Valen did her post in our Facebook Group in Chinese but I will translate it as best as I can here. You can visit our group to get advice from more crazy moms and dads and how they taught their children:
My daughter is six and a half right now. She knows how to read traditional and simplified characters. She knows zhuyin as well as pinyin but she doesn’t need phonetic assistance anymore due to her love of reading comics. She has perfect pronunciation and speaks Chinese to Chinese fluently to a point where people may think she may not know English! You may think I had some magical formula to share but the truth is, there’s no magic in developing a child who reads fluently in Chinese at a young age. She’s never been to Chinese school and never did the most common 500 characters everyone has been training. We don’t have flashcards at home either so I don’t frequently share how we came about on our journey to read. The reason being I don’t feel like I did anything special. If you really had to boil it down to one thing, then it’s the same thing the crazy tiger moms in the Motherly Notes Facebook Group has done: crazily buy enormously large amount of books and do an incessant amount of reading!
When she was two and a half, I bought 「喂故事書長大的孩子」and took down the recommended books from the book list. From then on, it was a point of no return on our journey for the love of books and stories. Every single month, I would buy a crazy load of books from http://www.books.com.tw. (For how to buy books here, read this How to Buy on 博客來 (Books.com.tw) or where else can I get books in the states?) Every time my monthly box arrived, we’d be more than ecstatic to open up the box immediately and read. We read in the morning, mid day, and at night. Every single day, I read an average of two hours. If she liked a book, sometimes we could read it up to 100 times! This is pretty normal for children this age to repeat a book a million times until they’re satisfied.
After a year and a half, a teacher suggested that I start teaching phonics so I decided to use 巧虎注音學習機 for zhuyin (phonetic assistance). Even though she learned zhuyin, it didn’t stop me from my hours of reading daily. We still continued that. The only difference is, when I am busy, she can independently read. Since her comprehension was already high (due to our long hours of reading), she was able to read and just understand what she was reading after sounding out the words. Then she got used to independent reading. At age 4, she fell in love with the simplified version of “十萬個為什麼” comics and taught herself simplified characters. At age five, she fell in love with comics I bought for myself! This made her step into the territory of no phonetic assistance to read Chinese.
I believe in “Listen, Speak, Read, then Write” in that order to learn a language. The problem with some schools is they teach writing first. Even if they know how to write and know how to sound it out, they don’t know what it means! Their comprehension is still low. Reading daily increases comprehension the fastest. Montessori says children 0-6 is in the Absorbent mind stage. It means they learn everything fast like a sponge. During this period is the best period to develop reading comprehension. The ability for high level reading comprehension comes from the ability to listen and understand first.
If your three year old doesn’t need to spend time on learning phonetic assistance, then they have more time to listen to mommy’s stories. In fact, they’ll spend their time figuring out what you’re saying and comprehend stories better. They’ll also study the minute details in the picture books better. This is the perfect period for them to utilize their imagination and creativity. No need to hone down on strict memorization at this stage in life.
When we first started hours of reading, I wasn’t expecting to gain much and it was just a ways and means for us to kill time. It was extremely boring for me to take care of a child at home by myself during the day. However, reading with my child has turned into one of the most memorable periods of my life. It’s extremely sweet and heart warming when I think about it. When she grows up and doesn’t need me anymore, she’ll at least look back at our time spent reading and realize how much joy was fostered from our story time.
Even until today, I still enjoy reading to her even though she can read on her own. If your child loves hearing stories, I urge you to continue your efforts! Build your foundation and read incessantly to your children! When the timing is right, you can’t even hold them back from learning and reading Chinese on their own! I haven’t heard any child who says they don’t like Chinese by being read to by their own parents. Sometimes you have to let go of “how much they need to learn” and just enjoy your reading time. The result will be the same, I can assure you that. Let’s all work hard together!
She’s recently gotten quite good at English so I’ve been trying to find other ways to keep her up to par with her Chinese as well. I am following the advice of Oliver Tu. Any chance I get at home, we’re playing Chinese Oldies, watching Chinese films and talk shows, reviving Chinese traditions (such as New Years), and letting my child immerse fully in the Chinese culture!
Here’s my take from her article: READ , READ, READ, don’t save up that money but spend willingly on BOOKS like we all have, and the other advice:
- Read when you’re walking
- Read in the parking lot
- Always carry your own chair because you’ll be reading
- Read when you’re in the restroom
- Read when you’re showering
- Read when you’re eating
- Read when you’re mad
- Read when you’re sad
- Read when you’re arguing
- Read when traveling
- Read on the car
- Read on the plane
- ….. get the idea?
For my own personal experience in teaching my children: My Journey in Teaching My Children Chinese. For other parent’s experiences: Interviews With Parents Who Have Successfully Taught Their Children Chinese