Journey Step 2: Teaching Chinese Beyond First Few Hundred Characters- Learning Curriculum Before Second Grade

If you haven’t already, you should read my first post on My Journey in Teaching My Children Chinese (Teaching Children Chinese From Age 0-5) In that article, I really stopped around age three and didn’t really go into detail of what my three year old read in the last year and what my five year old is doing. Let me try to help categorize some stuff we’ve been doing in the last year to lay out a plan or what to do next beyond the initial few hundred characters and phonics (zhuyin) is taught. I’m unable to list all the books we’ve read but there are a few sets that come to mind. We do a lot of reading outside the lists below but it’s way too cumbersome to list out every single book so I’ve generalized it into some good sets that are great if you’re building a library for learning Chinese. These books are what I consider to be interesting, varied in authors and topics, and easy for the child to accept.
You’re ready to read this article if your child:

  1. Knows zhuyin/pinyin and knows how to blend already.
  2. Knows at least 400-600 characters in Chinese.
  3. Can hold a pencil and can write simple letters and strokes.

We will go over what we did with at each age level:

  1. Comprehension – to understand more fluently the Chinese language through reading books that are age and level appropriate.
  2. Character Acquisition – to recognize more characters through flashcards or other means.
  3. Writing – to write more characters in order to start beginning essay writing.

I shouldn’t categorize these by age because all children follow a different path but I’m going to follow a pattern according to the age of my own children (since this blog is technically our learning diary). These are just my personal goals/timeline for my children. Keep in mind many of these we may not finish but they are set as goals! Some sets have more than 50 books and it may be impossible to finish all of them and sometimes we skip some books if they aren’t all interesting.

If you’re more accelerated or not quite there for that age, just gauge the material for your own child and where they’re at and you can use the list to gauge what level books to read next, etc. Using it as a reference list for starting levels is how you should view the following list. We’re in the states and there’s no set schedule. Again, what I am putting below is a general guideline of what I followed as set goals for each year. I did reviews for most sets but not all sets. I’ll put a link to the ones that I’ve reviewed in the past and I’ll continue to update this as I do more reviews. Please view reviews to gauge set maturity levels. Although some sets are good for practice, they may not be the best for older children due to storyline.

Age 3-4


We still read picture books on their free time but I’ve implemented simple bridge book reading. We started with bridge books that are about 1000 characters in length or if they’re longer, then we split them into two days. Reading begins with independent read aloud for 15-20 minutes a day. You should gauge how much your child can read in a set period of time and just let them read for that set amount each day. Speed will improve with time. It doesn’t matter about how many characters that may be but it’s good to develop a set time for reading Chinese daily as a habit.

  1. As Coursework :
    1. 幼童創意橋樑系列 - 600 - 900 characters a book – Book Review: 幼童創意橋樑系列 Creative Kinder Bridge Books Collection
    2. kinder creative亮亮的成長 – 600 – 700 characters a book – Book Review: 亮亮的成長 30本+6 CD , All About Vicky Set (30 Books + 6 CDs)vicky
    3. 王文華品德故事屋 – 2 sets – 12 books total – 1000 characters a book – Book Review: 王文華的品德故事屋 Developing Good Character Collection
    4. 小小兵有絕招 – 12 books – 1000 characters a book – Book Review: 小小兵有絕招(一套12本+2CD) Little Soldiers’ Smart Tricks (12 Books, 2CD)little little soldier
    5. 樂讀123系列 – 45 books – 3000 characters a book – Book Review: 樂讀123 系列 44本 Happy Reading 123 - 44 Books
    6. Arnold Lobel Collection Book Review: 羅北兒故事集 Arnold Lobel Book Collection – This would include Frog and Toad – 青蛙與蟾蜍.
    7. 小兵快樂讀本 – 90 books – 3000 characters a book – pick the ones you like and obviously do not need to finish all 90 (this set actually carries through to the next age level but you can start on some easier ones) – Book Review: 小兵快樂讀本系列 90 本 - Little Soldier Happy Reading 90 Books
  2. For Fun:
    1. Other picture books
    2. Nate the Great Book Review: 大偵探奈特系列1-6 Nate the Great Detective Series
    3. I Can Read Collection – not published anymore so I’m not going to do a review on this set.
    4. Book Review: 水果奶奶好故事 Grandma Fruit’s Stories Collection to read with your child.
    5. Magazines – 星期八, 小行星, 巧連智, Book Review: 低年級雜誌,幼兒雜誌介紹:未來兒童,康軒Top945,巧連智,小行星,星期八,小小牛頓。Magazine Preview from Kindergarten Level to Lower Elementary in Traditional Chinese

Were there other books I’ve used? SURE! It’s too crazy to list them all here but the major sets are above. You don’t need to finish all the set but pick from the sets for variety. Makes for an interesting reading experience and good variety.

  1. Continue with flashcards and flashcard games. Get to 800 character level.


  1. I made templates for them to write zhuyin blends well enough to write sentences.
  2. Began writing simple words. I didn’t expect too much memorization of characters in writing but merely a good understand of stroke order. We wrote 2 -3 characters a day with about 4-5 repetitions of each character. Should take less than 10 minutes. At this age, your exercises should be 10 minutes or less.

Age 4 – 5


Reading aloud continues to be around 20 minutes a day to 25 minutes. Here, we’re reading about 2000-3000 characters a day per book or splitting the book if we can’t finish it in one day. My younger one is reading about 3000 characters per 30 minute sitting.

  1. As Coursework:
    1. Continue with 小兵快樂讀本.
    2. Continue with 樂讀123 if haven’t finished. We read these a book a day. I like this set purely for time management. Stories are average but for getting some reading in, it’s pretty good. happy 123
    3. Start Ferris Wheel 故事摩天輪 – 50 books – about 40 are easier level from 3000 – 6000 characters a book up to the harder levels are 10k to 20k characters a book. – Book Review: 故事摩天輪系列 Ferris Wheel Bridge Book Series
    4. Start 優讀本 – 大班低年級 – no word count on these but it ranges from like 3000 – 6000 and has many different collections so depends on your interest.
    5. Start 小魯我自己會讀的故事書 – 23 books. Some are as little as 2500 characters and others are less than 5000. I did reviews on some but not all the books. Book Review: 南瓜弟弟忘東西,南瓜弟弟去遠足 Pumpkin Forgets His Stuff, Pumpkin Goes HikingBook Review: 小熊貝魯和小蟲達達 系列 Little Bear and Little Caterpillar Collection
    6. Start 神奇樹屋 Magic Treehouse – 53 books but only the first 28 are easier and increases in difficulty after #28. (more towards age 5). I believe each book is about 10k in character and goes up to 30k? I could be wrong. magic tree house 2.jpgWe haven’t gotten to the harder longer ones so I haven’t timed the reading on that. Book Review: 神奇樹屋系列 52本 +小百科套書 20本 - Magic Tree House and Fact Tracker Set
    7. Start 閱讀123 – 73 books so far. (more towards age 5). I have reviewed a few sets but not all. There are a lot of great books in this series. They range from 4000 – 20k characters a book. All character counts are listed in the back of the book. My reviews of this series include:
      1. 親子天下: 閲讀123 / Reading 123 Collection – a summary of all the books
      2. Book Review: 閲讀123 / Reading 123 嬉遊民間故事集 – Chinese Folk Tale Collection
      3. Book Review: 閱讀123 / Reading 123 換換書 Change Change Change!
      4. Book Review: 閱讀123 / Reading 123 小東西系列 Little Things Series
      5. Book Review: 閱讀123 / Reading 123 我家有系列 Our House Has Series
      6. Book Review: 閱讀123 / Reading 123 – 屁屁超人系列 Fart Superhero Series
    8. Start 信誼閱讀火車 – 40 books (more towards age 5) – you can find the set of 20 in Taiwan and they are about 5000 – 6000 characters a book. One of the funniest ones in the set is this one: Book Review: 姊弟倆 Big Sister Little Brother
  2. For Fun
    1. Princess black Book Review: 公主出任務 Princess Black Series
    2. Book Review: 紅豆綠豆碰 系列 Red Bean Green Bean Series
    3. Other picture books
    4. Magazines
      1. Book Review: 低年級雜誌,幼兒雜誌介紹:未來兒童,康軒Top945,巧連智,小行星,星期八,小小牛頓。Magazine Preview from Kindergarten Level to Lower Elementary in Traditional Chinese ,
      2. Book Review: 新小小牛頓 高幼版 + 南門書局寄到美國 unboxing of Nanmen Bookstore Package ,
      3. Book Review: 巧連智, 小一版裡面內容有什麼呢? , Qiao Hu First Grade Magazines


  1. Continue with flashcards and start pointing out radicals as you do the flashcards. Get to 1000 characters at a minimum.


  1. Learn more stroke order and do 3 characters a day with 8 times repetition each one.
  2. Write more journal entries or letters or fun cards whatever you choose about twice a week where it’s just 2-3 sentences. Zhuyin for characters they don’t know and characters if they know it.
  3. Know how to write their name and about 50 other frequently used characters.

Age 5 – 6


We’re still reading aloud here for about 25-30 minutes a day. We’ve come to the 3000-4000 character books a day or splitting it into multiple days if we cannot finish in the allotted time.

  1. As Coursework:
    1. Continue 神奇樹屋 Magic Treehouse – 53 books but only the first 28 are easier and increases in difficulty after #28. I’m giving Magic Treehouse a two year time frame while I switch with other sets.
    2. Continue 閱讀123 – 73 books so far. Pick and choose the ones that have less characters (4500 – 6500). reading 123
    3. Continue 信誼閱讀火車 – 40 books (好好讀小學堂 – New name and series by same publisher)
    4. Finish the last 10 or so Ferris Wheel ones that were harder/longer.
    5. First set of Classic Bridge Book Box. 4000 characters and up. They split it into age group for you which is wonderful. Book Review: 世界經典橋樑書系列 World Classics Bridge Sets 1, 2, 3
    6. 優讀本-低中年級
  2. For Fun
    1. Firefly Set 1 Book Review: 螢火蟲 無奇不有的魔法學校 – Firefly Book Set: Magic School
    2. Firefly Set 2 好習慣一級棒
    3. Firefly Set 3 不可思議奇想屋firefly tree set
    4. Firefly Set 4 超奇幻故事森林
    5. Zorori – Book Review: 怪傑佐羅力系列 (55 本) Zorori Series (55 Books). We also have a full online class that uses these books and teaches idioms from the books. Zorori Online Class Link
    6. Butt Face Detective – Book Review: 屁屁偵探讀本 (1-3) Butt Detective Bridge Book Series – more of this series came out. Totally 5 books so far (10/23/2018)
    7. Easy Comics – will do review later.
    8. Magazines
    9. Ghibli Collection Book Review: 宮崎駿系列 Ghibli Series – 20 Books


  1. Continue flashcards – get up to 1500 characters at a minimum.
  2. Simple dictionary use.


  1. Finish first grade 康軒 coursework. Acquire 150+ characters by memory in writing.
  2. Writing is limited to 15 minutes a day.
  3. Continue with journal or fun writing.

Age 6 – 7 First Grade


Now we’re reading still for 30 minutes a day and have increased the word count to about 5000-20,000 character books. Generally I try to pick books they can finish in one sitting for 30 minutes but if the book is let’s say 20,000 characters, we’ll split it into reading for 2-3 days. Older one at this age is reading about 7500 characters every 30 minutes at this point.

  1. As Coursework:
    1. Try to finish Magic Treehousetree collection
    2. little soldier upperContinue and finish 閱讀123 that are 10k and less in characters.
    3. Second Box of Classic Chinese
    4. 小兵故事百匯
    5. 優讀本-低中年級
    6. 小天下奇想樹系列
    7. 小天下故事飛行船系列
    8. Newspapers – 國語日報, 國語周刊, 未來兒童 Book Review: 國語周刊 (基礎版, 小學版), 國語月刊 (成長版), Chinese Weekly Newspaper for Kids (MWM)
    9. 康軒故事溜溜球系列
  2. For Fun
    1. Firefly Set 5 Book Review: 螢火蟲 美德易開罐 – Firefly Book Set: Morals
    2. Firefly Set 6: 小螢火蟲校園智囊團
    3. Firefly Set 7: 愛的烘培屋
    4. Firefly Set 8: 美德新幹線
    5. 國語日報, 節日故事
    6. Mr Men Little Miss
    7. Comics
    8. 變身 5 books
    9. 優讀本- 中年級系列
    10. 優文庫- 中年級系列
    11. Magazines


  1. Continue flashcards – get up to 2000 at a minimum.
  2. Using dictionary to find words they don’t know.


  1. Continue 康軒 second grade curriculum.
  2. Continue with journal writing 2-3 times a week.

Age 7 – 9 Second Grade +

We are not here yet so I’ll leave this until next year. General goals are the same. Gather up to 2500 characters or more and then do more easy essays. Read harder books with or without zhuyin. Focus more on idioms and speech. Most of the sets up there are still applicable and will continue with those added with some

  1. 樂讀456 series
  2. 地球小小說 – no zhuyin
  3. 小橘園 set
  4. 老鼠記者 – Geronimo Stilton
  5. Etc.!!! Will have to share more but there’s about 10-15 sets I have in the mid to upper elementary that we’ll need to move to in the next few years.


In general, that’s what we’re following but there are so many books in some sets, my girls go back and forth. I put some sets in the order of difficulty so that you would understand the flow of how we approached the reading from easy to hard and though some books weren’t a gradual increase in difficulty, we worked through it by either reading less than a full book a day to make it a shorter read, etc. There are also times when we venture off onto other sets that are new or when new interests spark. We will update this list as the time goes on.

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