Thanks to Guavarama, who organized group book purchase from Taiwan, we recently received the book collection from 東方出版社‘s 世界少年文學精選. This is a collection of 119 classic books of the western world, rewritten in traditional Chinese specifically for children (probably abridged in some way), with zhuyin assistance, with renowned titles such as Romeo and Juliet, Secret Garden, Moby Dick, Lassie Come-Home, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Three Musketeers, and the likes. This series has been around for 20+ years and is intended for 8-9 year old children in Taiwan.
My now 10 year old younger dd, “Georgia” has read the first three and is now almost finished reading Lassie. It takes her about 2-3 hours to read each book and will probably take me 1.5 to 2 hours to do the same. It would be great if I have the time to read these books myself so that I can ask her appropriate questions to check her comprehension. Yes, I can read the Chinese excerpts from Wikipedia or similar website but it will still take me some time to.
It dawns upon me that it would be great if there is Accelerated Reader type of questions for these books. There are pros and cons to these books.
- Western classic stories. These will not go out of style in the foreseeable future. Our American born children are familiar with many of these stories, which makes Scaffold Reading Experience (SRE) easier.
- These books have zhuyin, which makes it much easier to read. I am not concerned about children relying only on zhuyin to read. When the children reads more and more while continuing to take Chinese lessons, they will rely in zhuyin less and less. In my experience, when the child can read ~ 800 characters a minutes with zhuyin on the side, s/he can read books of the same level without zhuyin at about half of the speed.
- There are a wide variety of books in this series, suitable for readers of different maturity levels. Some are more for elementary school students while others are suitable for teenagers. Some of the English version of these books in unabridged version are mandatory readings for middle school and high school students.
- It is not available in simplified characters, much less with pinyin.
- There are far fewer usage of classic Chinese expressions and idioms, as these are western literature. Chinese classic stories, even abridged versions written for children, are great for those. So, I do encourage children to read those as well.
With these in mind, I decide to explore commissioning Jessica, a free lance writer in Taiwan whom I had worked with on other projects, to create authentic Chinese questions banks (not translated from unabridged English edition) for some of these books. At this stage, these questions would simply assess whether the reader has basic understanding of the plot.
At this point, Jessica borrowed the books from the public library and came up with three sample questions for “Lassie Come-Home” or “名犬萊西”. To come up with 15 questions for this book, she quoted me ~ US$50. She wrote three sample questions for met at his point.
*Ans: page 13
*Ans: page 29
Ans: page 48
I think it would be great if the community of traditional Chinese learners and their families can help fund such a project. I think weekend Chinese schools would be very interested in such a project as well. I can then look into putting these questions online. With a proper FREE website, students to create their own account and the computer will score the questions for them. We can look into creating similarly authentic question banks for abridged version of Chinese classics and easier translated works such as the Magic Tree House series. These won’t be outdated either. Who knows, we can also put up questions for 金庸‘s kunfu novels, which my elder dd, almost 13, is reading. There are some online questions already, such as these two links: A & B.
Do you think this is a worthy project to fund?
Addendum: I think this can be very helpful for weekend Chinese school students. One way to minimize cost is to get interested native level immigrant parents and teachers (who are likely also parents) nearby to help out with question generation. A number of parents in my FB group, many in California, an I have the same set of books. We can approach nearby weekend Chinese schools to see if there are parents and teachers who would be interested in each borrowing a few books from us and then generating 15 questions for each book. Divide and conquer. The whole set can be done in no time. Interested Chinese schools can then just buy a set or two of these books for the school library and students can check the books out.