:: READ, READ, READ AND MAKE IT FUN!
Many of my friends are sending the kiddos for Chinese enrichment and that's great. One thing that I do is to encourage them to read LOADS to their children and the earlier you start, the better. To this date, I recall the look of utter confusion on Dumpling's face when I first read a Chinese story to her.
In our usual fashion every evening, I'd sit her down and read aloud to her since young. At 16/17 months, I decided to pick up a Chinese title and read out to her. Suddenly, she looked up, frowned at me and asked me "Mama, what?" That was when I first freaked out and understood the arduous journey ahead of us in mastering the Chinese language.
Some comments / replies I get when I advise parents to read aloud to their kids:
- My kiddo is just not interested! He'd run around / walk away when I read any Chinese titles
My advice is to continue to read aloud because some children are not visual learners. What we are trying to do is to expose the child to the sound of the language, vocabulary and sentence structure. If possible, perhaps you can have the read aloud in an enclosed area (a room or in very young children, play yard).
Vary in your intonation and inject some 'life' as you read. Make it fun for your children. You can even extend to craft work after the read aloud. You can make story boxes or do shadow play too.
- I do not know the language so how am I able to read aloud to my child?
Audio books will come in really handy in this case. You can also invest in one of those talking pens for the same purpose. I recently came across a really neat website that has online books and some are on a 'read to me' mode (uses flash)
Here's one of Snow White 白雪公主
- My child walks away the moment she sees that it is a Chinese title. What do I do?
For young children, I'd encourage brightly colored illustrations and to make it more interactive and fun, lift the flaps are always good too.
One thing which worked very well for us has been for the kiddo to read the translated titles (to Chinese of course) of some English stories. The idea is that if the kiddo has read the English titles before, they'd find it familiar and less resistant to it. Some of the translated titles which Dumpling enjoys are:
:: Mr. Men and Little Miss
Same characters (79 titles in all) with the same funny tales - it was a good way to ease Dumpling into lengthier titles in Chinese. Plus with all the names of the characters being translated, it is also great for them to be exposed to good vocabulary.
:: Curious George
Everyone's favourite monkey - George! Dumpling was able to recognise the same starting sentence 这是乔治 after only a few titles. She enjoys George's crazy antics in the English version and the Chinese copies were no different.
Being the chocolate lover that she is, it was easy for her to fall in love with this title: George and the Chocolate factory. She learnt how to say 'strawberry filled chocolates' in mandarin amongst many other terms too!
Being the dog lovers that we are, she also enjoyed another title on dogs
Elmer is another lovely series which Dumpling read when she was around 3+ or so. There is a certain cheekiness to the stories in this series which would have her giggling. With the colorful illustrations, this series is a 'winner'. When I showed her the Chinese titles, there was no resistance at all as it was 'familiar' to her and she was once again captivated with Elmer 艾玛 and his cousin 韦伯 (Wilbur).
Funny storyline like the above would have Dumpling chuckling out loud too
This is part of a 5-part series:
Part 2: Speak it, Use it!
Part 3: Watch it!
Part 4: Play It!
Part 5: Write it! (小书 Small Book)