Author Visit From Red Scarf Girl Ji Li Jiang

Author Visit From Red Scarf Girl Ji Li Jiang
This is the image for the news article titled Author Visit From Red Scarf Girl Ji Li JiangBy Jen Mason Stott, Librarian, & Melanie Ahern, Literacy Coach

On October 18, 2013, The Cambridge Street Upper School was honored by a visit from Ji-Li Jiang, award-winning author of Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution. Jiang’s memoir recalls her experience in 1966 Shanghai. As a twelve-year-old honor student, young Ji-Li was forced to make impossible choices about loyalty - to family, country, and self. She riveted CSUS students with a multimedia presentation explaining the history of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, her own family’s struggle, and the importance of civic engagement and compassion. In two assemblies of 125+ students each, held in the auditorium plastered with hand made, colorful, welcome posters, all scholars had the opportunity to sit in close proximity to a powerful author and speaker. Most scholars had the opportunity to speak directly to Jiang, asking thoughtful questions during the assemblies, as well as at a Meet-the-Author luncheon hosted by the librarian.

Through a pilot program of the Write to the Core curriculum, the 7th grade classes at CSUS had coincidentally worked through a unit based around Red Scarf Girl. Although they read the book in its entirety, they focused on close reading of excerpts, analyzing the text for the impact of societal shifts on Ji-Li and her friends and family. Her opinion of herself, her peers, family members, and home all shifted and changed as the Cultural Revolution took hold. By looking closely at text, readers were able to trace the development and growth, while thinking deeply about the world around them.

Although they hadn’t read the book as a group, 6th and 8th graders came prepared and eager to hear Ji-Li’s story. Teachers introduced Jiang through engaging resources from her website, including a brief video summary of her novel. All scholars brainstormed general questions one might ask of a published author, as well as more targeted questions about her experiences. 7th grade scholars shared their expertise, reading selected excerpts of Jiang’s book over the intercom during morning announcements.

The library purchased and borrowed extra copies of Red Scarf Girl; their interest piqued by Jiang’s visit,  6th and 8th graders continue to borrow it for independent reading.

Jen Mason Stott, CSUS/King Open librarian, coordinated the visit with Jiang and CSUS faculty after hearing from a network of local school librarians that Jiang would make a visit to New England. Funding for Jiang’s honorarium, books, and supporting materials was provided by the Library Media Department, the King Open/CSUS Library/Literacy Committee, and Amplify/Write to the Core.