Writing with Childlike Innocence
By Chou Sing Chu Foundation
There is no doubt that reading plays an important role in our children’s physical and mental development. But our children’s precious childhood is short and is already laden with heavy schooling commitments, how can we ensure that they can gain the maximum benefit from non-curriculum reading? Our young children’s first exposure to reading is usually through their parents or teachers. Therefore, it is essential for us to understand the secret to helping our children read and learn well.
Sadly, the room for originality is limited in the current Chinese children’s book market. Besides, the content in many Chinese children’s books is diluted by commercial considerations. This resulting mix of varying quality makes choosing a good Chinese children’s book a tricky affair but the best way to start is to choose from the classics.
Though the history of Chinese children’s books is shorter than their English counterparts, it is not difficult to spot the works of the masters amongst the mix. Still easily found in various bookstores, these masterpieces are written from the perspective of children, for the children; their captivating storylines are told in a lively and engaging language. In this third chapter on Chinese reading, we will introduce two well-known Chinese children’s book writers – Ren Rongrong and Yang Hongying.
Ren Rongrong: The Godfather of China’s Children’s Literature
Born in 1923 in Shanghai, the 93-year-old Mr Ren is a man of many talents: an experienced editor, a prolific children’s literature writer and a capable translator (he is proficient in Russian, English, Japanese, Italian and a bit of Swedish). His 1962 Chinese cartoon, Simpleton and Grumpy (《没头脑和不高兴》), a story about two young friends, is still making its readers have a good laugh.
Mr Ren’s works contain a childlike innocence that every child can relate to, and it is the same for his translated works. He has translated many children’s stories into Chinese, like Pinocchio, The Adventures of Onion Head, Winnie the Pooh, The Witch, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Peter Pan, and Charlotte’s Web with his mastery command of the languages. Mr Ren’s works is a great start if you are thinking of exposing your children to children’s literature. Incidentally, “Ren Rongrong” is actually the name of his daughter. Ren Gen Liu (his original name) had wanted a child’s name as his pen name when he started writing children’s stories.
Yang Hongying: Bestseller Queen
No discussion about the Chinese children’s literature is complete without mentioning Yang Hongying. The best-selling Chinese writer of children’s fiction is known as the “Queen of Chinese Children’s Books”. Her stories mainly centred on children in urban cities, looking at issues through their perspective. Written in a humorous and easy manner, the issues highlighted in Ms Yang’s books are familiar to the children readers. Ms Yang believes that it is an achievement for a child to just be able to finish reading an entire book; there is no need to read too much into the storyline or write a reading report afterwards. Her unique view is reflected in her use of plain and smooth language, including many idioms in her writings, making them suitable reading for upper primary school students.
In addition to these two writers, there are works from other Chinese children’s literature writers that young children can try to read. Through exposing our children to these excellent works of children’s literature, we will be enriching their childhood learning further.
Our list of recommended Chinese children’s literature writers (Part 1)
- Ye Shengtao
- Lin Liang
- Jin Bo
- Qin Wenjun
- Cao Wenxuan
- Guan Jiaqi
- Shen Shixi
In the next issue: An introduction to translated children’s literature and children’s poetry.
- Selected works of all the writers highlighted in this article can be found at the National Library.
- Chou Sing Chu Foundation (CSCF) is the sponsor of the entire Chinese children’s book collection in the upcoming Tampines Regional Library which will be opening in the second half of 2017.
CSCF will launch the second series of our very successful Sing Chu Children’s Collection at the end of 2016. Tailored for the primary school students in Singapore, the new series will bring more captivating and interesting stories to your children. Please follow us on our Facebook or website for the latest information.