This post is about a locally written set of thirty six Simplified Chinese picture books called the “New Star Island” collection, written and printed in Singapore, which are broadly designed to match every year of primary school in Singapore. They’re creatively written, prize winning works, and great for encouraging an older child to read broadly, yet still have the comfort of colourful pictures.
Country of original publication: Singapore
Language: Simplified Chinese
~ Pages per book: 24
~ Lines per page: 1-6
~ Number of Books: 36 (6 x 6 levels)
~Pinyin: Yes, for P1 & P2 sets only
~ Audio available: no
~ In Singapore NLB: Yes
Target age range: 7 – 12 (one set for P1 through to P6)
Length of each book: ~ 300 for the P1 sets, up to 1000 for the P6 sets
Complexity of characters in each book: P1 set is readable for a child who knows ~300 characters (or can read the pinyin) up to the P6 set which is ~1300 characters
What is the New Stars Island collection?
The New Star Island collection are a uniquely Singaporean written and published book set, by the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language. This is a fairly unusual find for children’s literature.
The stories in these graded picture books are the winning entries from a specifically commissioned National Children’s Story Writing Competition held in 2016. The theme for the competition was “Creativity, No Boundaries”, and this can be clearly seen in these stories.
This series has six level, and each level containing six books (= 36 books in total). The stories in level one and two have hanyu pinyin (we didn’t buy these books), and from level three, it’s only simplified Chinese characters.
The intention behind these books is “created by students for students”, with an aim to expand reading resources suitable for local children, and promote reading interest. I think for a child who is a confident reader, that the P5 & P6 sets would be manageable at an earlier age than the school year intended, although the length gets substantially longer.
The images below show how the books increase increase in complexity from P2 (with pinyin), to P3 (no pinyin), to P6 (smaller text and substantially longer stories).
What is the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language?
The Singapore Centre for Chinese Language is a organisation founded by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2008, to encourage effective teaching of Chinese in a bilingual environment, and specifically to meet the learning needs of students from non-Mandarin speaking homes. They strive to promote development of Chinese culture and language in Singapore, through providing innovative teaching pedagogies, teaching tools, research, and literature. The Centre is based at the Nanyang Technological University, in Singapore, obviously.
How did we discover this book collection?
My daughter was lucky enough to find the New Star Island book series through her primary school Chinese teacher. My daughter was so enthralled with the series, she asked the teacher to let her bring it home, so that I could find out what it was all about.
Apparently each primary school in Singapore was given 42 sets of this series, and they’re used mainly within the classroom.
Why we like the New Star Island collection?
- Design: Font size is clear and good size
- Breadth of stories: Every story has a different author, so the themes and vocabulary are broad and engaging, and display enormous creativity (especially compared to most standard texts for children in Singapore)
- Written locally: The stories are written by students in Singapore (and then calibrated by experts), which is a nice incentive for my daughter, to dream that one day she’ll be able to write this well.
- Educational pedagogy: Suitable for both parent-child co-reading and children’s self reading. They become progressively harder, so it’s possible to choose the appropriate level for your child
- Illustrated locally: Many local painters drew the illustrations for the stories, and I love the fact they’re very Asian places and face, which is very different from most of our early readers
- Aligned to MOE syllabus: The book content and the words used are highly suitable for Singapore context, and designed to align with MOE syllabus by grade
What its worth noting
- Some of the book (only a few) have pictures/different colours behind the text, which makes it less visibly clear for reading the text.
- I have no idea how this book series is used within the classroom in Singapore’s school system. I wish I’d been able to find out more information, rather than accidentally stumble upon the set through my daughter.
- One story per book, so much shorter than the very similar Chou Sing Chu Foundation readers which contained 4 stories in each book
Books in the set
Grade 1 & Grade 2
Note two images above are from Maha Yu Yi bookstore (we didn’t buy this set, as I don’t like to buy books with Pinyin as a general rule). All other photos in this article are from our own booksets, which we bough from Maha Yu Yi.
Where to buy or borrow?
We bought all our books at full price from Maha Yu Yi in Singapore. Here are a few options to find the books:
- Mahu Yu Yu bookstore (online or in person)
- NLB Libraries
- Singapore local school libraries
- Singapore Centre for Chinese Language (online)
The books retail for ~SG$27 for six books (~USD 3.50 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 I Love Reading Collection by Chu Sing Chu Foundation.
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
- Chinese Levelled Readers for Early Literacy