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Graded readers, by the numbers (characters/words, page count)


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Mandarin Companion Graded Readers:


Breakthrough Level: 150 Charaters

In Search of Hua Ma, 150 characters

Just Friends ?  150 characters

The Misadventures of Zhou Haisheng, 150 characters, Simplified or Traditional

My Teacher is a Martian, 150 characters
Xiao Ming, Boy Sherlock, 150 characters

Level 1: 300 characters

Emma,  300 characters, Simplified or Traditional

The Secret Garden, Simplified, 300 characters, 61 pages Group read

The Monkey's Paw, Simplified, 300 characters, 53 pages

The Country of the Blind, Simplified, 300 characters, 58 pages

The Ransom of the Red Chief, 300 characters

The Sixty Year Dream, Simplified, 300 characters, 58 pages

The Prince and the Pauper, 300 characters, Simplified or Traditional

Sherlock Holmes and the Red-Headed League, Simplified, 300 characters, 60 pages


Level 2: 450 characters

Great Expectations Volume 1, Simplified, 450 characters, 70 pages

Great Expectations Volume 2, Simplified, 450 characters, 74 pages

Journey to the Center of the Earth, 450 characters, Simplified or Traditional


Grammar used in the readers

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There’s a series of readers that was mentioned here (page 2) but that I really like. They’re by Hanban and BLCU and the series is called 好朋友. 

Each book has a title which is more like the theme. Then the book is divided into multiple short stories. There are some exercises at the end of each short story. 

The publishers say that the books are levelled by HSK level. Personally I’ve found level 5 books a little easy, unless years of not studying as seen an improvement in my level... could be! 

I’ve found them less dry than some readers. The fact they’re short makes it easy to set goals (e.g. re-read a story and read a new story each day). 

I attempted to upload some photos ... 






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6 minutes ago, ChTTay said:

I attempted to upload some photos ... 


It amazes me that they actually highlight Meiguo.......as if somehow its new vocab........it's one of those words that are inescapable from day one of Chinese vocab words. Ffs, why can't they sometimes use other countries besides meiguo, the occasional yinguo and the daring jianada?

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Just now, suMMit said:


It amazes me that they actually highlight Meiguo.....

Hahaha. I agree! Especially as it’s a level 5 book, too. 

I haven’t read that one yet. It was just the first one that popped up in taobao. 

I am enjoying the series though. More than others I’ve attempted... 

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Some graded readers from Abby (https://talktaiwanesemandarin.com podcast), in simplified and traditional characters with a vocab lists available on the website:

虎姑婆 - The Tiger Aunt, 300 characters, 20min audio

廖添丁 - Liao Tian-Ding, 500 characters, 54min audio

咖啡店愛情故事 - Lost in Translation, 500 characters, 42min audio

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Hey everyone… first post on these forums but I’ve been following this thread and others anonymously for months. I came across a new reader from Vivian Ling called Chinese Stories for Language Learners and highly recommend. The book guides you through stories of 22 chengyu and each story has a second story that applies the chengyu to a modern situation, increasing the amount of new vocab. 


I’ve read a handful of native materials - a couple yu hua books, Shoe Dog (Nike) in chinese, San mao etc. and I’m learning dozens of new vocab on each chapter. 


I picked up this book last weekend and am now about 2/3 of the way through. It’s so great! Anyways, wanted to come on here to share! Has anyone else used this book since it came out last year? 



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Review of Graded Readers for Chinese Language Learners, Level 1

(Published by Beijing Language and Culture University Press)


This series consists of 10 illustrated books, each a bit less than 100 pages, each narrating a Chinese folktale.  Level 1 is written for a knowledge of 500 characters, making it correspond somewhat to HSK 4.  I suspect that if you were at HSK 3 you would struggle.  


As it was, although I knew almost all of the characters in these books, that didn't mean I knew all the words.  This is one factor that kept the reading interesting.  Rarely did I have to look up characters, but pretty often I had to figure out what 2-character words meant where I knew both characters yet had not encountered that word.  In addition, there were numerous native Chinese expressions that I hadn't encountered before, and sometimes I had to consult a native Chinese speaker to ask what an idiomatic sentence really meant.


The editorial notes say the books are intended for children, foreign adults and minorities within China who are learning Mandarin.  I thought this would make the plots simplistic, but for the most part I didn't find this to be the case.  The stories are G-rated but very well plotted and emotionally rich, and I especially liked the way they explained various kinds of background relating to ancient China.  For example, one of the books spent a whole chapter explaining the examination system in ancient China, and another explained the primary foodstuffs that people grew and ate in those days.


I'm quite sure my vocabulary grew reading these books because of another helpful feature - lots of repetition in the story telling.  If I were reading in my native language that would make the experience boring, but here whenever there was a new word (such as for "fairy" or "sedan chair" or "monster") it would be repeated almost right away in context and again in the next few pages.


There is no English whatsoever in the books!  That's smart on the publisher's part.  What they do is that whenever there is a new word outside of the 500 characters, they either provide a footnote explaining the word in Chinese or just give the pinyin in parentheses within the text.  I wasn't able to figure out why they sometimes did one and not the other, but having the pinyin for new words made it easy for me to look up the definition in English on Google Translate.


There is no audio for these books (that I'm aware of).  But that's OK because these volumes are the best planned out and best executed graded readers that I've encountered so far.  I even liked the illustrations (one or two per chapter) and felt they added to the reading experience.


I've already gone on to the Level 2 volumes, which consist of abridged versions of the 4 classic Chinese novels.  I started with Dream of the Red Chamber.  These say they're edited for an 800-character vocabulary.  As before, when I have trouble with the text, it's not because I don't know the characters but rather because the dialogue is idiomatic in ways I'm unfamiliar with (and that I'm told by a native speaker is a bit archaic, in keeping with the setting in the past).  All in all, I strongly recommend this series for any Chinese learner who's beyond HSK 4 and who's not yet ready for native content.


(And P.S.: If you'd like to buy these 10 slim paperbacks for Level 1 from me, contact me by private message.  I made no marks in any of the books, but they do look a bit used.  I bought them from PurpleCulture.net for US $5.80 each plus shipping.)

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