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Graded Reader Review: Disney I Will Read by Myself series 迪士尼我会自己读第

What is the 迪士尼我会自己读第 set?

Levelled (or graded) Chinese readers are helpful in encouraging early literacy in children, by enabling them to read books which fit within their reading abilities.   They usually have simple words and phrases, and increase in difficulty as the child advances through the series.   This concept is very different from Children’s picture books, which often contain exciting storylines but have characters which are impossible for a young child to grasp.

The Disney “I Will Read By Myself” Learning series are excellent levelled readers and certainly tick all the boxes of what to look out for in a good Chinese reading set. They engage children using stories and Disney characters which they will be familiar with, and are written in Simplified Chinese, with no pinyin or English translations. The book range covers a good mix of a Disney classics – with less emphasis on Disney Princesses, which makes them good for both boys and girls.

The series become progressively harder and systematically introduce new characters to a child.  With each volume, the complexity of sentence and words used increases, and clever graphical annotations exist as hints to enable the child to learn new words.   

In total there are 8 levels in the Disney I Will Series, and each level has 6 volumes, making it 48 books.  Each book contains one or two stories.   After these 8 volumes, there are a further 3 volumes of advanced readers (which we don’t have!).    

Each book has activities / game at the back, which is a cleverly disguised self-test, to see if the child has remembered the characters learnt in the book.  There is also a list of key words, and cardboard certificate to celebrate finishing each book – for a younger child, this serves as nice motivation, and it’s helpful for the parent to understand the character progression.   

They are published by Tongqu Publishing, which is a joint venture publishing organisation between Chinese Government and a boutique publishing house authorised by Disney.  So, the quality is assured (not a run-of-the-mill book from China with soft floppy pages, rough edges, poor picture quality, etc).

How many characters does Disney I Will Read series cover?

It starts off very simple (with numbers, and basic vocabulary for a beginning readers who knows less than 20 characters).  By the end of 8 volumes, it gets up to well over 1000 characters.  I suspect that unless you are in mainland China, your child will outgrow their interest in Disney cartoons before they time they can finish reading these books. 

It will be reassuring for parents to know that the books have been deliberately compiled in accordance with the official elementary school Chinese curriculum standards for Mainland China, and covers the government prescribed word lists. In China, they advertise that the first 6 levels are suitable for preschool children (age 3 to 6) and Levels 7 and 8 are suitable for First Grade Elementary School students.  

For a Singapore equivalent, I’ve made my best guesstimate, based on comparing against the official words lists with Singapore Ministry of Education. This is summarized in the table below.

Disney Book Set LevelMax characters introduced per bookTotal cumulative characters learnt by end of the levelNumber of pagesEquivalent Mainland Chinese reading levelEquivalent Singapore Primary reading level
73050072First GradeP2
850 – 60110072First GradeP3 / P4
Summary of characters and reading range of the Disney I Will Rea series

For context with other popular levelled readers, for a child who has done Sage Set 1, the first set of Disney a readers (Stage 1) would be readable. For a child who has done Sage Set 4 (or Le Le Yellow Set), the Disney Stage 3 would work well.  I know that cumulatively it looks like it’s perhaps less characters than Sage 500, but they don’t all overlap.

According to the publishers, the books were written “character list first, story later”.  This is the same model as the heralded Le Le readers from Taiwan too.  Simple words with high frequency appear first, and complex words with lower frequency are only introduced much later.  Much of the word list of the first two series of early characters overlaps with the Sage 500 books.  The stories however still manage to be engaging and true to the Disney classics, despite the limited word lists. 

I see these books as a nice cross between Sage and Le Le, similar to the iHuman graded readers series.  They’re really nice because a young reader can pick up the simplest books and develop a good habit of reading independently – engaged by a story they are familiar with, and pictures any Disney fan will enjoy.

Whilst they are well designed as levelled readers (because each set introduces about 10-15% new Chinese characters – which is recommended as an ideal rate for learning literacy), the harder levels start introducing many more characters.    It actually gets very intense after the first 4 sets, as you’ll see from the table, with tonnes of new characters being added in each story.  Also the format of the books changes for Set 5 to 8.  It moves from being a square shape, to a more vertical format, closer to a traditional novel format.

Photographs of the books

Insides of the books: Example from Set 1

Insides of the books: Example from Set 2

Insides of the books: Example from Set 3

Comparison of word lists across the first three sets

Why do we like sets 1 to 4?

What don’t we like?

The upper levels (Sets 5 to 8) are really very hard for a non-native mainland Chinese learner, and the learning curve is a bit steep!.  An older child has probably outgrown Disney by the time they get to reading them independently. 

My kids are also not the biggest fans of Disney, so they’re preferred other sets of graded books over this one,  however we’ve shared with friends who have really thrived with them.

Disney I Will Read books cover a broad range of Disney stories across the different levels

How does this set compare to other graded Chinese readers for children?

Our family has accumulated quite a collection of Chinese readers over the years – all of them have been immensely helpful, both for the children and for me in learning to read.  There are obviously lots of great Chinese readers available in Singapore to read together with your child.  I wrote an earlier blog post with quick comparison of eight other well known Chinese levelled reading series (including Sage, Le Le, 四五快读, etc) noting which ones we have enjoyed the most. The earlier post contains some photographs, to help in your journey of finding appropriate books for beginning readers. 

Choosing the right set differs a lot by your own competency in reading Chinese, and also whether this is the only syllabus being used, or you simply want to use the books as stories to support a love of literacy. Also, it helps if you pick a style of story and pictures which your child will enjoy. The image below has a short (overly simplified…) summary of some options you might want to consider. If you want more detail, see my earlier post!

Choosing the ideal graded Chinese reading set for your family

Where to buy Disney I Will Read Chinese series?

These are relatively easy to find online, through JD, Shoppee or Taobao.

For a reliable option in Singapore, Luka Reads has the full set of 8 books available, as:

I would love to hear from you!

Please let me know any questions of comments you might have. I’d love to help you if I can. That’s the reason this blog exists – it’s a passion project, designed to assist other parents like myself in navigating the bilingual Chinese learning journey (and ideally not to spend too much money in the process!). Maybe I have written some other posts which might be of interest:

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