My Friend Mei Jing
Author: Anna McQuinn
Illustrator: Ben Frey
Photography: Irvin Cheung
Grade Level: P-2
My Friend Mei Jing is a short story that tells the details about a relationship between two young girls, Mei Jung and Monifa. The story opens up with the sentences, "My friend is Chinese. Well actually, she was born here, just like me." Right away this book breaks down some of the stereotypes that people may have about others of a different culture from us. Even though Mei Jing is Chinese, and Monifa is black, they were both born here. The story continues into their friendship and shows these two girls who are physically different, but both share a lot in common. They love the color pink, they love to draw, and play dress up. Through this friendship, they share many similarities but also get to experience each others differences. Monifa spends all of time with Mei Jings family and gets to try exotic new foods, learn about the Chinese culture, and even is taught how to use chop sticks. The story overall just describes the relationship that the two girls have and what they like to do for fun. The story ends with, "That's because were best friends."
Element 2: Respect for Others:
My Friend Mei Jing is a great book for element 2 because the entire story is all about two girls with v very different cultural backgrounds, accepting each other and learning from each other. This story strengthens intercultural competence because not only do the girls just spend time together, but they immerse themselves in each others cultures and traditions. Mei Jings family cooks Monifa traditional Chinese fish balls, and Monifa tries to put Mei Jings hair in cornrows. They are graciously accepting each others different cultures and willing to try new things. Not only are these girls gaining an amazing and valuable friendship, but they are also learning to respect others that may seem different to them.
An idea for a classroom activity is to pair students up in groups of two. (Depending what type of environment you are in, some classrooms may be more diverse than others). The goal is to print out pictures of each student and have them fill out an "About Me" page. They can describe their culture, where their family is from, what their favorite meal is, what they want to be when they grow up, and series of questions both having to do with culture and also overall. The students can then draw and decorate their pages and then present their partners to the class. Afterwards, the teacher can collect all the pages and make a classroom book. This activity is a great way for students to get to know each other, respect each others differences, appreciate their similarities, and have fun doing an arts and crafts activity in a relaxed environment.