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When it comes to learning Chinese culture and language, I know I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the vastness of China’s language and history. Even as a Chinese American, I often feel that my knowledge of that civilization’s history, culture, and language is just the tip of the iceberg. Where should I start? What good Chinese children’s books are there to educate the children?
The good news is that there are increasing resources available for those who want to learn more, provide their children with a bilingual education, and educate them to appreciate and achieve cultural fluency.
I’ve listed ten great Chinese children’s books to read with young children to effortlessly start or expand that appreciation. They range from simple bilingual look and find books to expand vocabulary to the more extensive Chinese history comics. I’ve also included some good options to introduce kids to classic Chinese fairy tales, holidays, and traditions.
Whether you’re looking for a way to share this culture with the kids or are looking for more material to stock your shelves, check out these excellent Chinese children’s books. They all promise to enrich children’s learning as they begin to dig their toes into Chinese language, history, culture and traditions.
Chinese children’s books
Chinese Folk Tales: The Dragon Slayer and Other Timeless Tales by Shiso S. Nunes and Lak-Shee Tay-Audouard
The 19 stories collected here have been told in China for thousands of years, delighting listeners with tales of the universal virtues of honesty, respect, courage and self-confidence. Told with wisdom, humor and affection, these folk tales offer an insight into traditional Chinese culture and folk wisdom.
Chinese Myths and Legends: The Monkey King and Other Adventures by Shelley Fu and Patrick Yee
The Chinese myths of creation, mortality and love are contained in this collection of seven stories. A pronunciation guide and reading information help educators and parents read these classic Chinese stories to young listeners.
Yeh Shen: A Cinderella Story from China, by Ai-Ling Louie and Ed Young
If you have never read this Chinese Cinderella story, you and your listeners will be delighted. Enter the world of Yeh-Shen and see how ancient and universal the Cinderella story is.
Dim sum for everyone! by GraceLin
Learn about this cultural custom by visiting a bustling dim sum restaurant. In this picture book, serving trolleys bring delicious appetizers – from cakes to rolls to dumplings – and everyone at the table shares the delicacies in a family atmosphere.
Our Moon Festival: Celebrating the Moon Festival in Asian Communities by Yobe Qiu and Christina Nel Lopez
I love how this book highlights the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival while explaining how the tradition is observed in neighboring Asian countries like Vietnam and Japan. Diversity also exists in Asia and it is very interesting to see how each family celebrates the holiday.
I found it! A bilingual search and seek book by Katrina Liu
Here is a delightful book for Mandarin language learners! This bilingual book includes Simplified Chinese, Pinyin, and English vocabulary words to identify various objects in a fun look-and-find book. There is also a traditional Chinese version for those who want to learn.
The Foundations of Chinese Civilization: The Yellow Emperor to the Han Dynasty (Understanding China Through Comics Series) by Jing Liu
For junior high and above, and even for comic-obsessed elementary school kids, this comic series is great for understanding China’s rich history. There has never been an easier and more fun way to learn about the history of China from ancient to modern times.
Little Pigs and the Sweet Rice Cakes: A Story Told in English and Chinese (Tales of the Chinese Zodiac) by Jian Li
Author and illustrator Jian Li tells a series of stories based on the Chinese zodiac. This is the Chinese version of The Three Little Pigs, a folk tale about three pigs who wish they could eat sweet rice cakes. The story is told in Chinese and English and includes a recipe for making the delicious cakes.
Mooncakes by Loretta Seto and Renné Benoit
Tales of the Jade Rabbit and the Magic Tree that can never be felled are woven into the story of how a family celebrates the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.
ABCs for the American-born Chinese by Cathy Lu
This alphabet book will delight any ABC or American Born Chinese. Babies learn their ABCs with fruits, vegetables and other foods commonly eaten in Chinese homes.
For recommendations on Lunar New Year books to read with kids, see 10 Chinese New Year Books.