Monday, June 22, 2009

Characters for Kids

If any of you have younger siblings, kids or grandkids, there's a good chance that you recognize Kai-lan. Her show on Nick Jr., Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, has sparked Z's interest in Chinese. The show is about handling emotions and feelings but it also teaches some basic Chinese words. This last week we bought a large Kai-lan floor puzzle that has English words like cloud and house and flower and then their characters and English pronunciations. When we went to the library on the same day, we lucked out and they had set out a book that fit right in to this new interest.

The Pet Dragon by illustrator Christoph Niemann is his attempt to expose kids to the beauty and order of Chinese characters. This is the story of a young girl who gets a baby dragon. They become fast friends and have many adventures. Unfortunately, they get a little too rough while playing in the house and they make Lin's father angry. He insists that the dragon be in a cage. This makes the dragon unhappy and he disappears so Lin must go on a quest to find him. When she finally finds him, he is bigger and happier than she could have ever imagined.

Though I don't expect Z to become fluent in Chinese from these small resources, I think that the language and culture exposure is great for his growing mind and world view. And one day, when he chooses a second language to study, it just might be Mandarin.

Here are some sample pages from The Pet Dragon. Did I mention that it's a beautiful book?

再见 (zài jiàn),
K and Z


  1. How cool! I love it! I think I would get as much out of it as my son! A friend of mine who was living in China made a little photo book of my son (his face superimposed on bodies of different children) posting with different animals and they had the English word and the Chinese characters and we had fun trying to find how the characters kind of looked like the animal!

  2. That's a great idea to make our own animal character book ... hmm ... summer project!