Chinese Calligraphy

I find it important – and enjoyable – to read multicultural literature with my students and children.* As I stay home from work this year to be with my two daughters, I am intentionally searching for age-appropriate multicultural picture books to read with them. And this one is a winner! Liu and the Bird: A Journey in Chinese Calligraphy is written and illustrated by Catherine Louis. It has a rich and lovely story with calligraphy on each page to accompany the illustrations and text.

I love the way the story is told, almost like listening to your grandmother share as you sit in her lap. My preschooler liked turning the page to find out what would happen next as Liu journeyed to see her grandfather. We both found it wonderfully interesting how the modern Chinese calligraphy is shown on each page for a few of the words, which are also bold-faced in the text for the reader’s reference. The book creatively allows you to see how the calligraphy may have developed from a more obvious picture-like image of the word to its modern character.

*Click on the links to see two of the original novel units I created to explore Mexican culture (Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan) and Chinese culture (Spring Pearl: The Last Flower by Laurence Yep) with middle school students. These are available for purchase at Teachers Pay Teachers and helpful for either a traditional classroom or homeschool use.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Ask your child what he/she enjoys doing with Grandpa. Do you travel far to see him like Liu did in the book? Or does Grandpa come to visit you?
  • Look back at the pictures and the calligraphy on each page. Discuss which modern Chinese calligraphy characters most resemble the word they represent. Which ones least resemble the word they represent?
  • If desired, choose a few of your favorite modern calligraphy characters and try to copy them!

For Teachers:

  • There are 4 excellent activity ideas provided at the end of Liu and the Bird: A Journey in Chinese Calligraphy so I used those rather than create my own! We decided to try the Bilingual Picture Alphabet Memory Game, using English and Spanish for our two languages.

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