Teaching Chinese to Toddlers: Notes from a Parent/Teacher
    Date of publication :11/20/2018 2:53:13 PM



offering a unique progressive learning experience for kids.

Learning to speak a language is heavily linked to affective factors – your feelings and your reaction to the language environment around you. Children’s language ability of speaking an additional language does not come naturally. Many external factors have impacts on how children can learning a second language. Here our blogger share her view:

I’m a mother of three, a Chinese teacher living overseas, I see the importance of creating a Chinese environment for children. I thus always stick to one principle: speak Chinese with my children at home, tell stories only in Chinese.

The family language environment especially helps children develop listening skills. Here are some basic rules for language learning with low-age children:


Let the book be seen everywhere

When my child was still a baby but was able to see and catch objects in the hands, I started to show her a black and white color book. I told the story in Chinese, named the items around her in Chinese. The book was always placed next to her. Whenever she was awake, she would take this book and play with it. Although it’s not her stuffed toy, she was accompanied by a Chinese book and growing with it every day.
 
As for a toddler, she may not understand a lot about reading. but the advantages of parent-child reading are many. It allows child to feel the companionship of the parents, it builds trust between parents and child, and it enhances child’s sense of security. I think, for this reason, my three children were willing to listen to me for a long time even they could not understand well what I was speaking. Slowly, they got a conditional reflex.  Whenever they sit on my lap, they would pick up a book. When I read myself, I also observed whether they were paying attention to what I was reading. I found that most of the time they paid also attention to my book and images inside my book. They would be eager to use their tiny fingers to point on the patterns interested them, and waited for my explanation. Of course, I use Chinese to explain!
 
If they saw the pattern on the book in real life, they would be particularly excited, shouting and pointing the items they had seen in their books, or describing this thing in their own way. On the other hand, when reading a book, they would be immediately connected with the images of real objects they have come across in daily life.  Once this concept of representation begins to take a hold in their little brain, they would carefully observe the pictures in the book and be willing to describe the similarity or difference between the pictures and real things with their simple broken Chinese words. Reading gradually became a huge fun game between kids and me. I’m always touched by the light in their eyes---the light coming from a fulfilled curiosity, the light of a growing mind.
 
This positive reciprocal reinforcement between facts and books stimulates the joy of reading. If you spend a lot of time reading with your child every day, you will find that the number of times the child picks up books increase, reading time is getting longer and longer.


What books did I choose for my children?

1.   Choose a book that is closely related with the child's daily life. For example, there are bottles, diapers, clothes, toys and fruits in the book, so that he can quickly connect the real thing with the book.
 
2. Select the book with a topic of “Finding Things”. A little bit challenge at the child’s level also stimulate curiosity in further reading. For example: what is hidden in the elephant's ear, what is hidden behind the stone. There is also a type of book that children can touch it to feel, such as the soft hair of a puppy, the smoothness of a fish's body, the graininess of an orange, the stickiness of a chocolate sauce, or the smell of a flower. When we put these books in front of children, then they will be more curious to explore every corner of the book. Nurturing your child’s curiosity with well selected books will help her become a lifelong reader.


Two more practical tips:

1.   Let children get in touch with the five senses, mobilizing all kinds of senses to understand the book. Parents interact with children while reading, leading them not only read the book but also establish contact with the things and generate recognition, build their sense of recognition and strengthen parent-child relationship.

2.   Let children also choose their favorite books at specific times. I think the book chosen by children has something he likes or something he doesn't understand, and would like to explore further.
 
Those above are my reflection on cultivating reading habits of 0-2 years old children. I believe a good reading environment is a good language learning environment.


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