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How We Select the Best Chinese Children's Books for Each Age

How We Select the Best Chinese Children's Books for Each Age

In a 2-year-long search for the best books for kids learning Chinese as a second language, JoJo’s team of immersion school educators, linguistic experts, parents and child testers read and reviewed over 4000 popular children’s picture books in print and digital format to find the best Chinese children's books for each age group. In order to build our list, we considered the following criteria.

Book selection criteria:

  1. Fun. Kids learn best from books that they truly enjoy.
  2. Global. Learning a second language is like gaining a second worldview. Diverse literature cultivates global citizens.
  3. Great Literature. Childhood is fleeting. Kids should be exposed to high-quality award-worthy literature from as young an age as possible. 

In order to break down our favorite books and assign them to the appropriate age group, we used the following leveling criteria.

 Book leveling criteria:

  1. Cognitive & developmental readiness
  2. Book and page design
  3. Language use and complexity

Note that our age-based book leveling criteria prioritizes the child's cognitive and developmental readiness first, book and page design second, and language complexity third. This is in contrast to some existing book leveling standards currently used for both English and Chinese children’s books. Two of the major issues that critics have found with some existing leveling systems are: 

  1. Quantitative algorithms for book difficulty levels can miscalculate language complexity: For example, length of words is a standard criteria for many leveling systems, but longer words and sentences are not inherently harder, especially for Chinese, when short idioms and choppy sentences can make comprehension more difficult.  
  2. Children are constrained to "reading down" if assigned to a pure language-difficulty based reading level. Research suggests that children’s listening comprehension outpaces reading comprehension until the middle school years. It is especially important for young children to be read to as they gradually shift to independent reading. With the assistance of parents, teachers, E-books and AI book reading companions, being read aloud to in a foreign language is not only possible, but also really fun for young children! Do not limit your children’s potential or underestimate their learning super power. Children should read, read, read, and read topics that attract their inner curiosity.  

JoJo Learning believes that children's intrinsic love of reading is powerful. We consider quantitative data, yet heavily rely on qualitative, experience and observation-driven criteria, with children’s interests as the primary focus. We consider language complexity, yet encourage developmentally stimulating "reading up" and being read to.

Since we know that many families do not have access to print copies of Chinese children's books at home, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to prioritize sharing our picks for the 40 best interactive ebooks for kids learning Chinese.

We've divided our picks into four age groups and will present the top 10 books for each age. Through this link, you will find the 10 Best Chinese Interactive ebooks for children ages 2-5.   

Why Did We Develop a Chinese Ebook List for Children?

Some parents may be skeptical about the educational quality of ebooks, but here’s why ebooks and particularly animated ebooks are great—especially for kids who are reading in their community’s minority language. 

  1. It can be difficult and expensive to obtain print copies of Chinese books outside of China.
  2. Ebooks can vastly increase children’s reading exposure. Ebooks are accessible anywhere.
  3. Ebooks enable children to "read up" in a foreign language, even if they or their caregiver cannot read.
  4. Children love interactive ebooks.

Ebook's most attractive feature may be their interactive, animated illustrations. These gently moving animations may resemble the "live photos" on your iPhone or the living photographs in the wizard newspapers of the Harry Potter movies. Animated illustrations can provide educational and developmental advantages over traditional static ebooks by allowing children to independently explore and interact with a book, somewhat similar to a guided reading experience with an adult.

At JoJo, we believe that cultivating early literacy is the key to helping a child retain a second language for life.

Start reading with the following 10 Best Interactive Chinese Ebooks for Preschoolers (Ages 2-5). We will be publishing our book list for Ages 6-7, Ages 8-9, and Ages 10+. Stay tuned!  

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