Unless you’re studying Esperanto (Yeah, anyone remember “Esperanto?”), learning a language nearly always goes hand in hand with learning about a culture.
For those of you working to help children learn Chinese, there are some great books on the market to help introduce Chinese culture to the wee set. Many of my household’s favorites in this category are written and illustrated by Grace Lin.
Two things I like best about Grace’s books are how “simple” she keeps her tales???you don’t have to have fairies and monkey kings and dragons for a story to interest young children???and in particular how deep and rich her illustrations are.
Fine example: Dim Sum for Everyone.
Here’s the basic story line:
Once upon a time, a dad, mom, and their three daughters go to a dim sum restaurant. This one likes such and such best; that one prefers that dish over there. Everybody is eating with chopsticks. The waitresses bring the little dishes around on carts. When they’re done, they’re full. It was good. The End.
Like I said, simple. But our daughters, who go with us to various dim sum restaurants around Seattle, already identify with the dim sum experience and love to point out the pictures of their favorite dishes.
And the pictures! We sometimes spend five minutes or more on a page, with the girls pointing at their favorite details, talking about what the people in the pictures are doing, and saying the names of the dishes they recognize. (And myself, I get mesmerized by the swirling figures in the background of most of the illustrations—they remind me of a particular Grateful Dead concert I attended in 1992).
Whether you go to dim sum restaurants with your kids already, are getting ready to take them for the first time, or have no intention or ability to get to one any time soon, this book is a fine tool to experience a unique part of Chinese culture…at kids’ eye level. You might also like the “glossary” of dim sum dishes in the back, which includes their Chinese and English names around a picture of each dish.