This post is about a set of twenty Simplified Chinese picture books called the “I Love Reading Collection”, written and printed in Singapore, which are appropriate for lower primary school age readers. They’re mainly fun, and great for learning new vocabulary, aligned to the MOE syllabus.
The books are written by the Chou Sing Chu Foundation, and are well worth a look.
Country of original publication: Singapore
Language: Simplified Chinese
~ Pages per book: 40 – 48
~ Lines per page: 1-9
~ Number of books in set: 20
Pinyin: Yes, for harder words
Audio available: no
In Singapore NLB: Yes
Target age range: 7 – 10
Length of each book: ~ 500 characters per story, and ~2000 characters per book
Complexity of characters in each book: readable for a child who knows 800~1100 characters, since the harder words have pinyin attached
What is the I Love Reading Collection? (aka Sing Chu Children’s Collection 星衢童书)
The I Love Reading Collection comes in 5 series of books, with 4 books in each series. Then, within each book, there are four stories. Which means in total there are 80 short illustrated stories (enough books for a child to read once a week at school for two years….). The books are sold through Popular, and apparently reached the Bookstore’s Chinese Books Bestsellers Chart for several years running, although we have only just discovered it ourselves.
The stories have been written by various Chinese language teachers in Singapore.
How did we discover these books?
We first came across the “I Love Reading Collection” at Tampines Regional Library. I thought it was an unusual find to see good quality Children’s books written locally in Singapore, which I why I took a particular interest in this set when I noticed it on the library shelves.
The Chinese children’s book section at the Tampines Regional Library will be either something you love or hate. Why? Because the books there are just SO different from the other National Library Board libraries, due to a sponsorship agreement with Chou Sing Chu Foundation, which has donated 56,000 Chinese children’s books to this library. This means the library has not only the largest collection of Chinese books in the library network, but also books which are more classically focussed, and include many stories written in China (as opposed to written in the West, and translated into Chinese). At least, that’s how we feel about the collection there – I’ve never seen it explicitly written down about how they have curated the collection there.
Coincidentally, my daughter was given one of these books as a present, and soon after, we’ve bought four full sets.
What is the Chou Sing Chou Foundation?
The Chou Sing Chou Foundation is a non-profit organisation, which was founded in 2003 by the CEO of Popular Holdings Limited, Mr Chou Cheng Ngok. It was started in honour of his late father, Mr Chou Sing Chu, who was the founder of Popular book store, which will be a family name to readers in South East Asia. The foundation promotes Chinese culture and language. Since 2014, the Foundation has also published local publications for children in Chinese, focusing on classical Chinese literature and history in the region.
Why is this set of books great?
- Aligned with local Singapore syllabus: The books collections closely follow the Singapore Chinese Language Primary Syllabus, in terms of characters / words used, and difficultly, and interest level
- Encourages independent reading: Intended for child-led reading, as text is printed clearly, and harder words are explained with pinyin/illustrations
- Short & engaging stories: Illustrations are bright, and have familiar scenes (including HDB corridors, kitchens, parks, etc). The stories are short, so it’s not a challenge to get through one story in a sitting (or one book in less than a week)
- English translation at back: At the back of the more recent books, the story is also written in English, and there is a summary of keywords, which assists a non-Chinese-literate parent like myself.
- Small size, good for backpacks: Size is thin and light, which makes is perfect for silent reading at school
What it’s worth noting
- Standard format for ths stories: The stories really fit the model of Singapore school compositions…. Usually a situation, and issue, and resolution and always ending with a moral. In a way this is good (it’s the perfect example for an A+ composition piece), but it can become tiresome for the child too, so I limit my daughter to only reading one of these stories each day (during school quiet reading), and we’ll change it up with something more interesting in the evening.
- Not all the stories are so interesting: My daughter found some of the stories – mainly the Classics – a little boring, but given their short length, she could still get to the end without losing interest completely. My daughter described them as ‘not giving enough reasons why’, in that sometimes they will tell a story, but the explanation isn’t as vivid as she would like it to be. To me, this creates an opportunity for further discussion with the child.
- Some of the books have full English translation at the back: for me, I’ve enjoyed this aspect as it’s meant I can also fully appreciate the story. For my daughter, often she will read the English version prior to the Chinese.
- For non-Chinese speaking parents: I would recommend your child could benefit from using a Youdao pen, Luke Hero, Pleco OCR or use of Google Translate, in case there are a few words in the stories which they don’t understand (especially in Sets 2 and 3, which are slightly harder), since there isn’t any other audio option.
Books in the set
I LOVE READING COLLECTION 1 (4 books, 16 stories – for lower primary)
I Love Life – with quirky stories about team spirit and moral values
I Love My Family 1 – focussing on sharing and family values
I Love Animals 1 – about treating animals with respect
I Love to Exercise 1 – about the importance of exercising
I LOVE READING COLLECTION 2 (4 books, 16 stories – for upper primary)
I Love life 2 – about sharing and caring
I Love to Learn 2 – about the importance of thinking diligently and overcoming problems
I Love Nature 2 – about loving and caring for the environment
I Love Animals 2 – about the importance of hardwork
[we didn’t buy this set]
I LOVE READING COLLECTION 3 (4 books, 16 stories – for upper & lower primary)
I Love Life 3 – about being humble and compassionate
I Love Animals 3 – about keeping promises and being grateful
I Love Legends 3 – with Chinese legends (my daughter found this a little boring…)
I Love Classics 3 – classic stories from Russia, China and Ireland
I LOVE READING COLLECTION 4 (4 books, 16 stories – for lower primary)
I Love Life 4 – about new experience in life and constant learning
I Love Animals 4 – fun animal facts and fables
I Love Legends 4 – four Chinese historical figures
I Love to Learn 4 – about attitudes of kindness and success
I LOVE READING COLLECTION 5 (4 books, 16 stories – for lower primary)
I Love Life 5 – coping skills for life
I Love Animals 5 – lessons animals can teach us about leadership and strategy
I Love Classics 5 – classics like The Prince & Pauper, Fox & Crow, etc.
I Love to Learn 5 – all about an otter who is learning how to survive
Where to buy or borrow?
We bought all our books at full price from Chin Sing Chou Foundation (except for a couple in Set 1, which we were given by a dear family friend as a gift). Here are a few options to find the books:
- Chou Sing Chou Foundation (through Shoppee)
- Tampines Library
- Popular Bookstores (various locations)
The foundation sells the books for ~SG$7 (~USD 5) per book, and they can also ship overseas.
Other books to read which are of a similar reading level?
There’s something to be said for a child being given the opportunity to read widely a lot of books at a similar level (rather than always progressing to harder books, and needing an adult to supervise the reading and provide additional context and explanation). If you’re after other books suitable for a child who knows ~1000 characters, I have compiled a list here.
One very similar bookset, also written and published in Singapore and aligned to the MOE syllabus is the New Star Island Bookset by Singapore Centre for CHinese Language.
Other blog articles I’ve written which might be of interest are:
- The secret to finding great Chinese books for children in the Singapore library?
- Top apps, blogs and learning resources for families learning Chinese in Singapore
- Children’s picture books about Singapore
- Surviving P1 for clueless parents
- Is reaching fluency in Chinese a realistic goal for non-native families?
- Chinese Bridging Books for emerging readers