There is an African adage that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” And no truer words were ever spoken. Two middle school-aged boys were scuffling in the parking lot at the mall. An adult stranger stepped in and broke up the fight. The instigator looked at the man and snarled, “You’re not my father. You can’t tell me what to do!”
“Well,” I just did,” said the man, putting his hands on his hips. The kids ran.
As the man and I continued to our cars, I had one of those moments of clarity: One of the problems with the world today is that kids don’t respect older people in the village. So, as soon as they’re out of sight or earshot of their parents–and sometimes that doesn’t work–they can run as wild as they want.
Thank goodness that never happened in our neighborhood when the kids were growing up. The kids around here knew that when a parent–anyone’s parent–told them to do something, they’d better do it. We were a village.
And with the exception of one kid who’s had a few brushes with the law, the kids turned out pretty well. In fact, they turned out really well. And as they turned into adults, the village has hung together.
One of the village kids is a young man named Chris Lin. Chris was a star athlete at Troy High way back when the football team had a grade point average over a 3.0. In his junior year the team played in the state finals. He went on to the University of Michigan and got both a B.A. and M.B.A. One of his first jobs took him to China, where he had a chance to polish the Chinese he studied at U of M–as well as learn that his parents had been right about insisting he go to Chinese school on Saturdays!
Two years ago, Chris and his wife, Kristi, adopted a daughter from China. Her name is Mandy. While he and Kristi knew that Mandy would change their lives, I’m sure they never realized how.
Chris called me a couple of months ago to tell me about a new Mandy-inspired project. He has formed a company called, Mandy and Pandy, and written a series of books designed to delight kids and teach them Chinese. The first one is titled, Mandy and Pandy Say, “Ni Hao Ma?”
Now, I know what “Ni Hao Ma” means because it’s the only Chinese phrase I was able to master on two trips there. It means, “How are you?” It’s pronounced: knee-how-ma. And that’s the way I remembered it: “How’s your ma’s knee?” Okay, but it works.
Now, Chris sees the market for his books as Americans like him who have adopted children from China and want the children to learn the language of their country, but he also sees the books as being great for Chinese-born parents who want their children to learn Chinese, as well as any parent or grandparent who wants to help a child learn another language like Chinese.
And let me tell you, as someone who taught a foreign language, you can’t start them too young.
There are six books in the present series. All are also available as audio books. The illustrations are wonderful, and the books are perfect for even the smallest child. They’re printed on cardboard and are very sturdy.
The books are available in Ann Arbor at Nicola’s Book (734-997-0707) and at Learning Express (734-662-0600). They’ll be on the shelves at Borders soon. If you’d like to learn more or order books on line, you can go to www.mandyandpandy.com.
Pandy, by the way, is a darling stuffed Panda. You can get him on line, too.
This member of our little village is very proud of Chris. “He done good.” And I know everyone’s going to love the books and tapes.
(Kathryn Hutson is a Troy resident and freelance writer. Her column appears in The Daily Tribune every Monday.)