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My First Chinese Reader Review by Lisa Trombley

Better Chinese
P.O. Box 695, Palo Alto, CA 94302
Reviewed in2015

My First Chinese Reader is a complete program to teach elementary school students Chinese at the beginner level. No prior knowledge of Chinese is needed. There are four volumes in the set with each volume containing 12 different lessons that use themes and situations that are relevant to children’s lives. In Volume 1, students will cover topics such as greetings and manners, nationalities, school, family, directions, date and time, and food. Volume 2 teaches students about colors, clothing, health and body, sports and movement, animals and insects, transportation, weather and seasons, and comparisons. In Volume 3, they will learn positions, professions, date and time, activities, items in the home, and ordering food in a Chinese restaurant. Volume 4 discusses the topics of Chinese festivals and food, shopping, special occasions, the four seasons, illness, the Chinese zodiac, and Chinese geography. The program is taught in a spiral approach with plenty of review of the previous lessons built in.

Each of the four volumes comes with several different components. The Teacher’s Guide, which is $40.95, gives an overview of what is being taught in each lesson—vocabulary, sentence structure, teaching objectives, points of inquiry, and socio-emotional development. It also provides many different activities to help teach the lesson. My First Chinese Reader, which retails for $23.95, is a full-color paperback book that shows the students their vocabulary words in a story-like format in both English and Chinese and teaches them how to use them in conversation. There are two workbooks that come with each volume. They are $18.95 for the set. Workbook A focuses on writing characters, and Workbook B uses word games and activities to reinforce each lesson. There is also a set of activity and writing sheets available for each volume for $80.95. These are additional worksheets to help reinforce the lesson.

My First Chinese Reader also has an interactive online component, which is $20.95 for six months. After logging in using a unique user name and password, you have access to several different online learning activities. For each lesson, there is an animation of the lesson text, an exercise, a fun story, songs/rhymes, homework, and a project. There are also online tools such as a voice recorder, writing pad, composition, and e-cards. The program keeps track of your progress and even shows how long you have spent working on online activities. You have the ability to repeat the lessons as many times as you like.

I was amazed by all of the different components to My First Chinese Reader. There are so many activities and options available for every lesson you will be able to find something to suit every kind of learner. In addition to all of the workbook and hands-on activities, you have the online options as well. I found the online portions especially helpful since I had no prior experience with the Chinese language and did not realize how challenging it would be to teach it without knowing it myself. The online activities and writing the Chinese characters were my son’s favorite parts of using My First Chinese Reader.

The My First Chinese Reader’s Teacher Guide is written for a classroom teacher, not a homeschool mom. Because of this, there are several activities you will not be able to do or you will have to tweak a bit. This manual is not a necessary component to the program. It does not contain lesson plans for the workbooks, just ideas for activities to enhance the lessons. I do wish there was a guide that showed what order to assign the worksheets or a rough idea of how much to complete per day and per week. Also, since the program was designed for a school, a few of the example conversations are not applicable to homeschoolers.

There are Homeschooler Packs available that I think would be a much better purchase for homeschoolers. You can purchase one volume at a time, and the pack includes a textbook, workbooks A and B, a six-month online subscription, and a one-year subscription to MP3s for volumes 1-4 for $73.85 per volume.

-Product Review by Lisa Trombley, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2015