Thursday, May 12, 2022

Book Nook: Fish Tails & Rhymes

Angelina Wong-Jardin is the creator of the latest series of interactive bilingual sound books called 
Fish Tales & Rhymes. The bilingual board books introduce children to some of the most classic nursery rhymes and poems sung by children across Chinese-speaking communities all over the world.

 Each book in the Fish Tales & Rhymes series has eight songs dedicated to a different theme from celebration, to food, to animals, to family. By pushing the buttons in the book, children can sing along and follow the lyrics in Chinese, English, and pinyin.  

Wong-Jardin is a dedicated mother and continually finds a way to create an immersive language environment for her children. As a second-generation Hong-Kong Chinese immigrant born in the United Kingdom, she experienced the pains of having to attend Chinese school on the weekends. While today, she is grateful for the opportunity her parents gave her to connect with her heritage, she wanted to find a more effective way for language and culture to be passed on to the next generation so that the journey was less begrudging and more enjoyable. 

I had a chance to learn more in this interview.

Why is it effective to combine music and reading with language learning?

Angelina: bringing together music and reading to learn additional languages in the household has been a revelation for us as a family. Just by observing my two energetic boys who were 4 and 5 at the time, I could see how bedtime stories were particularly exciting for them. Not only do they get read to in three different languages, but the chance to express themselves through dancing and movement all while singing, allows them to pick up lyrics quickly thanks in part, to a catchy melody and rhyming lyrics. It really has been an effortless experience. My sons are a testament to this!

Learning Mandarin through music and reading offers a child a host of advantages in that it is how the process:

  1. Helps make knowledge stick – a catchy melody will have them humming along to songs for a while. 

  1. Helps to appreciate cultural diversity – Aside from reading and music, illustrations in books also play an important role in being part of the immersive language learning experience. 

Fish Tales & Rhymes’ drawings represent the culturally diverse families and communities we live in today. With it being AAPI Heritage this month, there’s nothing more meaningful than to expose our children to literature with characters and a culture that they can resonate with.

  1. Provides unconscious learning - It helps to create a fun space for children to learn through play. 

  1. Brings back fond childhood memories for parents and grandparents when reading the book with their little ones.

  1. Improves pronunciation - Singing in exaggerated tones also make children more aware of the five tones in Mandarin. 

How can bilingual books be good for kids, even if families don't plan to learn a language to fluency?

Bilingual books like the Fish Tales & Rhymes’ Chinese Nursery Rhymes series was created for children who may well be learning Chinese as an additional language.  They were designed for families who appreciate that through learning a new language is like gifting their child with a new perspective of the world. 

Bilingual Chinese books are unique in that they feature a phonetics system otherwise known as pinyin so that non-native Chinese speakers can also learn the language. I don’t recall books like these existing back when I was growing up or else it would have made for a much more fun and positive language learning experience. 


Our mission at Fish Tales & Rhymes is about cultivating the love of language learning. Doing it through music, reading and play couldn’t be a more fitting combination. Once you have sparked the enthusiasm of children, the rest will follow. 


Meeting bilingual children’s authors on this journey has been an incredible experience for me. While each author has a unique story to tell in how they became inspired to start creating bilingual books, one common thread came out of each of these stories. As Americans with an Asian heritage, they wanted their children to grow up feeling empowered by their bicultural identity. They wanted their children to have access to a part of their heritage that they may well be asking questions about later on  - as they are finding themselves doing today. 


I would have loved to have had access to bilingual Chinese/English language books that accommodated the needs of bicultural and international families. I have only started to notice a growing number of bilingual children’s books especially in Chinese in the past few years. Although this is an encouraging sign, it is also a wake up call to remind us that with the help of more creative bilingual resources available to families, will we have a chance of being able to retain culture and language for the young generation.


Here’s a short sum up of how I became inspired:


Why is it important for people of all cultural backgrounds to be exposed to literature from a variety of cultures?


  • It gives greater appreciation for differences on so many levels.

  • It nurtures soft skill qualities that are so important in the world we live in right now including compassion, empathy and respect.

  • It helps us realize that there are multiple perspectives in how one same topic can be answered. 

  • It develops a sense of curiosity that helps to shape young minds to be inquisitive with a readiness to embrace new cultures and communities.


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