When it comes to learning Chinese culture and language, I know I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the vastness of the language and the history of China. Even as a Chinese American myself, I often feel like my knowledge of this civilization’s history, culture, and language are just the tip of the iceberg. Where should I begin? In the effort to educate the kids, what good Chinese children’s books are out there to start them on?
The great news is that there are increasingly more resources for those who want to learn more, give their kids a bilingual education, and raise them to appreciate and attain a level of cultural fluency.
I’ve listed ten great Chinese children’s books to read with young kids to begin or extend this appreciation effortlessly. They range from simple look and find bilingual books for increasing vocabulary to the more hefty Chinese history comics series. I’ve also included some good options for introducing kids to the classic fairytales, holidays, and traditions of China.
Whether you’re looking for a way to share this culture with the kids, or looking for more material to stock your shelves with, check out these excellent Chinese children’s books. All of them promise to enrich kids’ learning as they begin to dip their toes into Chinese language, history, culture, and traditions.
Chinese Children’s Books
Chinese Folktales: The Dragon Slayer and Other Timeless Tales by Shiso S. Nunes and Lak-Shee Tay-Audouard
The 19 tales collected here have been told for thousands of years in China, delighting listeners with stories about the universal virtues of honesty, respect, courage, and self-reliance. Told with wisdom, humor, and affection, these folktales offer a glimpse into traditional Chinese culture and folk wisdom.
Chinese Myths and Legends: The Monkey King and Other Adventures by Shelley Fu and Patrick Yee
Included in this collection of seven tales are the Chinese myths of creation, mortality, and love. A pronunciation guide and information for further reading helps educators and parents as they read these classic Chinese stories to young listeners.
Yeh Shen: A Cinderella Story from China, by Ai-Ling Louie and Ed Young
If you have never read this Chinese Cinderella story before, you and your listeners are in for a treat. Enter the world of Yeh-Shen and see just how ancient and universal the Cinderella story is.
Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin
Learn about this cultural custom by visiting a bustling dim sum restaurant. In this picture book, trolleys bring delicious morsels of food — from tarts to buns to dumplings — and everyone around the table shares the delicacies family-style.
Our Moon Festival: Celebrating the Moon Festival in Asian Communities by Yobe Qiu and Christina Nel Lopez
I love how this book highlights the traditional Chinese moon festival yet explains how the tradition is observed in neighboring Asian countries like Vietnam and Japan. Diversity exists in Asia, too, and seeing how each family celebrates the holiday is very interesting.
I Found It! A Bilingual Look and Find Book by Katrina Liu
Here’s an adorable book for Mandarin language learners! This bilingual book contains Simplified Chinese, Pinyin, and English vocabulary words to identify various objects in a fun look and find book. There is also a Traditional Chinese version available for those who wish to learn it.
The Foundations of Chinese Civilization: The Yellow Emperor to the Han Dynasty (Understanding China Through Comics Series) by Jing Liu
For middle grade and up, and even for comics-obsessed elementary kids, this comics series is excellent for understanding China’s vast history. Never has there been an easier and more entertaining way to learn about China’s history, from ancient to modern.
Little Pigs and the Sweet Rice Cakes: A Story Told in English and Chinese (Stories of the Chinese Zodiac) by Jian Li
Author and illustrator Jian Li tells a series of stories based on the Chinese Zodiac. This one is the Chinese version of the three little pigs, a folktale about three pigs who wish they could eat sweet rice cakes. Told in Chinese and English, the tale includes a recipe for making the delicious cakes.
Mooncakes by Loretta Seto and Renné Benoit
Tales of the Jade Rabbit and of the magical tree that can never be cut down are woven into the story of how a family celebrates the Chinese Moon Festival.
ABCs for the American born Chinese by Cathy Lu
This alphabet book will delight any ABC, or American Born Chinese. Babies learn their ABCs with fruits, vegetables, and other foods commonly eaten in Chinese households.
For recommendations on Lunar New Year books to read with the kids, see 10 Chinese New Year Books.