing Select Fairytales（6 books, 72-96 pages）
- 小兵出版社 Xiao Bing Publishing 小兵快樂讀本 Xiao Bing Happy Readers（30 books, 72 pages, 3k characters)
- 小魯 Tian Wei Publishing 我自己讀的故事書 I Can Read Story Books (21 books, 64 pages)
- 故事摩天輪 Story Ferris Wheels (40 books, 80+ pages)
- 大偵探奈特系列 Nate the Great (6 books, 72 pages)
我的語文小書包 My Language Backpack、我的故事小書包 My Stories Backpack
These are not really Early Readers. But if you’re looking for a set of quality, and yet inexpensive picture books, covering a variety of subjects, with audio CD, to read along to first and then to practice reading, this is a good set to buy.
Because it’s not designed as a Bridge Books, not every book is going to be using simple language. But, it comes with CD!
These were originally called 寶寶閱讀列車，幼幼閱讀列車 but apparently those got out of print and they repackaged it. I believe the new set has fewer books than the old set.
大吉象和小豬寶 Elephant and Piggie (16 books)
This set by Mo Williams is probably even simpler than the picture books listed above. The text is very large, with 1-2 super simple sentences per page. Astroboy started on this set after learning his zhuyin.
企鵝 Penguin Press 亮亮的成長 Something About Vicky (60 books, 20 pages)
I don’t love the writing in the series 110%, but this was the series that got Thumper started on reading, so I love it for that reason. Apparently it’s actually written by a Chinese author and translated into English. I think you can get just the Chinese version (30 books) or buy the whole 60 book set.
I love the series because the font is super big, great for a beginning reader, and each page has only about 2 sentences. Thumper hated looking at tiny text when she started reading.
斑斑的生活故事 The Caterpillar Family (10 books)
This set has 3-4 sentences per page so it’s a perfect level up from Something About Vicky. Because it’s translated and the sentences short, sometimes the writing doesn’t flow too well. But the font is big.
華信 Hua Xing Publishing 托托的成長 Franklin Series (12 books)
This set is probably the same as Little Bear in terms of length. The text is pretty small and sometimes the language can be more advanced since it wasn’t designed as a Bridge Book. But it has bigger pictures.
It’s also out of print but you can grab it from used bookstores if you see them. The only reason I list it is because if the kids are still reading picture books to practice, then here’s another set (rather than individual books). Plus because it’s translated, the topics in each book are more Western in content.
Another set is 我愛瑪婷 I Love Martine. This set of 52 books is available in both simplified and traditional. It’s even smaller font with large pictures. The best thing going for this set is its price. 52 hardbacks with audio CD for as low as $66 USD? Super duper cheap!
格林 Grimme Press 小熊看世界 Little Bear
This set used to be published by Hsin Yi. But it is now newly published as a hardback by Grimme Press. One of my favorite and must buy series. Compared with most other Bridge Books, the language in this set is super easy to read. If you know zhuyin, and are in set 4 or set 5 of Sagebooks, you would be reading mostly characters with just a little zhuyin help.
信誼/上誼文化 Hsin Yi 青蛙與蟾蜍 Frog and Toad
Just like the English equivalent, Frog and Toad is about the next level up from Little Bear. It’s almost comparable with the Lobel series in terms of length.
遠流 Yuan Liu Publishing 羅北兒故事集 Arnold Lobel Series
I highly recommend this series because it has a built in level progression. Plus, Lobel books are just silly fun. There are 9 books total. The first 2 are picture books you read to the child. Third through 8th book slowly gets longer in length. By the time Thumper was done with the last book, I started moving her to the Level 1 books.
小小兵有絕招 Little Xiao Bing Knows Some Tricks & 小小兵有品德 Little Xiao Bing has Morale
These two sets look to be really at the beginning level, with large fonts and a 1:1 illustration to text ratio. Plus the total pages is really low too.
兒童閱讀列車 Children’s Reading Train (30 books, 3-4k characters)
After Thumper finished the Arnold Lobel series, I tried to ask her to read this series from Books and Me. She read 雞毛鴨來了 Chicken Feathered Duck is Here, among others. It supposedly won awards. She was not really into it, and I was not really into them. I didn’t like the titles (笨狼畫畫 Stupid Wolf Draws, 親嘴大魔法 Kiss Magic), the stories, or the writing. So we didn’t continue checking them out.
However, we actually own two of these books at home: 我家有個黑洞 My Home has a Black Hole and 小珍珠 Little Pearl and I liked these.
露露和菈菈 Lulu and Lala (15 books, 72-80 pages)
東雨文化 Kingin seem to specialize in those really cute Japanese girls books. 露露和菈菈 Lulu and Lala is the lowest level in Kingin Publishing’s series of really cute Japanese girl books. This set is about two girls who have opened up a baking shop. The books have recipes you can follow. Thumper tried to read the first book, but didn’t want to continue. The other two are listed in the Lower Elementary Post.
This set is at Books and Me.
小兵童話精選 Xiao Bing Select Fairytales（6 books, 72-96 pages）
Published in 2003. Looks like the books have bigger fonts and each page has a smaller number of sentences.
小兵快樂讀本 Xiao Bing Happy Readers（30 books, 72 pages, 3k characters)
Published in 2006, it’s a follow up to Xiao Bing Select Fairytales specifically designated as Bridging Books. Even though this has fewer pages than the fairy tales, from the pics online, it looks to actually be longer.
我自己讀的故事書 I Can Read Story Books (21 books, 64 pages)
These are almost all translated from Japanese. We have the 小熊貝魯和小蟲達達 Kuma no beāru to Chiisana Tatan series and I really like them. I will most likely buy the rest of the set. Supposedly 南瓜弟弟 Little Pumpkin Brother series is also popular. I’m not sure why there is a skip of levels (at least from page count) between this series and their next 我自己讀的童話書 I Can Read Stories series. Will have to report after I order them!
故事摩天輪 Story Ferris Wheels (40 books, 80+ pages)
This series is starts at Level 1 and moves onto Level 2 (See my Lower Elementary Post). The books are primarily translated from Japanese. I’ve heard that it has the tone of other Japanese books. Namely, gentle, warm and fuzzy, heart warming stories with animals as main characters.
We’ve picked up one from Oakland Library and that was my impression as well. Unfortunately it’s below Thumper’s level and above Astroboy’s level so it didn’t look too enticing to us. This is probably the last series in the Level 1 Bridging books if we were to read them.
大偵探奈特系列 Nate the Great (6 books, 72 pages)
Mystery is my newly discovered genre. This set is bilingual, with big words and great illustrations. I read the first few pages and it’s a bit stilted in the translation because the English is really short and meant for beginning readers. But if your kid likes mystery, this is the lowest level to start.