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Home LEARNING Books & Reading Chinese Literacy | Learning To Read Early

Unlike the bygone days, Malaysia education system is constantly changing now. The syllabus is getting tougher, curriculum is more complicated. If my memory serves me well, we started to learn ABC in Standard 1 (Year 1) 30 years ago. Only simple words e.g. teacher, father and cat were in taught in Standard One. I don't recall we learn multiplication tables until Standard 4. These days, parents told me that if they do not send kids to kindergarten, they are not likely to catch up in Year 1. Rubbing salt to the wound, sending children to Chinese medium primary school are even tougher because every subjects are taught in Chinese or Mandarin. Therefore, there are advantages of learning to read early because it is going to help the kids to excel. 
Yes, excel! It is not a joke that kids these days go to school to shine at academic. Learning seems to take the second priority. Sounds pathetic however this is how the game is played today. My jaw almost dropped when a parent told me that a Year 1 student went for tuition! Typically, when one parent meets another, they are likely to ask “How many As your child scored in last exam?” rather than “Will you guys go camping this coming holiday?”. So, both kids and parents are pressured.

Learning To Read Early Years

If you were to ask me whether we are going to send Austin to a Chinese or national medium primary school, I have no answer because we never come a conclusion after so many rounds of debate. Coming from the background of national school, we are likely to tell that we are proud of our roots. Though we stick to the saying 'We'll cross the bridge when we reach there', we will also consider the interest and inclination demonstrated by Austin in next few years.

When we were about to believe Austin is like us as he started to read English, he also shows his affection to learn Chinese. Hard to believe, he asks me to read Chinese every now and then. In fact, I was caught by surprise when the word 'Chinese' jumped out of his mouth. Amazingly, he can recognize Chinese characters and differentiate them from Romanized alphabets. When we approach signposts or facade with Chinese words, he'd yell and point "Chinese..Chinese". Ironically, both of his parents are Chinese illiterate so we usually answer "Yes, you're right - Chinese" and that's it. Honestly, I felt guilty for depriving his curiosity to read Chinese words that he came across.

Gathering with old friends always makes us 'richer'. This round, we were introduced to Bao Bei Reading Wonderland. Apparently, Bao Bei is a parent's choice, very popular in KL particularly among the English educated parents who couldn't teach their children Chinese at home. Our friend told us that she is thinking to send her daughter to Bao Bei after she turns three. With over a dozen branches in Klang Valley, Bao Bei also offers their service in Penang - Pulau Tikus & Sungai Ara and Sungai Petani in Kedah. Stressing on Chinese language learning program for children, the enrichment center sell that kids can recognize 1000 Chinese words at age 3. It is likely we are going to visit one of their branches to find out more. Not to register Austin now, but perhaps for his momma. Honestly if she learns, three people is likely to benefit so the cost is easily justified :).

At present, we are trying to figure out how to teach kids to read and explore reading strategies in learning to read early in Chinese. Flash cards are certainly a great tool for reading Chinese. A parent suggested posters in multi-lingo describing body parts, simple objects and counting. Or board books that comes with 'pin yin' at which I am not sure going to be more confusing since they are in alphabets similar to English. Another friend suggested to start with writing. comes stroking and an acid test to the memory!! What do you think, how is your approach? If you'd ever taught Chinese or read Chinese to your kids at home, we are desperate to learn from you. Please do not leave this page without leaving us some tips.