Learning Chinese is a useful - if not necessary - skill to have, not just in Singapore, but in today’s increasingly global society. Reading is integral to learning a new language, so why not kick off the habit at home with some great bilingual children’s books? Once you’ve read all the best stories about Singapore and helped your kids understand diversity with these books, some Chinese picture books will not only mix up the story time repertoire, they’ll also help your kids’ journey to becoming little masters of the language.
Head of Chinese at Canadian International School, Huali Xiong, agrees: "Reading has proven to be such a powerful tool. For a second language learner, it not only reinforces speaking and listening, it builds a foundation for students’ writing. Research shows that the more people read, the better they write." Ms Xiong has taught both English and Chinese for 30 years, and is the author of the highly respected Big Apple Chinese Programme, so she knows her stuff.
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But how do those of us who aren’t experts in Chinese (to put it mildly), help our kids learn the language? Xiong has this to say: "For parents who don’t speak Chinese, it is recommended that they support the child with the home language. The language transfer theory indicates that learners will apply knowledge from one language to another." Simply put, once your child has grasped the basics of one language, applying what they’ve learned to a different language (and reading in it) will be that much easier and parents can help by making sure at least one language has a solid foundation.
So how does your child start their first foray into Chinese literature? Although many of our favourite picture books have been translated into Chinese, they lack the cultural context of the language. That’s why we’ve put together a selection of modern Chinese picture books that are interesting, engaging, and best of all, come with English translations so reading is still a fun family bonding experience.