Le Le Chinese Review: Chinese Reading Pen and Character Learning System

What is Le Le Chinese Reading System and Pen 樂樂文化 ?

Le Le Chinese is a series of highly-engaging picture book graded readers (with versions available in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese), and it has on optional pen which can read the books.  The intention of the books according to their author Cathy Lee is to “literacy through literature” – which is to say that by reading lots of books, the child will naturally pick up characters. The highly unique aspect of this pen, is you can point it at any Chinese character, on any page, and it will each individual character.  For this reason, the Le Le books need no pinyin, and the child can focus fully on the characters.

The books come in three sets of 100, starting with “Red” set, then “Yellow”, and finally the hardest is “Green”.   Each book is 8 – 10 pages.  My K1 daughter is able to read most of the Red sets by herself, and then just get help with the harder parts.   Likewise my P2 daughter can read most of the yellow set, and uses the pen to fill in the gaps.  Meanwhile my toddler just uses the pen for everything!   Each level introduces a few hundred new characters, which are then repeated in different contexts.  So in total, the full set is 300 books, and cover over 1000 of the most popular Chinese characters.  

It took the author years to write this set, which really is a lot of time to write a few hundred short sentences (especially as she had already written a previous set prior to Le Le, called Greenfields, which is also very popular)!  However, the effort and passion put into these books is evident, and clearly worth it, as it’s culminated in a thoughtful and engaging syllabus. According to the author, the first level (red) was the hardest for her to make due to the limited characters to be used, yet the need to create interesting stories.

Le Le Chinese books
How do we use Le Le Chinese Books and Le Le Reading Pen?

Generally I like to read the books together with the children first – we aim for two books a day.  They’re short stories, usually with a funny ending, so it’s a great use of ten minutes.  I ask the children to read as much as possible without the aid of the pen, and also translate it page-by-page into English for me, so I can join in the giggles.  Through reading these simple books together, I’ve picked up a lot more Chinese that I had expected to.

All of my daughters are able to use the pen independently, so I encourage them to re-read several of the books each day which we’ve already read together as a family.  The pen lets them figure out new words, which means they doesn’t need to wait for my help to try and look at the character in Google Translate or the dictionary phone app. The concept allows a child to learn characters without the need for Pinyin or Zhuyin, and without the need for a Chinese speaking parent!

When I watch my daughters using it, particularly the younger ones will repeat what the pen is saying, so they’re learning by hearing, and practicing reading and speaking all at once.  The speed of the pen is very slow, especially for the first two sets of books, which is beneficial for young readers who are still getting the hang of new words and tones.

Differences between the three levels of Le Le books
 Red (Beginner)Yellow (Intermediate)Green (Advanced)
Characters~500 charactersAdditional 340 charactersAdditional 230 characters
LayoutEach page has a simple short phrase or wordLonger sentences and phrases with transition words.Longer sentences, and multiple sentences per page.
Length8 pages 8 pages12 pages
Le Le comparison across the three sets
How is Le Le Chinese different from other Chinese reading pens?

I’ve compared Le Le our other pens which we have in the table below. I think you’ll quickly see that Le Le is more comparable to a learning system/ levelled reading curriculum, rather than a reading pen per se. There is huge value in the specially written 300 books which go with the pen.   Which is why we have Le Le Chinese, AND our other pens!

Comparison of Chinese reading pens
Head to Head Comparison of Chinese-English Reading Pens

How is Le Le system different to other graded Chinese reading systems like Sage Formula?

We’ve been lucky enough to borrow a few books from friends, before we settled on buying our own Le Le set.  Several friends highly rated Sage Books (and we too bought this). Others swear by 4, 5 Quick Read System.  Then, the Odonata series seems to be the most accessible to purchase in Singapore (and cheapest), so we looked at that too.  Honestly, they all seemed interesting, but without having any native speaker at home, we really needed audio support along with the books.  So, from the get-go, after a failed start with Sage Books, we were favouring Le Le due to the fact it had the Reading Pen.  We also liked the fact that Le Le has 300 mini books, whereas the other systems had 10 – 40 books, but with more chapters.  I would imagine that as a parent if you can read / speak basic Chinese, and have time to spend teaching the child together, these other systems would be highly accessible and cheaper option for you to consider.

[post script: as at May 2021, Odonata also now has audio through Luka Reading Robot, and we’ve also bought this series since we already had a Luka. It’s probably the most similar set of books we have to Le Le, and it much cheaper].

Pros of Le Le Chinese Books and Reading Pen

  1. It teaches character learning, as it reads each individual character
  2. The books are slimline and small, and come in their own zippable storage bag with handles, which is great for apartment living where we have limited space for a book library!
  3. Clear, slow voice that is easy to understand, with adjustable volume
  4. Books are sturdy and well made
  5. Clear and realistic pencil illustrations
  6. Covers a wide variety of topics which children will enjoy, including realistic and fictional
  7. Most of the books have a fun (or funny) ending  
  8. No pinyin or English translations to distract the focus (although printable English translations are available on their website)
  9. Good customer support, including Facebook support group and discussions

If you want to read in more detail about how this series assisted my struggling 7 year old daughter how to read 1000+ characters within 6 months, please see here.

Le Le Chinese book bags

Cons of Le Le Chinese Books and Reading Pen

No cons! It’s amazing!  The cost might be prohibitive – but it’s an investment which you can probably sell on second-hand and it would retain a lot of its value, given the rarity in Singapore market.  If cost is an issue, consider Odonata Levelled Readers as a more budget option (it doesn’t have the reading pen option though).

Which Chinese levelled reader is right for me?

Good question. Different reading sets have different emphasis and curriculum approach. It also depends on the Chinese reading ability of the parent (as not all books comes with a great reading pen such as Le Le). The Le Le Chinese learning philosophy is one of whole language learning through stories, and Le Le is really a stand out on this front (unless of course you want Pinyin included, and then Greenfield would be your better choice…. it’s actually done by the same author as Le Le).

Below is a highly simplified table where I’d tried to compare different levelled readers for different situations.

Which Chinese reading pen is right for me?

I think the question really should be which curriculum/book is right for our family, rather than the focus on a pen (see my point above). Different reading pens and curriculums suit different learning stages, ages, family situations, and intended learning outcomes. I’ve tried to summarise the world of different pens in the below diagram. Le Le Reading Pen is a superior choice if literacy and ability to read Chinese characters is the intended outcome.

Comparison of Chinese reading pens for children
Comparison of different Chinese reading pens and devices

Refer to my previous posts for more information about Chinese reading pens – these include:

Where to buy Le Le Pen in Singapore?

This pen is from Taiwan, so unlike other locally made pens (eg eTutor Star and Penpal Whizz), it is much much harder so source in Singapore, but truly the benefits are worth it.  You may find a pre-loved set selling on Carousell, otherwise order online from Le Le Chinese Website in Taiwan.  Shipping is not cheap, but for non-Chinese speaking parents, this system has enabled the children to exponentially learn new characters and is like no other which we’ve seen or tried. Occasionally you’ll find a Facebook Group Buy where Singaporean parents combine orders to get a discount, which is a good option if you have time to wait.

For my blog readers, I have a special 5% off discount for Le Le ……. enter code “LAHLAHBANANA” at checkout. This is a really special offer from the team at Le Le, as they don’t usually offer any discounts or sales. I’m so delighted I can share this with you.

What to read AFTER you have finished Le Le series?

Well that’s in a different post. I’ve made a list of bridging books which are great for children who have finished (or are nearing the end) of the Le Le sets.

Activities which go along with Le Le Chinese readers?

The topics covered in Le Le books are so broad, that they can fit in well with themes or other craft activities, making for a holistic learning curriculum. We have done some epic home-made craft based around the Le Le book topics. See my post here for a list of 20 simple preschool craft activities which match the individual Le Le books.

Le Le Chinese also run a lovely Facebook Group discussion for parents using the system, or considering the system, which is a good place to find like-minded parents or learn more about the investment. They run regular 14-Day reading challenges, and also offer some great online craft classes as incentives to keep kids reading. One of the rewards for completing the reading challenge is a one hour free online art / craft class from Language Art Fun, conducted in Mandarin, and they’re truly excellent.

Finally, if you don’t believe my word for it, look at what other bloggers have to say about Le Le, such as Motherly Notes or De Ziremi.

Additional Information

This entire blog is a passion project focussed on recommending apps and books which are helpful for families embarking on a Chinese learning journey, especially for those from predominantly non-Chinese speaking households.  It’s based on the experience of our family, and our three happy bilingual kids.  If you have found this post helpful, some other earlier posts you might like are:

  1. Luka Reading Companion to narrate Chinese picture books beautifully
  2. Books to read after your child already knows 1000 Chinese characters
  3. Chinese reading dictionary pens to aid in extensive reading for children
  4. Great apps and blogs for families learning Chinese
  5. Comparison of levelled readers for pre-schoolers

I would love to hear from you too, especially if you have experience with other Chinese reading pens. It’s only through meeting other wonderful parents virtually, that this shared language journey becomes a more valuable one! Feel free to reach out via the comments/form on my blog, or else join the conversations on my Instagram @lahlahbanana or Facebook. All comments welcomed!

10 thoughts on “Le Le Chinese Review: Chinese Reading Pen and Character Learning System

    1. Hi Mary Lou,

      Good question. The Habbi Habbi is relatively new – from a very successful kickstarter campaign at the end of last year. I have always been curious. Let me give it a try and I’ll hopefully write a review on it on my blog soon 🙂 Do you have one by any chance?

  1. Does the YouDao pen work with LeLe books (or other books that have their own pens)? I’m getting a YouDao pen, and would like avoid getting yet another pen if at all possible!

    1. Hi Peggy,

      Nice to hear from you. YouDao works with any written Chinese text, that is smaller than ~1.8cm. I hope you love your Youdao too. However, it depends on the purpose of the use I suppose. We use our Le Le pen with the Le Le books, because it’s a natural human voice and is designed to speak slowly and encourage a young child to learn basic literacy. I also wouldn’t give Youdao pen to a child under 6, simply because it’s not easy for a small hand to clasp, and is a bit delicate/expensive to replace. If you buy the Le Le book set, I feel then Le Le pen makes sense to get with the package.

  2. Thank you so much for your incredible website and information. I have been devouring it the past week (binge-reading)! My kids are a little older at 8 and 10. They can understand Mandarin but not speak a lot (we are a heritage Chinese family but only I speak some and my husband does not). My older one can read some characters since he was in a Mandarin immersion school for 2nd grade a couple of years ago) and my daughter does not read characters. However, since they are older now, I’m not sure the Lele content will be interesting to them and a worthwhile purchase. This is one of my problems now as I’m trying to teach them when they are not so young. A lot of the early literacy content is naturally targeted to younger learners (preschool, early elementary) so now I’m a little stuck. Any advice? Do you think Lele will still be useful?

    1. Hi Irane,

      Thanks for dropping by! Good work keeping up the Mandarin. I think an 8 year old could still be good with Le Le …… but I feel since your kids understand spoken Mandarin, the Hong En Shizi app, or Wukong app could be fun ways to learn literacy. These apps teach Simplified Chinese characters through games and are considerably cheaper than Le Le (if you’re doing TC, the only app I know is Maomi, which is for younger kids). After about 500 – 100 characters are learned, you might try out Squid for Brains picture books and the Mandarin Companion breakthrough stage novels. They’re longer more interesting books made from limited characters.


      Hope you discover something great!

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