"We will hold an online reading activity next week, please scan the code to sign up if you are interested." "Today, our teacher, Han Zhu, will share a book about food culture with us…" In the WeChat group, Family Leader in Reading, the 241 members share and discuss current events, good books and information about reading activities every day.
Han Zhu, head of the group, had worked in education for 34 years. Now retired, she volunteers with the Family Leader in Reading project. The purpose of the project, launched by Dongcheng Women's Federation, in Beijing's Dongcheng District, on July 8, 2018, is to cultivate volunteers who can guide residents in reading, establish primary-level reading clubs and organize various reading activities to enrich residents' cultural lives.
Since April 2020, when Han became the project's manager, she has encouraged 241 people, including scholars, teachers and writers, to volunteer. They have shared the concept of lifelong learning, good reading habits and quality learning resources with an increasing number of residents and their families.
Han used to be a middle school principal. After she retired, several years ago, she hoped to continue using her knowledge to help parents improve family education, and family relationships, for the benefit of children. In 2020, after she learned about the project, Han immediately volunteered to help.
"There seems to be a bond between people when they read the same books. If the whole family often reads the same books together, the fine traditional family virtues will be inherited and passed on. If a group of people often read the same books, they will have common topics, thoughts and feelings," Han says.
Since April 2020, Han and several other volunteers have recorded videos of themselves reading books, and they have uploaded those videos to WeChat groups. Also, they have organized various reading and exchange activities, and they have recommended 20 books, from various genres, to families.
Selecting a book, from among a sea of books, is an art form. The volunteers choose suitable books, based on residents' needs and recommendations from experts, volunteers and residents.
The project has been well-received by residents in Dongcheng District, and an increasing number of people have been participating in the reading activities.
Promoting 'Red Spirit'
As 2021 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC, studying the history of the CPC became an important objective of the project's volunteers during the past year.
On April 23, 2021, World Reading Day, Han and her team organized a combined 11 online and offline reading activities for children and the seniors in Dongcheng District.
Rui Xiang, 78, said participating in an online reading activity gave her a deeper understanding of the Party's motto of serving the people wholeheartedly. She added such activities are meaningful.
On April 27, 2021, Han went to a kindergarten to read picture books, about late-Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976), to children. "He was so brave when he was young," one child has said to her. "I'd like to learn from him," another has said.
After the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee concluded, on November 11, 2021, Han and her team organized online reading activities, in WeChat groups, to promote the spirit of the plenum. Participants studied and discussed the spirit, and they exchanged ideas after they participated in the reading activities.
Li Caixian, a resident of Caochang Community, says, "I am a housewife. It is my responsibility to promote family virtues and family culture. Adhering to the leadership of the Party, I will continue to follow the volunteers of the project, and I will read more books. I want to become a better parent."
Yu Jin, a senior Party member who lives in Baochao South Community, says, "The plenum summarized the historical experience of the Party over the past century. As a volunteer of the project, I will continue to lead my family members, and our neighbors, in reading more books, and I will do my part to promote fine traditional Chinese culture."
Says Han: "Residents have strengthened their confidence and determination to follow our Party. They cherish today's happy lives more."
"The project has brought care and warmth to many retired residents. Yang Jun used to feel lonely after she retired. Since she became a volunteer of our project, she has served residents with love. She said the project brought concrete benefits to people," Han says.
"Volunteer Ge Jiang is familiar with the history of the Chinese revolution, and he often shares revolutionary stories, from the new-democratic revolution (1919-1949) period, with residents. He feels fulfilled, as residents have gradually gained a deeper understanding of the great achievements of the new-democratic revolution," Han adds.
On December 4, 2021, the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) and Dongcheng Women's Federation decided to promote implementation of 10 volunteer projects, with the purpose of better serving children and seniors. Family Leader in Reading was one of those projects. On December 16, ACWF cadres attended a reading activity organized by Han, and they donated books to Han and the residents. The ACWF will continue to support the project.
"I appreciate ACWF's guidance and support. As a volunteer, I will unite more social forces, with the support of women's federations, to establish a reading atmosphere, and to provide mental nourishment to residents, including children and seniors. I will also encourage more residents, especially women, to participate in the project, and to promote family virtues," Han says.
Photos Supplied by the Interviewee
(Women of China English Monthly January 2022 issue)
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