10 Easy Chinese Books for Beginner Learning and Reading
So, you’re ready to deck out your bookshelves with some Chinese language books?
We’ve compiled a list of 10 easy Chinese books for beginners that teach common vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, grammar and general Chinese reading skills.
From textbooks to stories, this list of books will provide you with the stepping stones needed toward your goal of starting your Mandarin Chinese journey.
- 1. “Chinese Language for Beginners”
- 2. “Chinese Made Easy for Kids”
- 3. “Chinese Slanguage: Knee How Ma”
- 4. “My First Book of Chinese Calligraphy”
- 5. “Chinese in 10 Minutes a Day”
- 6. “My First Book of Chinese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book”
- 7. “Chinese and English Nursery Rhymes: Share and Sing in Two Languages”
- 8. “Chinese Learning-The Story of Mulan”
- 9. “Chinese Short Stories for Beginners”
- 10. “Chinese Conversations for Beginners: Chinese Short Stories”
- Tips for Using Chinese Learning Books
1. “Chinese Language for Beginners”
This book utilizes illustrations to demonstrate each vocabulary word’s usage with a sample sentence. You’ll learn all about intonation and pronunciation along the way.
There’s even a short story to help test what you’ve learned. With drawings, basic vocabulary and instructions on reading multiple lines of characters—it’s a great book for beginner learners that provides a step-by-step process to learn easily.
2. “Chinese Made Easy for Kids”
The second volume in its series, this textbook is illustrated with stories and rhyming words that focus on daily greetings, numbers, countries, colors, transportation, animals and body parts.
The best part is that it teaches you how to write in Chinese from the first stroke to the last, and how to write 100 characters from memory.
With over 500 characters for you to recognize, it’s an easy and fun textbook with additional levels of learning for your learning growth.
3. “Chinese Slanguage: Knee How Ma”
This book defies the pinyin rules of Chinese by using the English alphabet to spell out each Chinese character.
Fun and entertaining, it’s perfect for beginners to help familiarize themselves with Chinese sounds and intonations.
You’ll also learn about basic Chinese phrases used in traveling, including directions, medical emergencies, ordering food, hotels and airports.
4. “My First Book of Chinese Calligraphy”
This book demonstrates the art of calligraphy while following the journey of eight-year-old Mimi as she explores the rich culture of the Chinese language through writing.
From the evolution of Chinese writing to the order of strokes, what radicals are, the four essential tools of calligraphy, movements and position, the five different styles of calligraphy, how to draw eight strokes and writing characters in calligraphy. This book has it all.
And as a bonus, it’s accompanied by a CD-ROM so you can see, hear and practice the pronunciation of Chinese characters, all in a creative game setting.
5. “Chinese in 10 Minutes a Day”
One of my best tips for you is to start with the basic greetings and everyday words. With this book, you can do just that.
It’s an illustrated 132-page workbook that contains simple words and phrases to help you to familiarize yourself with the language. Read a few words a day, 10 minutes a day.
With a host of features such as tests, flashcards, sticky labels, a cut-out menu guide, a glossary of over 2,000 words, definitions and pronunciations, it’s great for quick learning. It also comes available as a digital download.
6. “My First Book of Chinese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book”
This book does a terrific job of introducing readers to Chinese culture while teaching them Chinese words for common items, that most people use or encounter daily in a fun, rhyming fashion.
In addition, readers will learn all of the basic sounds and written characters of Mandarin Chinese while seeing how they differ from English words throughout the entire book.
They even explain right at the beginning how letters are pronounced by comparing them to pronunciations of English words.
7. “Chinese and English Nursery Rhymes: Share and Sing in Two Languages”
This is another great book that teaches readers basic vocabulary and simple sentences through popular nursery rhymes.
This book also differentiates the languages quite nicely by offering English words on the first line followed by the Chinese pinyin on the second line, then the actual Chinese characters on the third line.
It has attractive pictures, large readable font and a brief guide that explains the purpose of the book and what the readers should learn from it. It also contains a CD to sing along to.
8. “Chinese Learning-The Story of Mulan”
The folk story of the legendary Hua Mulan has been around since the Han Dynasty and is popular in both eastern and western countries due to Disney’s 1990s rendition of the classic tale.
Using this bilingual edition will help you to learn new Chinese words effectively, and you’ll also learn about some traditional Chinese customs as well.
This particular version is an e-book for the Kindle, so if you have a Kindle or any other mobile device, then consider this book.
9. “Chinese Short Stories for Beginners”
This book focuses on consistency when learning Chinese in a fun and easy way.
With 20 easy-to-read short stories, it provides the content in Chinese with English translations below each paragraph, helping you to understand what you’re reading.
It also provides pinyin romanization, summaries of what you’ve just read as a review—testing what you’ve just read—with a follow-up at the end of each summary detailing a list of vocabulary found in each lesson.
10. “Chinese Conversations for Beginners: Chinese Short Stories”
This is a great bilingual book for beginners that offers each short story in Chinese (pinyin) with English translations to encourage Chinese language learning.
It features daily conversational tasks, vocabulary, up-to-date words and phrases, learning tips and even provides insight into the Chinese culture.
Best of all, it offers an audio version of the book accessible through a QR code provided before the table of contents, so you can also hear the pronunciation of the words in each short story.
Tips for Using Chinese Learning Books
Become familiar with the characters. Mandarin Chinese is one of the most beautiful languages in the world because of its unique set of characters. But it’s also for this reason that a beginner will find it a challenge to grasp learning the language. Some characters have more strokes than the rest. That’s why you should familiarize yourself with as many characters as you can.
Learn the basics of pronunciation. One of the trickiest parts of learning Chinese is the different approaches you’ll take to reading. Unlike other languages that use a phonetic alphabet, Chinese is comprised entirely of logographs. Chinese learning books will often have the corresponding pinyin for characters. You’ll learn how to pronounce each character using the English alphabet.
Start to gain a deeper appreciation of the characters. With books, you’ll notice how each Chinese character is written. You’ll quickly realize that how 口 (kŏu) is written is very similar to an open mouth, and that 人 (rén) is similar to a walking stick person.
Set your own pace for learning. In contrast to having a tutor or enrolling in a program, books provide you with an avenue for learning at your desired pace and level. Books are a great way to get started. You don’t have to abide by a strict schedule or feel pressured. You can take it slow, or speed things up if you’re craving a challenge.
Learn the ABCs of Chinese. Before you learn Chinese characters, become familiar with the alphabet first. Learn the sounds and the intonations through pinyin and Zhuyin. You’ll find learning the characters becomes easier once you familiarize yourself with the ABCs of Chinese.
Start with greetings and everyday words. Greetings and everyday words help you to build your new language vocabulary. Once you see its practicality and the fact that you can now inject Chinese characters into your daily life, you’ll want to keep learning and keep practicing.
Learn the characters with the simplest strokes. Learning Chinese can be overwhelming at first. It can be confusing to differentiate one character from the rest. That’s why it’s best to start with the basic characters, wherein you’ll soon find that these words will form part of the other words.
Learn 5 words a day. Learning a new language takes time, and practice makes perfect. Start slowly by learning five new words per day. You’ll be able to recall them to memory more easily if you start with a handful and gradually increase your daily word learning.
And, if you’re more of a visual learner, you can learn Chinese as a beginner with FluentU’s subtitled videos, which come with interactive subtitles, downloadable transcripts and vocabulary word lists to help you along.
FluentU’s program is one way to keep practicing your reading, and to see grammar and vocabulary in use in authentic Mandarin Chinese videos. You can watch movie clips, news segments, commercials and other native media. You can even watch some animated stories and read along with the subtitles as the video plays.
So, there you have it. Just remember our tips, keep a positive learning attitude and start reading these basic Chinese learning books!
You’ll get those characters down in no time! Good luck!