Sagebooks Intro: Sagebooks are Magic!

Sagebooks Sage Formula

I did it. I finally gave in and purchased Sagebooks. With the high price tag it took a lot of consideration. How can Sagebooks charge so much for these books?! The answer is: Sagebooks are magic, sorcery even! Why are these books magic? Because they got my uninterested 4 year old interested in learning Chinese again!

Our Chinese Learning Background

Ours is a familiar story. I’m a second generation Taiwanese now learning Chinese along with my newly 5 year old son and 2 year old daughter. A year ago, I naively thought I could do this Chinese thing without dropping a bunch of money. We would just read and use flashcards. Right? Up till now, my son has learned about 50 characters through various games and activities. He does not like to write. He loves books but dislikes learning to read in Chinese or English.

The trouble began when my son started Mandarin Immersion preschool. He went from speaking only Mandarin to speaking English and refusing to speak Mandarin. This is a common problem that we will all face at some point. I think when he saw other Asian kids speaking English he realized that he didn’t HAVE to speak Mandarin. At the time, he was the only student at his Mandarin Immersion school that spoke Mandarin. He needs to speak English to communicate with his classmates. Asking him to speak Mandarin only fueled his resistance to Chinese.

A few days before our Taiwan trip, he got very upset and said, “I don’t want to do Chinese anymore!” I was crushed so I decided we could take a break from learning Chinese Characters and just enjoy our time in Taiwan without any pressure. Both kids were back to speaking only Mandarin after about 2 weeks into our trip. It helped that they were enrolled in a local preschool. You can read more about our Taiwan preschool experience.

Why I Decided to Purchase Sagebooks

We’ve all read the same testimonials about how Sagebooks taught a fetus how to read while still in the womb. But I was convinced after meeting moms in real life that agree that Sagebooks is an easier way for your kids to learn Chinese characters. Let’s get this straight though, easier does not mean easy or without any effort. Plus, I was in Taiwan at the time and saved $100 on shipping alone!

I ordered the entire Sage Formula because Guavarama says so in her post. My luggage was 18 pounds heavier, while my bank account $472 lighter. If you plan to buy Sagebooks while abroad, the books arrive in two separate boxes and took up almost my entire suitcase. Sage Formula includes the complete set of 25 course books, 25 treasure box books, and 10 CDs that go along with all 50 books.

Intro to Sagebooks with my 5 Year Old

Upon opening the box and pulling out the first book, my son was very excited and said, “我要自己念/I want to read on my own!” He pointed and giggled at the primitive childish drawings. As he curiously flipped through book 1, I pulled out my phone and started recording. To my surprise he was able to read quite a bit on his own. After a 3 month break from learning Chinese characters, he was still able to retain much of what he learned before.

It took us a week to get through book 1. We will continue to go over book 1 until he fully learns all the characters. He has 4 characters he still has a difficult time with. We are moving very slowly because I don’t want Sagebooks to become a burden. I try to read with him once a day but move onto storybooks if I sense he is feeling stressed.

Intro to Sagebooks with my 2 Year Old

My daughter usually plays nearby while we do any Chinese learning activities, or participates if she wants to join us. I’m been focusing so much on my son’s learning because he is having a hard time. While we were reading, he got stuck on a character and my daughter chimed in and read for him. The other day she stayed home from school with a cold, so I decided to really see how much she could read. I can’t believe that she has learned just as many, if not more characters than her big brother. It’s true that children are so different and have to learn at their own pace.

The way Sagebooks designed the lessons are so intuitive. My daughter instinctively uses her index finger to trace the character strokes. The first time seeing the character page she said, “媽媽。 我要用手寫字/mommy, I want to write the character with my hand”.  Here is her video:

Learning Book 1 Characters

While repetition is key to really knowing the characters, we also do other activities to keep the learning process fun and interesting. During the 15 minute ride to school (when we carpool with dad), I go over flashcards with them. I have a set from c-pen and also a set made by a fellow mom. I turned it into a game by holding up the card and whoever says the word first wins. Most of the time my 2 year old wins. I’m betting on my son’s competitive nature to push him to focus but it’s not working so far. Other times I make up funny phrases with the flashcards.

My son learn was having a hard time with 我. I set up a set up a matching game on their art board. He had complete the sentence using characters written on sticky notes.

writing Chinese on sticky notes
sticky note matching game

Meal times are a great opportunity to learn. I like to write Chinese characters on their plates or make the Chinese characters out of food. Pancakes are always fun!

writing Chinese with chocolate
writing Chinese characters with ketchup

To get him to write, I created a light box with an iPad and sheet of paper. I used the google translate app, zoomed in on the characters, then locked the screen. My son usually refuses to write but happily traced the characters. When I asked him why he was willing to write, he replied, “因为好酷啊!/because it’s so cool!”

iPad Chinese Characters
iPad lightbox

Sagebooks Learning Resources

Don’t feel overwhelmed! We are all in this together. What’s also great about Sagebooks is that you can find so many free learning resources mostly created by other parents. Here are just a few:

It’s going to be a long journey ahead for us with Sagebooks!

9 thoughts on “Sagebooks Intro: Sagebooks are Magic!

  1. Yi-Ning says:

    Love this! (I’m just exploring this stage of the journey now). Curious, since my kids are learning bopomofo– I was concerned that the pinyin would add a level of confusion. Also, since they are also learning to read English. Have you or known anyone to have this concern?

    • Jeanne Chang says:

      It’s a common concern with parents when they begin to teach characters. My kids have never been confused by Zhuyin, Pinyin, or the difference between Simplified and Traditional characters. Once your child starts learning to read in English, it can become an issue when they are reading Pinyin instead of the Chinese Characters. All people are different though, so I cannot say 100% your child will not be confused, but from the feedback of many parents, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.

  2. Neelie says:

    Hi Jeanne, did you teach your kids zhuyin before doing Sagebooks? I’m wondering whether it’s worthwhile to teach the kiddos (oldest in K) zhuyin or just go right into learning the characters. Thanks in advance for your feedback!

    • Jeanne Chang says:

      My 6-year-old just finished Sagebooks! I’m so proud of her. My son has two more books to go. Sagebooks is not perfect, but it does offer a more structured way to teach 500 characters. I have yet to find an easier way.

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