Two summers ago, I bought a Kindle Paperwhite for Thumper‘s annual summer vacation at Grandma. Originally I bought it for Thumper to read in English. However, as we moved up to upper elementary Chinese books, I started using it for reading in Chinese as well. The more we use it, the more I’ve fallen in love with it. It is an indispensable tool in our quest to learn Chinese.
As they like to say in Chinese, it has a high CP value.
Why buy a Kindle?
Honestly, it probably doesn’t have to be a Kindle. It can be a Nook. But I don’t know anything about the Nook, so I don’t know if it can do the things that the Kindle can.
- It’s great for traveling. When we Worldschooled this past year for 4 months, I brought only the Kindle Paperwhite along. We used it to read English books and eventually the Chinese books I managed to find online.
- No need for an English library at home. I’ve donated about 80% of my English books at home now that I have a Kindle. We usually borrow ebooks that we download onto the Kindle. For books that have no eBook format, we go to the local library. We only buy non-fiction books we need for homeschooling when we need it.
- It provides support for English learning. Use the Word Wise setting to provide definitions over texts, which is super great for learning vocabulary. There is also a dictionary to look up words you don’t understand. There is also Kindle FreeTime, which allows you to track reading progress, though I have never figured out how it works.
- It’s got Simplified Chinese support! You can read in Traditional Chinese as well, but the menus can only be configured for Simplified. You can highlight Chinese text and look up translations and definitions. For simplified, you can configure it to display pinyin on top of words!
- Entice children to read higher level books. As I mentioned in my Harry Potter book review, kids can’t quite see how big a book is when it’s on the Kindle, so they are more willing to read a long book that they’re capable of reading, but resist because they’re not used to words without texts yet.
- Not worry about the kids’ eyes. I’m no optometrist so I don’t know if it’s actually better. But I feel better that I can change the font size to something huge for the kids. Fonts start getting so much smaller the higher the level and I always worry. In fact, because of this, I actually prefer the kids reading on the Kindle and always try to find an ebook before looking for a physical copy now. When I asked the kids’ optometrist the last time we went for a check up, she said that for screen devices they just need to make sure to rest their eyes every 30 minutes.
I can’t resist the call of a book collection. So I talked Dots into letting me reorganize her Chinese books.
She thinks I’m helping her. But really, I get to check out books I would otherwise not know about. As I learned during our session, she buys a lot of books through books.com.tw 博客來, many I’ve never heard off and several I’ve been wanting to check out but can’t bear to buy because my kids are mostly out of the picture book stage.
Organizing Dots’ books comes with two unique challenges. One, I can’t wait till she buys more bookshelves since I am just visiting. This means that I couldn’t really do a complete reorganization of her books. Two, I was unfamiliar with her collection.
But, I’m pleased with what we managed to do in a few hours.
We started by gathering most of the books together. Her English and Chinese books were mixed together over 7 shelves, 5 in the living room and 2 in the bedroom.
Age: 6.5 & 9.5
Grade Level: 4+ (listening), lower elementary (reading)
This semester, I’ve introduced a new routine. The children can listen to an audiobook while they fold their laundry during work hours. I offered Astroboy Mr. Men and Little Miss 奇先生妙小姐 one day and finally, there is something that is at Astroboy‘s comprehension level and actually engaging.
Astroboy has been listening to the series for the last month. Mr. Men and Little Miss is just like Thomas the Train. After a few repeats, the kids can tell me exactly what each Mr. Men and Little Miss’ story is about, and knows to request a specific one that they find especially funny. Then, when they’re not listening, they will discuss the stories and laugh their heads off. Even better, because Fleur and Mandarin Mama‘s kids are also listening to the series, sometimes they would discuss the stories on the playground.
This is part of my series on building A Chinese Library. For a complete list of posts, see here.
Last year, I re-organized Mandarin Mama’s Library. This year, I helped Fleur organize the 8+ boxes of books elfe brought back from Taiwan. We’re not quite done yet, but at least the books are mostly on the shelves. She has a substantially larger book collection, probably 500+ books and tons of magazine.
I wrote a super long post, but really the process is the same, with 1 or 2 tweaks. So instead I’m going to just modify the original “recipe” and list them here, point out some of the things we did differently, and post tons of pics. Because, when the Chinese books are all lined up along a wall, it’s so pretty! (more…)
This is part of my series on Building Your Chinese Library. Check out my previous, related post on All About Buying Books in Taiwan.
It’s T-6 and seriously, NO MORE Book Buying. Right now, it’s looking like my books may barely fit into my allowed luggage.
This means I can finally come out of blog rest and detail all the bookstores I visited, both physically and virtually. Obviously I didn’t visit all the bookstores in Taipei. But we did go back to the used ones multiple times. After awhile, patterns emerged and there was no reason to go discover more stores during our trip.
You may also want to check out the first general overview post I wrote about buying books in Taiwan a year ago. This post just goes into more details about the individual bookstores.
This post is by no end an exhaustive list of all the bookstores in Taiwan, nor a list of the cheapest bookstores. You can always be looking for that cheaper bookstore. As I mentioned in my overview post, a super good deal is 65% of list price. The cheapest option is easy to find online if you can pay by Cash/ATM Transfer, then carry the books back yourself. This option is only available for people with relatives in Taiwan or people who go back often. For me, I try to find stores that accept US credit cards and is wiling to ship to me in the US.
Since it’s the end of the year and my Dramabeans kdrama year-end reviews are fresh on my mind, I’m going to do something similar, give each bookstore a little verdict.
Note: In Taiwan, prices are talked about as a % of list price, rather than % off. So 70% list is really 30% off.
Itinerary: Children’s Amusement Park, 市立大學 Taipei City College, 曉食堂, Bookstar Bookstore
We got a late start today because we got home so late last night. Though I was tempted to stay home all day, I felt bad because the kids have been talking about Halloween non-stop and we did buy them cat costumes at Yabook.
So I did some research and found out that all the big Halloween activities already happened this weekend. Oops! The biggest one is apparently the one in Tianmu 天母. Not surprising since that’s where the international schools are.
Thankfully, the Children’s Amusement Park supposedly had an event where you can beg for candies so we went that route. However, after lining up at 3pm to follow some little witch around the park, we found out the candy giving part was actually this morning at 10am.
I keep searching for my post of Chinese Reading Levels whenever I try to determine Thumper’s reading level. Looking through the archives, it seems that I got confused by the levels myself and mislabeled them for awhile. So spent some time today to re-research and re-organize.
The levels are a combo of the often cited reading levels articles by Tian Xia Magazine 天下 and what I saw in the jacket cover of the books by 東雨文化 Kingin Publishing.
Below, I present my Chinese Reading Levels.
Updated 12/18/2017: I added my thought of equivalent grade level for easier reference. If you look at the Taiwanese recommended reading age for these books, they encompass a very wide range (bridging books go up to 10 year old!). But I’ve shortened this range to “at grade level” instead, as a 10 year old reading a 5000 character bridging book is probably a bit behind. Or maybe the book is still of interest to a 10 year old, but at grade level they probably could be reading something else.
With this system, the child will have mostly finished Reading 123 series by 2nd grade level, which is my marker for being at “grade level” to Taiwan. Keeping in mind many Taiwanese kids will probably surpass this level in in 2nd grade, just like in the U.S. with kids reading English books.
You can also ignore the lexile level. It’s for my own reference for the online Chinese books catalogue I’m building.
Picking the right level books for Astroboy and Thumper was a difficult task until recently, when Thumper has finally read through multiple levels for me to understand how it works. Chinese books aren’t like English books, with reading levels spelled out in various book recommendation websites, or printed right on the cover of a book.
Review of Levels
First, let me review the levels I mentioned in my Building A Chinese Library for the Kids series. I’ve added more info I recently found from 東雨 Kingin Publishing.
- Board Books （0-3 yrs old)
- Picture books (Toddler picture books, preschooler picture books) (0-6 yrs old)
- Bridging books (6-10 yrs old, ~1st-4th grade)
- Level 0 (<5000 characters)
- Level 1 (5k-10k characters)
- Level 2 (10k-20k characters)
- Level 3 (20-40k characters)
- Advanced Bridging Books (10-14 yrs old, ~5th-8th grade)
- Level 4 (40k-70k characters)
- Children’s Literature 70k+ (15 yrs old+, 9th+)
This is Part 7 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series.
As I mentioned in my last post, which might not have been published yet as I’m jumping around, Taiwanese publishers seem to call all non-picture books that have illustrations as Bridging Books. Since this means these books cover a wide range of reading level, I decided to put Early Readers (Level 1) in the last post, and Chapter Books (Level 2-4) in this post. This will put you up to 4th grade. Even though Chapter Books are considered Bridging books too, to me, you kind of need a certain level of reading skill to start reading these longer books.
To recap, the levels, taken from the 閱讀123 (Reading 123) series are:
- Level 1: <5K characters. Around 64 pages. Picture to text ratio 1:1
- Level 2: 5k-10k characters. Around 128 pages. Picture to text ratio 1:2 (1st-2nd grade)
- Level 3: 10k-20k characters. Only some illustrations. (1st-2nd grade)
- Level 4: 20k-40k. Few illustrations (3rd-4th)
- Level 5: 40k+?
This is Part 4 of my Building a Chinese Library for the Kids series. In Parts 1-3, 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.
If you look at the photo of our Chinese library (as of Aug 2015), you will see that board books takes up a very, very, very, small section of our library. It basically takes up right 1/4 space on shelf #4.
In my faulty memory, I did not read to either kids too much, especially Astroboy, before they were 1 (or was it 2?). By the end of the day, I just wanted to go to bed. They only seem to have 5 minute attention spans when it comes to reading. Plus it was so easy to rip the precious Chinese picture books that traveled 3000 miles to get here.