Dou Dou Books: Review of new Chinese levelled readers

What are Dou Dou Chinese Readers?

Dou Dou Books are “first readers” for young children who are just starting to read in Simplified Chinese.  There were meticulously written by an American early childhood education expert, Miss Stella Beaver. Throughout two decades of teaching and researching across top immersion and Montessori schools, she has developed her own books to make learning Chinese fun for a novice reader.

The motivation behind the books was to “reinvent learning” and create an HSK standardised early Chinese reader (meaning they use some of the most common basic words that a learner should know).    

The books are the perfect size for children to read by themselves, and also to pack in handbag and read on the go.  The books contain a certificate at the back where a child can write their name and date to track progress (which I know some families do like).

GIVEAWAY FOR READERS:  For the month of June you can be in with a chance to WIN a set of ten Dou Dou Readers by entering the competition over at my Instagram page.

There are ten books in the first set, each 8 pages long. Together, they cover 33 Simplified Chinese characters The titles in this first set are:

  • 豆豆
  • 你好
  • 不好
  • 小狗
  • 这是
  • 安安
  • 我是
  • 他的

Below is a graphic of how I would place Dou Dou Books compared to popular English series for learning how to read. In my view, they’re essentially a Chinese reading equivalent to the well-known English “Bob Books”, which are known as books that a very young child can read from cover-to-cover totally by themselves. 

Comparison of different leveled readers in Chinese and English

How do Dou Dou Books compare to other Chinese levelled reading systems?

Dou Dou Books is similar to Le Le Chinese Books, because they’re very short books, lovingly illustrated, and consist of just a few words or phrases.  This means they’re designed for a child to read by themselves.  The small short books is like Le Le with a philosophy about whole language learning through stories. It’s different because Dou Dou words are restricted to only 33 characters across ten books, making it considerablty simpler than Le Le. 

Dou Dou Books is similar to both Odonata Books because the stories are connected and build upon one another, and characters are systematically added at each stage. Another similarity is having worksheets and writing books which match the books.  However it’s different because Dou Dou is more repetitive and slow (but really feels like an interesting story book).  So Dou Dou would be better for a younger reader.

Dou Dou Books is similar to Sage 500 because of the simplicity and repetitiveness of the stories, and appropriateness for very very young.  However it’s worlds apart because the stories are actually fun.  Another very obvious difference is the quality of the graphics.   Illustrator Jessie Beaver is currently pursing a degree in animation, and her talent shines through in the ’ cute illustrations of Dou Dou, which took many many months to complete. I honestly feel that if a few more sets of Dou Dou books are written to get it up to 500 characters, it could be a total substitute for Sage 500.

The Dou Dou books would complement any of the above reading systems as additional reading materials.  They wouldn’t replace them however, as Dou Dou Books (at this stage) only cover 30 characters and they’re for very nascent language reading, and the other levelled reading systems mentioned above do go much further (to >1000 characters).    

Below is a video of my five year old reading one of these books.

Pros of Dou Dou Chinese Books

  1. It teaches character learning in a systematic and fun way through reading books (like English Bob Books)
  2. The books are slimline and small, and come in their own cardboard box (also just like the English Bob Books). They’re sturdy and well made.
  3. Cute and clever illustrations
  4. No pinyin or English translations in main story text to strengthen character association (the first page of the book lists out all the new characters contained, with both pinyin pronunciation and English translation)
  5. Audio available through QR code on each book / box – provides very clear pronunciation for each word and phrase
  6. Series of matching activity sheets and flash card – 2 activity sheets per book, including writing, cutting, games, etc, plus writing practice book and 32 character flash cards which match the books, and are a perfect size for little hands.
  7. Wonderful for very young children – If we were to go back in time, Dou Dou readers are certainly books that I would have used with my daughter as first books when she started learning to read (instead of Sage 500).

Below is an example of the words contains in Set 1, Book 1 of Dou Dou Books (the very first book).

The books become progressively harder as the series continues. Below compares Set 1 Book 1 with Set 1 Book 10.

Cons of Dou Dou Chinese Books

Currently there are only 10 very short books in the series, which is nowhere near enough but it’s a great start.   The company aims to put out another 20 books over the coming 18 months, which I look forward to.

If your child can already read ~100 Chinese characters, these all books will be way too easy for them.  In fact, I showed them to my 5-year-old (she’s been reading Chinese since she was 2 years old) and she could read all ten of them in about ten minutes.   She did enjoy though!  

Which Chinese levelled reader is right for me?

Different reading sets have different emphases and curriculum approach. 

Which book to choose also depends on the Chinese reading ability of the parent.    As Dou Dou Books contain a QR code with audio, they will work for non-native reading parents too. Dou Dou is also nice for a homeschool starting out on the reading journey because it has matching worksheet activities making it an encompassing curriculum.

Below is a highly simplified diagram take from an earlier post which has a comparison of Chinese levelled readers for different situations.  As Dou Dou Books first set only covers 33 characters, it wouldn’t replace anything on the below table.  However you could consider it as additional supplementary reading for a child who is doing very first levels of Odonata or Sage 500, or even Le Le. 

Comparisons of the best Simplified Chinese levelled readers

Where to buy?

Online, from the official Dou Dou Books website or Amazon.

What to read AFTER you have finished Dou Dou series?

If your child likes the style of Dou Dou books (short stories they can read by themselves), then Le Le Chinese is by far your best series to continue with.  There are 300 stories in the Le Le readers, and it will take your child up to 1200+ characters over 1 – 2 years of consistent reading.  Le Le are quite an investment, but I do have an exclusive discount code for Le Le Readers which gives you 5% off if you use it (type LAHLAHBANANA on checkout). If your child already know >1000 characters, they can also stat reading simple bridging books too.

Another much cheaper equivalent which has simple stories and slowly introduces a few characters per book is Little Sheep Goes up the Mountain 小羊上山. It’s just the stories are slightly longer and the text is quite small, so not as great for a very young child (but 5 year old + is good). Also, there is no reading pen, so an adult assistance is required for understanding the new characters.

Still looking for more information about injecting Chinese language into your child’s learning?

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

I would love to hear from you too, especially if you have other great books or tips for learning Chinese as non-native learners. 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 are welcomed!

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