For many of us outside of Asia, we do not have as much access to Traditional Chinese books, or the budget to buy as many as we would like. Fortunately, there are a hundreds of e-books and e-magazines that you that you can read for free online, and some are even available for download for you to keep forever.
Here are links to hundreds of free-eBooks and over a thousand e-magazines:
1. General Kids e-Books
In the eBook 電子書城 section, there are many ebooks available. You will need to set up an account to access them. eBooks and other resources available including textbook and educational storybooks covering topics such as:
- 文化輔助類 Cultural Assistance eBooks: 字的故事 (Story of Chinese characters) / 臺灣講古 (Taiwanese legends) / 36計 (36 Strategies) / 精選動畫故事 / 看見自己 看清世界 / 民間故事 (Folktales) / 歇後語/ 諺語 (Proverb stories) / 謎語 (riddles) / 兒歌 (nursery rhymes)/ 成語故事 (idiom stories) / 寓言故事 (fables) / 唐詩欣賞 (Tang poetry) / 弟子規 / 文字好好玩
- 幼童華語讀本 bilingual easy readers for pre-schoolers in Traditional Chinese and choice of English and Spanish.
Hong Kong Children’s Literature Series 《兒童文學叢書》 by the Hong Kong Public Library.
This collection comprises winning works from the writing competitions organized by HKPL. The 168 e-books can be read online (without registering) at the website of the Hong Kong Public Library.
Many Cantonese speakers know of Storybooks Canada for their Colloquial Cantonese stories. They do have also Standard Chinese stories in Traditional Chinese on the Hong Kong page of Storybooks. (There are 5 levels, 40 stories in all in Traditional Chinese, but the audio is only in Mandarin, not Cantonese. To learn more about the different versions of Storybooks that you can download, including colour version, black and white as well as how to download them most efficiently, please check out our review. or go straight to the Storybooks Hong Kong香港故事書.)
Meizhou Huayu 美洲華語
There are Leveled Readers on the Meizhou Huayu website (which also offers free teaching resources based on the textbooks) – about 71 short stories in total, of which 48 come with audio. It takes a while to figure out the website (or rather, it took me a while) and to download the right files. I have more details about how to download the stories, and the audio in this blogpost. The website has been updated and videos (MP4s) are available in Mandarin (previous Adobe flash files have been removed).
StoryWeaver from Pratham Books, is a platform where you can read, create, translate, or download thousands of books that are openly licensed under the Creative Commons 4.0 license. Over 100 of these are in Traditional Chinese. There is also a category “Cantonese -Traditional, but those I have taken a look at are also written in Standard Chinese. There are five reading levels. Please note that these books can be translated by anyone, so please check how well it is translated before reading. You can sort books by popularity or by the number of reads. You can also choose to translate books so that there will be more books for others to read. If you are translating books, I would urge you to categorize books written in Standard Chinese under Chinese- Traditional, and books written in Colloquial Cantonese under Cantonese- Traditional.
There are 20 stories available in Cantonese (廣東話). Some are classic Chinese stories such as 月亮上的女子 and 神筆馬良. If you click Mandarin, the books appear in Simplified, so if you are a Mandarin speaker looking for Traditional Chinese, select Cantonese. The stories are rather wordy.
A series of 4 board books written in Traditional Chinese, with Mandarin rhyming. The digital copies are generously made free for download during COVID. To download, visit their page and follow the instructions. These are really delightful stories for young kids.
During the COVID lockdown, Sunya made a number of stories available for free in PDF (please note it is not the entire book, but a selection of stories from each book). The stories are categorized by age groups (3-6, 6-9, and 9 and above).I’ve even come across one of the stories with a QR code that you can scan to hear the story.
2. E- magazines and periodicals
If you had spent any part of your childhood between 1950s to 1990s, you are likely to have read some of these magazines. Child Paradise was the first full-colour children’s magazine published in the territory. Now over a thousand issues published over four decades have been made available online, for you to download (from Google Drive). (Do note they take up a lot of space). All 1006 issues are also available to be read online at the Hong Kong Public Library website (without logging in) if you prefer not to download the files from Google Drive. The library edition has a watermark.
The Children’s Paradise features popular comics, historical stories, fairy tales, nursery rhymes and folk songs, comic strips, riddles, games, common knowledge etc. You can watch a short video clip (in Cantonese) about it on YouTube.
This section has been changed to include animations and so on. Under the videos, look for ‘刊物’ to download the PDF. 30 past issues of the periodical are available here. There were more issues, but I can no longer find them on the website. The past issues can be downloaded from the website as a PDF and each issue is about 8 pages. To download PDF , scroll to the bottom, of the page for each issue and look for the button ‘平面版 PDF 下載／列印’. There is audio, in Mandarin, for some of the articles. to download the PDF.
3. Themed E-Books
A number of organizations have also developed a series of free e-books for kids to help promote certain messages.
There are three books by the Environmental Campaign Committee (Hong Kong) available for download here :
- 《企鵝神探破大案》 enhance the awareness of the ′′ waste reduction ′′ of pre-school children
- 《出發吧！箭豬波波》– introducing 10 species of Hong Kong wildlife
- 《大嘥鬼變乖了》- inspires children not to waste
Picture eBooks on Healthy Living
The “StartSmart Series” of bilingual storybooks is developed by the Department of Health for promoting healthy diet among children. These are suitable for reading to young children, and includes parent tips.
There’s also a Cook and Move Smart with Your Kids! – kid-friendly and healthy recipe guide. If you are looking for more resources on health, check out this Exercising and Staying Healthy for kids – Cantonese and Chinese Resources blogpost.
Picture e-Books and Audio Books on Moral Education
The ICAC Moral Education 德育資源網 website includes
- Picture e-Books – You can download various picture books in PDF as well as accompanying worksheets. Some of the earlier books also include online games
- Audio ebooks – you can listen to the books read in either Cantonese or Mandarin, and download the PDFs. Books are categorized into 幼稚園/初小 (kindergarten and lower Primary) and 高小 (Upper Primary)
Of note, is a set of four-volume moral education picture books (《野豬麵包店》, 《只有繩子的玩具箱？》, 《你先 我先》, 《花開的時候》) for kindergarten children and elementary school students. These books were published in 2020 in partnership with parent-child education experts and local illustrators. They depicts scenes, shops, vehicles and animals that Hong Kong children are familiar with. Then through simple and easy-to-understand short stories, the children are introduced to positive values such as sharing, caring, fairness, and keeping. At the end of each picture book, there are a list of references relating to the story, as well as post-reading activities. There are also tips for parents when reading to their children.
I saw that they also have Comics for teens, though I have not looked into that, as it is not relevant for us.
Picture eBooks on Social and Emotional Skills Development 幼兒社交情緒發展
To date, three books have been developed by the Centre for Child and Family Science.
- 《抗疫同行》– helping kids to express their emotions during the time of COVID.
- 《小英雄大歷險》– using children’s love for heroes to help them be more caring, brave and persevering
- 《魔法更衣室》– about developing pro-social behavior
COVID related stories
Lots of ebooks about COVID as well as some Back to School books to help young children make sense of what is happening. I have covered this in a previous blogpost – there are various storybooks, activity books, and parents guides. Some are in Chinese only, some are bilingual.
3. Borrowing e-Books and e-Magazines
You can (easily) register for an account and borrow eBooks here. The loan period is 7 days, with 3 renewals allowed for ebooks and one for e-magazines. Both adult and kids books are available. From last check, there are 411 親子童書 (parent-children books). Books are to be read online.
Have I missed anything?
You might also enjoy reading:
- Free Online Chinese Textbooks and Course Materials
- Where to Buy Traditional Chinese Kids Books
- Reading in Cantonese to Your Child – Storytelling (口語) or Story Reading (書面語)?
- How To Read To Your Child When Your Cantonese Is Not Fluent
- Free Colloquial Cantonese Kid’s Educational Resources and Printables
- Cantonese Storytime and Book Reading on YouTube
- Your Ultimate Guide to Free Sagebooks Resources 基礎漢字500 on the Internet
- Free Online Cantonese Literature