Friday, August 1, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Fourth graders read about Okei-san

Barsotti Books and the Barsotti family are thrilled to partner with five local organizations for the third annual El Dorado Reads program. The focus book will again be Joan Barsotti’s book, “Okei-san: A Girl’s Journey, Japan to California, 1868-1871.”

This is the cherished story written by local author Joan Barsotti based on the real-life journey of Okei Ito from Japan to California.

The “El Dorado READS” program is scheduled to launch again for the third consecutive year this spring and will be available to all fourth grade classrooms in 35 El Dorado County schools.

The “El Dorado Reads Okei-san” project will run through May 30 depending on school’s schedules.

“We are so excited to be a part of this wonderful program, working with the El Dorado County Office of Education and the El Dorado Community Foundation” said Cathy Barsotti. “This book was first published by our mom in 2006. She spent years investigating and researching the story to further develop it, adding more detail to the already exciting historical fiction novel.”

Now, as part of the El Dorado Reads Okei-san project all fourth grade students will learn about this brave young girls’ journey and the local and national importance that it has.

As part of this unique program, participating schools will have the opportunity to apply for grant funds from the Joan Barsotti Foundation Fund at the El Dorado Community Foundation for a field trip to visit the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony Farm — which is the site of the Okei-san story — on May 14.

The Wakamatsu Colony Farm, managed by the American River Conservancy, is located in the Gold Hill area, a mile south of Coloma and Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.

The farm was settled by Japanese colonists from Aizu Wakamatsu in July 1869 and is believed to be the first Japanese colony in North America. It also contains the gravesite of Okei Ito, the first Japanese woman buried on American soil.

It is the birthplace of the first naturalized Japanese-American and is the only settlement established by samurai outside of Japan. Due to its importance in Japanese-American relations, the site is on the National Register of Historic Places with a designation of National Significance.

On the property, students will be able to walk in Okei’s footsteps — thanks to wonderful support from the El Dorado County, California Chapter of People to People International and the American River Conservancy.

Events will include touring the farm house where Okei lived and hiking up Okei’s favorite hill.

Presentations include a hands-on discovery of silkworms and Japanese storytelling. The children will be introduced to Japanese cuisine, observe a demonstration of Kendo (martial arts) and Taiko drumming. Their final stations will acquaint them with Japanese clothing, language and historical swords.

Thirty-five schools and eighty-two classrooms in El Dorado County will be eligible to participate in El Dorado Reads Okei-san project. Each school will receive a resource kit which includes copies of the book, a reading and comprehension guide and themed accessories to help engage students in the experience.

New for this year is a generous grant provided by the California Retired Teachers Association — El Dorado County, Division 73. The funds provided will help enhance the field trip experience this year and for years to come.

“The Foundation is honored to administer the Joan Barsotti Foundation Fund on behalf of the Barsotti family,” said Pamela Hagen, community relations coordinator for the El Dorado Community Foundation. “The El Dorado Reads project exemplifies the essence of who Joan was and her passion for both youth and the rich Japanese history that exists with regard to the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Colony.”

For additional information call Cathy Barsotti at 415-867-8852.

Barsotti Books publishes award-winning children’s books that feature extended families and teach through enjoyable, fun-to-read stories.

Joan Barsotti (October 1939-August 2010) lived in an orchard, in a log cabin, in front of a forest. She wrote and published children’s picture books and was a popular visiting author at elementary schools throughout Northern California.

Barsotti received her BA degree in child psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She and her husband Gael own an apple orchard and juice mill in Camino.

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