The children’s book market in China has developed very fast in the last 10 years. Among the new generation of children’s literature writers, the most famous is undoubtedly Yang Hongying (杨红樱). Considered one of the most important contemporary Chinese authors, she has often been compared to J.K. Rowling for her influence on Chinese children’s books.
The benefits of reading in early childhood are multifold. Children can develop their own ideas and opinions, improve communication skills, widen their vocabulary, foster creativity, and gain a better attitude for learning and developing critical thinking skills. For these reasons and more, parents are always willing to buy books for their children, but perhaps do not always having time to read themselves.
Yang Hongying’s books are all for children and about children, and successfully sketch portraits of modern Chinese society. Her most successful works are Girl’s Diary, the Mo’s Mischief series and the most recent Diary of a Smiling Cat.
Trained as a primary school teacher, Yang has a lot of experience with kids and often read out her stories to her students before becoming a full-time writer. Thanks to them and her daughter (who inspired Girl’s Diary), she understands the way kids think and is able to empathize with them. Children like to read her books because they are funny and the characters are just like them, facing the same doubts and problems.
However, Yang also has many critics. The accusations are that her stories are too simple for kids. Some parents and teachers prefer their children and students to read Western authors.
The Chinese children’s books market is relatively new and will naturally take some time to catch up with the West. Regardless, the novels of Yang and other Chinese writers are a good start for children to start appreciating literature. After becoming familiar with these stories, they may become passionate readers and dedicate themselves to more challenging readings from the West, such as Edmondo De Amicis, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry or Fred Uhlman.
To find books by Yang Hongying, visit Chinese book chains like Xinhua Bookstore (新华书店) or look to good old Taobao.
Photo by flickr user San Jose Library