If you’ve ever tried to learn to read Chinese characters, you know how frustrating it can be! Is it even possible without wanting to pull your hair out? Thankfully, with the help of what’s known as “graded readers”, it can actually be fun. As I introduce to you not only physical books, but also a review of Chairman’s Bao, you’ll see how.
If you are like me, you have spent hours upon hours memorizing Chinese characters and grammar to improve your Chinese reading with only incremental success.
If the secret to learning to read Chinese is to know as many Chinese characters as possible, shouldn’t hardcore memorization exercises and using flashcards do the trick?
Studies actually show the opposite! They show that…
The true key to learning a foreign language is through absorbing the language by engaging in activities like graded reading – reading that uses words matched to a specific reading level.
Unlike flashcards, where you generally review characters in isolation with definitions in English, graded readers off you the ability to vastly expand your vocabulary by reviewing large amounts of characters suitable to your level at once and see them within their appropriate context.
This is far less tedious and more effective than reviewing flashcards, so you are not only going to improve your reading level but also have fun in the process.
This is exactly how children learn to read and thankfully there are ways that we adults can follow their footsteps. I’m going to walk through some graded reader options, including a review of The Chairman’s Bao as a good option (plus give you a 20% discount code if you decide to use them!)
Hopefully you can learn from my experience!
Note: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may be compensated if you choose to use one of the services listed. I only recommend what I’ve personally used, and I appreciate your support!
Chinese Graded Readers (Recommended Options)
So where can you find quality Chinese graded reading suitable to your level?
There are a number of great books that you can pick up, including the Mandarin Companion series that I really like. These books are usually familiar stories that have good illustrations and plenty of good vocabulary.
I genuinely enjoy these books. But I also read through them very quickly.
And that’s when I found The Chairman’s Bao. This is what has taken my Chinese reading level to the next level and, as long as you put in the dedication and hard work, I’m positive yours can too.
The Chairman’s Bao Review | Chinese Graded Reader
Let’s do a quick overview of how The Chairman’s Bao app works so you can understand what we’re talking about.
The Chairman’s Bao is a service that teaches reading of Chinese characters through news-based graded readers and caters to the learning needs of individuals and academic institutions.
All articles are written by native Chinese speakers in accordance with the latest HSK word listings.
As each lesson is associated with a specific HSK level (1 through 6+), learners are able to choose an article respective to their level and read the entire passage with relative ease.
As of right now, the Chairman’s Bao publishes 1,600 news-based lessons annually with up to 6 articles daily. In other words, there’s always something new, exciting and current to read!
With the amount of fresh content on the platform, you can strengthen the foundation of what you already know and continue to expand on it by continuous exposure to new characters suited to your level.
How The Chairman’s Bao Works
In addition to The Chairman’s Bao website, all lessons are accessible on the mobile and tablet app so that you can practice reading at home or on the go.
Before I had ever heard of the Chairman’s Bao, I begrudgingly relied on lower-quality graded readers to practice reading Chinese. When I encountered a difficult sentence without a teacher around, I had no way to fully understand the meaning of the characters or grammar structure within the sentence.
With The Chairman’s Bao, each article includes vocabulary lists and explanations on grammar in accordance with the targeted HSK level, making it an easy resource to learn on your own.
In addition to everything mentioned above, there are a number of other great features that stand out with The Chairman’s Bao. This includes:
- Live Dictionary: While reading, you can use the live dictionary where you simply click on a character to reveal the definition, pronunciation, and an option to save the character to your word bank.
- Spoken Audio: I really enjoy the spoken audio that can be downloaded for every article, which adds a whole dimension to the reading experience.
- Learning Hub: The “learning hub” for studying vocabulary, character writing with stroke order instruction, and flashcard tests, which all together make The Chairman’s Bao a comprehensive source for improving your reading in Chinese.
My only criticism of The Chairman’s Bao is that it would be nice to have the option to disable the live dictionary.
For example, whenever I stumble on an unfamiliar character, I almost always refer to the live dictionary when instead I should try to guess the unknown word from the context of the sentence. This is crucial to improving my reading level and I’d like to see this become a feature.
Final Thoughts (plus a Discount Code!)
Although it’s one of many tools for learning to read Chinese, The Chairman’s Bao is hands down my favorite for those looking to improve reading abilities in Chinese. Put aside the flashcards and start investing your time into a method that will actually pay off in improving your Chinese.
As you’ve learned in this review of The Chairman’s Bao, they have new articles being published every day. Coupled with all the features built into The Chairman’s Bao, reading in Chinese will likely turn from a torturous experience to something far more enjoyable and fun.
Best of all, they’re offering all readers of this blog 20% off of your subscription when you use the code TCC20!
Get 20% off any Subscription
using the promo code TCC20
Take the next step to improve your Chinese reading skills by investing in yourself. You’ll be glad that you did and best of all, if you’re like me…
…you might even have fun doing it!
BONUS! If you’re looking for even more great Chinese language resources, check out the following:
- 75 Best Chinese Language Learning Resources
- Best Mandarin Phrase Books for Travelers
- Best Tools to Learn to Write Chinese