Chinese Graded Readers 📚 Three Of The Very Best

Chinese Graded Readers // Why They Can Improve My Mandarin

Learning Chinese is a long journey, and most people who manage to get through it successfully can attest to the magic of Chinese Graded Readers

Being able to read in Chinese is undoubtedly one of the main goals of many Chinese learners, but getting there can look like a seemingly impossible task. 

While English speakers may have it easier when attempting to read Spanish or French, Chinese texts don’t have that same familiarity.

Reading a single page can take excruciatingly long when you have to look up every other word in the dictionary.

It’s even worse when you understand every single individual word but can’t figure out what the sentence means. 

Here is where Chinese graded readers come into play.

In this blog post, we will break down what a graded reader is, why you need them, and where to find the best graded readers for learning Chinese. 

Chinese Graded Readers – What is a Graded Reader?

Chinese Graded Readers – How can a Graded Reader help my Chinese?

Best Chinese Graded Reader #1 – Mandarin Companion

Best Chinese Graded Reader #2 – Chinese Breeze

Best Chinese Graded Reader #3 – Pleco Graded Readers

BONUS SUGGESTION – Apps with Graded Readings

Chinese Graded Readers – FAQ’s

Chinese Graded Readers // What Are They?

A graded reader is a book or text that was written specifically for foreign language learners.

This means that the entire book—with very few exceptions—is written using only the most commonly-taught foundational words for foreign learners. 

This is in contrast to children’s books, which are written with a very different target audience in mind. In fact, using children’s books for language learning is supposedly not a very good idea

Graded readers for Chinese learners will generally be broken up into the six HSK levels.

You can expect each level to be written using only the words in the corresponding HSK level.

This means that even HSK1 students can take advantage of graded readers.

You can buy them all from Amazon as shown below.

Start with the HSK 1 level if you never studied the Chinese language before.

Keep going with the HSK 2 level to go further with your language studies.

NOTE – Please note these links are affiliate links and LTL Mandarin School take a small cut of any sales made, with the rest going to Amazon and the lister of the product.

Chinese Graded Readers // How They Can Help

There are many incredible advantages to incorporating Chinese graded readers into your learning process. 

First, being able to read a book—any book—in your target language is a huge achievement. The feeling you get from finishing your first book in Chinese is unlike anything else. 

This can be a huge boost to your motivation, which will in turn give you the energy you need to keep going with your Chinese studies. 

Flashcards are an effective way of learning

Second, graded readers work essentially like flashcards.

When you read a book, you focus your attention on constantly recalling high-frequency words.

The best part is, books are naturally written in a way that uses the most frequently used words, well, the most frequently. 

Reading is an excellent way to master the most commonly-used words in your target language as you will be seeing them over and over again in different contexts.

Third, graded readers can help you develop soft skills that you can’t fully get from a textbook or a Chinese class.

Skills like parsing words, automatic processing of the language, and 语感 (yǔgǎn), the sense of the language, can be developed quite quickly by reading.

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Chinese Graded Readers // The Best Graded Readers

Now that you’re ready to start using graded readers to learn Chinese, you need to make sure you incorporate the best readers into your study routine. 

Regardless of which Chinese graded reader series you choose (and you can certainly choose more than one!), the most important part is to make sure that you choose readers that are at or below your current level. 

When using graded readers, you should be able to understand about 98% of the words in your book. Though this percentage might seem high, this will prevent burnout from constantly looking up words in the dictionary. 

You will still be able to develop all the soft skills mentioned in the previous section, and you are more likely to have an enjoyable experience if you can understand almost everything. 

Mandarin Companion

Mandarin Companion is a graded reading series that encompasses three levels:

  • Breakthrough
  • Level 1
  • Level 2

Their levels go from 150 words to 450 words, so they are suitable for HSK2 through HSK 4 students. 

Most of their readers are Chinese adaptations of Western novels, like Sherlock Holmes or Jane Austen’s Emma.

They are set in China, generally using Chinese characters, and can be set in the present day or the past. This gives students a sense of familiarity while also incorporating Chinese life and culture into the texts.

You can purchase the book on Amazon by clicking the image above or this link.

These links are affiliate links and LTL Mandarin School take a small cut of any sales made, with the rest going to Amazon and the lister of the product.

Chinese Breeze

Chinese Breeze is another great series of graded readers that encompasses four levels:

  • Level 1
  • Level 2
  • Level 3
  • Level 4

Their readers range from 300 words to 1100 words, making them perfect for HSK3 through HSK5 students. 

Their books range in 8,000 to 30,000 characters in length.

They cover a wide variety of genres, including romance, fantasy, horror, and more.

You can purchase the book on Amazon by clicking the image above or this link.

These links are affiliate links and LTL Mandarin School take a small cut of any sales made, with the rest going to Amazon and the lister of the product.

Pleco Graded Readers

Pleco is one of the most widely loved and trusted apps among Chinese learners.

The app is traditionally used as a dictionary, but also includes many other great features like SRS, document scanning, and even graded readers. 

Many users of Pleco do not know that the app offers dozens of fantastic graded readers, with levels ranging from 150 words to 1200 words.

Simply navigate to the “Add-ons” section of your app, and you should be able to find them. 

Check out our full review of the Pleco app

Chinese Graded Readers // BONUS

Several apps provide a great alternative to purchasing individual graded reader books. 

The Chairman’s Bao is a great app that takes Chinese news articles and rewrites them in a graded reader fashion.

You can choose articles from one of the six HSK levels and find bits of news written in your level of Chinese. If you are interested in non-fiction, this app can be a great way to keep up with Chinese news while working on your reading skills.

Just like The Chairman’s Bao, Du Chinese provides weekly content in each of the six HSK levels for you to read.

The main difference is that Du Chinese writes fiction stories, many of which include dozens of chapters and read just like a book. The app also includes some great features like spaced repetition flashcards and audio materials. 

Regardless of what you like, you are sure to find Chinese graded reading materials that interest you.

These are some of our best recommendations, but the most important thing is to get you reading any text that you can understand easily. 

Reading can seriously help level up your Chinese, and if done right should be an enjoyable experience as well! 

Chinese Graded Readers // FAQ’s

What is a graded reader?

A graded reader is a book or text that was written specifically for foreign language learners.

This means that the entire book—with very few exceptions—is written using only the most commonly-taught foundational words for foreign learners. 

What level should you be for the Mandarin Companion Chinese graded readers?

Their levels go from 150 words to 450 words, so they are suitable for HSK2 through HSK 4 students. 

Are there any apps that provide Chinese graded reading content?

Yes there are several apps provide a great alternative to purchasing individual graded reader books. 

The Chairman’s Bao is a great app that takes Chinese news articles and rewrites them in a graded reader fashion.

You can choose articles from one of the six HSK levels and find bits of news written in your level of Chinese. If you are interested in non-fiction, this app can be a great way to keep up with Chinese news while working on your reading skills.

Just like The Chairman’s Bao, Du Chinese provides weekly content in each of the six HSK levels for you to read.

Where can I buy Mandarin Companion graded readers?

You can purchase the book on Amazon by clicking this link.

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  • LTL Avatar Irene Magnosi
    Irene Magnosi , Student Advisor

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