Teen teaches English to children in China

When Jessica Greene sat with other young women in her Rexburg (Idaho) 6th Ward on June 4 sorting hundreds of children's books to ship to China, she was pleased to discover the book I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly was included.

She had taught the song based on the story to children in Jinan, China, where she taught English when she was 15 years old.

"They loved the song so much that they wanted to do it every day," she said during a recent telephone interview from her parents' home in Rexburg. She said she used little hand puppets to illustrate the song. "That was clearly their favorite," she added.

Today, at age 17 and a Laurel, Jessica hasn't forgotten her pupils back in Shan Shi Da Primary School. She taught six sixth grade classes of 72 children for nearly a year while her parents, Jim and Jo Ann Greene, were there on sabbatical from BYU-Idaho, teaching at the Shan Dong Teachers' University. The young woman was completing her high school work through home study and internet classes and found she had some extra time on her hands. So she jumped at the chance to teach English when asked by the university's foreign affairs officer.

Soon, she was responsible for 500 children. She also realized she would have to use her own books. The school had very few books in English.

"They loved the books I had," she said, adding that when she returned to the United States a year ago, she left many of her own books. But not nearly enough to meet the needs of the children.

"So I decided to send them more books so they could start their own library."

For several months now, Jessica, who just completed her junior year at Madison High School in Rexburg, Idaho, has directed a collection effort joined by other ward young women. Several businesses in town allowed Jessica to use their sites as "collection points" for residents to donate books or funds. Jessica put posters throughout the town, and the local newspaper ran a story on the project.

Young women help Jessica Greene gather books for her former students in China.
Young women help Jessica Greene gather books for her former students in China. Credit: Courtesy Jim Greene family

"The response was tremendous," according to Jessica's father in an E-mail to the Church News. More than 1,500 books were donated and more than $300 given to help cover the cost of shipping.

"Jessica was overwhelmed by the generosity and support from the people of Rexburg, and the surrounding towns and expresses her appreciation for their willingness to be a part of this humanitarian effort."

"I have a deep love for foreign countries and different cultures," Jessica said during the telephone interview. "I really wanted to do something to help others, instead of myself."

The first shipment of books is now headed to Jinan. Other shipments will continue for about a month. Jessica has arranged with the foreign affairs officer at Shan Dong Teachers' University to distribute the books to the primary school and to Shan Shi Da High School.

Of course, she knows which book will be the children's favorite — I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly.

"They will be happy. They'll be excited."

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