Be it children’s books in either English or Chinese, Peekabook has a little page-turner for you.
As an English-speaking mom to two little toddlers, one of my top parenting goals when our family touched down in Beijing was to continue sharing with them as many stories as I could in my preferred tongue.
Investing in kids’ books, however, can be costly and space-consuming. And then there’s dealing with the heartbreak of one day parting with our previously-really-really-loved-books (I still don’t have the heart to part with my favorite childhood books!).
So naturally, a library with English books was a perfect solution!
I was already quite impressed the first time I entered Peekabook. They didn’t have any fancy equipment nor any balloons to bribe my daughter’s heart, but they did have the usual children’s books that you’d find on the shelf of an English-speaking home. “It’s Olivia!” My daughter once squealed, pointing at her favorite character on a cover of a book on the shelf as I was hoarding Eric Carle books a few steps away.
During a conversation with one of the staff, I discovered why. The library group was founded by a group of Chinese-American ladies who wanted to expose Chinese children to more Western books. These ladies are currently based in the U.S. and bring over English books from time to time for the library. They wanted to give the local children more opportunities to embrace the English that English-speaking families actually read without the burden of needing to spend a fortune on purchasing them.
Suffice to say, I was thrilled.
There was thus not much hesitation in signing up (but just to be sure I decided to pay for the half-year membership first). As I was paying my fee they also casually mentioned that included in the membership fee are Chinese and English reading sessions twice a day, and a crafts class supplementing the afternoons sessions.
Hearing that got me even more excited!
The reason was simple: my older daughter, a 2-year-old who spoke no Chinese, was getting stressed and refused to even mouth the words nǐ hǎo. She had no motivation to care. No motivation to embrace the local culture. Heck, she even really disliked our Chinese-speaking ayi!
But she was willing to listen. She loved hearing me read her Chinese stories, and even knew some of the words already. So as soon as we could, we started attending classes.
My daughters were nervous during our first few visits, literally hanging on every step I took.
Today they’re more comfortable when entering the premises, no longer hiding under their mommy’s skirt. Though we haven’t been attending the crafts classes recently due to a conflict in schedule, my older daughter still fondly remembers some of the projects she made there. Her Chinese still isn’t perfect and she still feels shy, but at the very least she’s learned to see this library as her safe place which also helped her not cower when she hears someone greet her nǐ hǎo.
In addition to all that, there’s a reason she’s so motivated to borrow books. Inside little glass shelves are gifts for children who have earned enough “Peekabook Money.” They get RMB 1 every time they return a book. Here, the reward for reading is more understandable than your usual “you’ll learn a lot of stuff!”
So for parents looking for a little book nook for the kids to kick off their shoes and relax, here’s one option I’m recommending. Currently we’re reading Katy Duck (my kids love her), some books about Clifford and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar (in Chinese!).
So, what will you be reading your kids?
Full year membership is for RMB 800, and half year is for RMB 500. Tuesdays through Sundays, 9.30am-8.30pm. Visit their official website here.
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