Yiling just finished fourth grade at Xiaochao Primary School in rural Shanxi Province. She has been a student in RCEF Teacher Wang's Reading Class for two years, and shows the kind of positive change that RCEF teachers and Reading Classes can promote for rural children in China.
To see Yiling now, one is struck by her intelligence, outgoingness, and self-confidence. But Yiling wasn’t always this way. She did not speak up in class and read very slowly, lacking concentration. One day, Ms. Wang’s class read the book Reunion by Liqiong Yu. It tells the story of a village girl who looks forward to seeing her migrant worker parents during the Chinese New Year. Ms. Wang recalled, “When we finished reading, Yiling said out loud, ‘Teacher, I feel like I’m the girl in the story.’” In fact, Yiling’s parents are also migrant workers far from home, and she lives with her farmer grandparents.
Every week, Yiling's class would go to the school library to check out books. At first, Yiling had a hard time picking a book so Ms. Wang paid special attention by recommending books to her and trying to understand what kinds of books she likes. It seemed that stories of people with special powers and imaginary worlds appealed to Yiling. As Yiling began to read more, Ms. Wang saw her open up in class, even reading a book aloud in front of the whole class with great feeling. She represented her group in presentations and participated enthusiastically in the poem recitation contest. She even wrote poems for her absent parents.
Yiling began to notice things around her and connect them to the stories. She was especially moved by the translated stories of Christian Jolibois in which the main character, a hen, dreams big dreams. She wrote about how she dreams for eternal life because she doesn’t want people to undergo grief when a loved one dies. She wrote about watching a funeral in her village and how sad the relatives of the deceased were. Although she could not change reality, she and her classmates created an “Angel Plan” to help make the lives of the elderly easier, by talking to them and helping them out with household chores. In the last two years, Yiling has truly undergone many changes. She is more confident, courageous, clever, responsible, and knowledgeable and Ms. Wang reports she is also closer to her teachers.
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