The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
Print PageClose Window
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
Teach Your Baby to Read Chinese

By Thomas Ho
Putonghualab / KinderU

6th Floor, 8 Hysan Avenue
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
852-2970 2382

Thomas Ho's book, Teach Your Baby to Read Chinese, is a must-read for any parent hoping to teach their child the complex Mandarin language beginning from birth. Author Thomas Ho is the founder of KinderU, a school in Hong Kong where infants can be enrolled to take advantage of the theory that children in utero through about age 6 absorb knowledge at a rate that exceeds any other period in their lives. The theory is that it is extremely easy to develop right-brain capabilities, which then gradually decrease until the child reaches full left-brain dominance by age 6.

Mr. Ho points out in his book that while it is extremely hard for an adult to learn the Mandarin language, teaching your four-month-old is easy! With a little effort and his learning materials, you will be able to teach your child to read and speak Mandarin as well as a native Chinese person! The book basically outlines the methods used to teach a baby to read starting as early as four months.

The book explains why one should learn Chinese and the best method to attain Chinese literacy as well as right-brain learning, why parents are the best teachers, how to have joyful interaction, how to have a well-planned curriculum, and more. One thing Mr. Ho said in the acknowledgements section really touched me as a homeschooling parent; he thanked his children for the platform needed for him and his wife to put into place what they had learned. He said, "The memories of their childhood and development will be precious to my wife and I for the rest of our lives, as sweet chapters of our parenthood. Our children have given us both the inspiration as well as the initiative to become better parents. All of my three sons are young men with character and they are all charming in their own ways. Of the three, Kevin has proved himself to be the more challenging, recently reminding me: 'There are no bad children, just good children who sometimes behave badly.' "

The teaching materials include Zhonghua Zijing , Volumes 1-4 (plus DVD and 2 CDs and the Talking Pen), Karaoke CDs, 3 Volumes of Intelligence Multiplier Chinese Flashcards, and 3 Volumes of Rightmind Program Chinese Flashcards. All may be purchased separately through the website.

The four volumes of Zhonghua Zijing are considered by many to be the best textbooks available on the teaching of Chinese literacy. These four volumes contain approximately 4,000 Chinese characters which have each been used only once. After learning to read and recognize all of these characters, a person will have been exposed to all of the Chinese characters he could face in his entire life. The DVD and CDs have lively background music that helps students remember the sound and tone of the individual words. The set contains 4 books, 2 Audio CD and 1 DVD. It is available in Traditional and Simplified Characters. Each Chinese character in Zhonghua Zijing is color-coded to indicate the popularity of the character in the modern language. The characters printed in red are most popularly used, and the characters printed in dark blue are least popular.

The Zhonghua Zijing books are printed with nano-dot technology, and the dots can be read by the "Talking Pen." The pen reads the Chinese character in Putonghua (Mandarin) with an accurate accent. The pen is amazing and fun to use. It is a patented pen that has a 1 GB memory. However, the best part is that you can point to an individual character to hear it read or point in between the characters to read an entire phrase. Simply push a button to hear the phrase translated into English. The spoken words are actually very precise and easy to understand. The pen is also an mp3 player. It comes in a nice pouch with a strap and has interchangeable covers in different colors. Videos showing how to use the Talking Pen were helpful, as the instructions were in Chinese. You can go to to watch the Talking Pen demonstrated.

The KinderU Intelligence Multiplier Chinese Flashcards have the Mandarin character written in red on the front and both the Mandarin translation and the English translation on the back. The cards are sturdy with glossy front and are large so that the baby can focus. The characters are large and red, as this is known amongst early educators to be best for infants, especially those around four months of age. Mr. Ho recommends reading the flashcards to the baby in Chinese first, trying to teach them 10 to 15 cards a week. Then at the end of the week, match the word with the object, all the while remembering to make it a game and not a test. He also notes that an English-speaking parent pronouncing the words according to what is printed will result in 70 to 80% proper pronunciation. Mr. Ho's book, Teach Your Baby to Read Chinese, tells how to properly use flashcards with babies.

The next sequential set of cards, the KinderU Rightmind Flashcards, are appropriate for children aged 18 months and beyond. However, it is important to note that new beginners over 18 months old who have no prior experience in Chinese should still start with the Intelligence Multiplier Cards. According to Mr. Ho's book, parents and teachers should help the student learn one set for a few days; then when the child has mastered that set, add in the next set and simply review the previous set. Typically, an instructor would go over these joyfully three times per session with three sessions per day. It is best to keep the cards special by keeping them out of reach. In this way, the child will be happier when the time comes to use them during the "teach and play sessions."

Many CDs are available with songs children will enjoy listening to. However, they are only in Mandarin not in English. So while you can listen and enjoy them, until you are fluent you will not know what the songs say. Translations can be found online, and Mr. Ho was kind enough to provide the links to the translations. I recommend they put these links on the website. The idea is that children enjoy music so much that they will learn effortlessly while singing along to a great tune either at home or in the car. The CD Dà Xué was one of the "Four Books" in Confucianism. Another CD, Di Zi Gui is an ancient book based on the teaching of Confucius that emphasizes the basic requirements for being a good person and guidelines for living in harmony with others. San Zi Jing is based on a classic Chinese text. It is the embodiment of Confucian thought suitable for teaching young children. According to Mr. Ho's website, "It served as a child's first formal education at home." Lún Y? CD and Karaoke contain a compilation of the discussions and acts of Confucius and his disciples. This collection is considered a representational work of Confucianism and is also said to maintain a tremendous influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today. Christian families will want to be aware that the ideas expressed in Confucianism are in direct conflict with most Christian values. The songs are to teach the language, and the poems and the CDs are a tool to that end, but I recommend that before purchasing the CDs parents Google the name of the CD and read a translation of the text used.

Concerning ease of use, instructions for most materials were not included in English. However, the company translated the instructions for me and provided those by email. I still found it somewhat difficult to manage everything after I received instructions in English, but because I was determined to use the materials, I figured it all out (with lots of help from Mr. Ho and his staff). The book is a must if you are using the materials. I strongly recommend that the company make the effort to include clear English directions with all products sold in the US. Most homeschool families will not have the time to contact the company and work with them to obtain the instructions. As for the Talking Pen, a diagram to show which button is which would help since the buttons could start being numbered from either end. The Talking Pen was my favorite item, and I use it for my own "show and tell" all the time!

Mr. Ho is a great teacher, and his curriculum shows his love of teaching. When I first received the materials, I suggested that the flashcards have the nano-dot technology so that the Talking Pen could be used with the flashcards, giving parents a better understanding of how to pronounce the words. Mr. Ho had already thought of this, and the creation of this product was already underway. I recently checked his website and saw that the cards are now available for purchase. I can't wait to get mine!

Mr. Ho and his wife, who also holds a degree in education, have KinderU schools all over the Eastern world. Their schools encourage parents to begin education for the baby around 18 weeks in utero and also go on to say that they have provided this education to thousands of families in Hong Kong. The result has been that parents have been able to identify positive characteristics in their babies shortly after birth. Babies in their mother's womb add 500,000 brain cells to their developing brain every 12 seconds! If you would like to see KinderU students in action, search for KinderU on

Mr. Ho's belief in letting the child "be the teacher" is great because they learn this way as well. For example, letting the child look at a menu at a Chinese restaurant would be enjoyable once they started making progress, and as time went on they would know more and more of the characters. Spending time with Chinese friends or neighbors (and having them help with pronunciation) would be a great idea, according to Mr. Ho. Another great suggestion was hosting a foreign exchange student, preferably from Taiwan or another place where the population speaks mainly Mandarin. While keeping TV to a minimum, children can also watch some Chinese movies that are age-appropriate. Mr. Ho recommends subscribing to a weekly Chinese Newspaper as well as going to Chinatown frequently if there is one near you.

Product review by Rebecca Huff, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, October 2010

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
Print PageClose Window
2016 is a division of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC. All rights reserved.
No content may be removed or used without permission from
Webmaster    Legal   Site Map   Advertise