Many parents I have spoken to over the years often tell me that they buy many story books and model composition books for their children to read. I agree that these books are helpful on 2 conditions: the children are WILLING to open and READ OFTEN.
I highly doubt that the children will do that for 2 simple reasons, 1 the pages full of words turn them off and 2, they simply do not understand the content.
What is 绘本 and why is it a better choice
绘 means to draw, so 绘本 are actually story books full of drawings and very little words. As the saying goes, “a picture paints a thousand words”, though there isn’t much words and sometimes the stories may be simple, they hold deep meaning and require readers to read between the lines by looking closely at the pictures. Through the pictures, children can pick up details like the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists.
How to use 绘本 to Improve Chinese
· The art of questioning
It is important to read 绘本 with the children and ask them questions. They have to pay attention to details in order to fully understand and enjoy the content.
《爱心树》 is one of my favourite to read to pupils to educate them about love and giving.
For example, when I read this page to my pupils, I like to ask them, “你怎么知道小男孩非常爱大树呢？那么大树呢？你觉得它爱小男孩吗？”
I will draw their attention to the carving the boy has made on the tree. The heart shape and the wordings. I will also point out the willingness of the tree to be carved despite that it may be “painful” for the tree.
This teaches children to read between the lines and it is critical to develop this skill for comprehension.
· Post reading activities
The beauty of using 绘本 is that the same book can be read to children from a range of age. The complexity of the book is determined by the post reading activities. Using 《爱心树》as an example, here are some suggested post reading activities:
Primary 1-2: Draw a picture of a family member who loves you and write a sentence on what he/she did to make you feel loved.
Primary 3-4: Write a short note (便条/简讯) to thank a family member who loves you.
Primary 5-6: Write a short composition (2-3 paragraphs) on the title 《谢谢你，_____》。 Focus on a particular incident which touched your heart.
绘本 are joyful to read, do not be afraid to use them. If you want your child to be interested in Chinese, the last thing you want to do is to turn them off. Read a 绘本 with your child, you’d be surprised what they can pick up from the words and pictures!