Book Report – Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve by Lenora Chu

I’ve always loved to read, but my taste tends to land on fantasy or young-adult dystopian novels. So it’s rather uncommon for me to read a non-fiction book. But since I’ve been teaching English to Children in China, I realized I needed to try to better understand their environment.

I sometimes see questions from frustrated teachers where a parent has said they are “low energy” for yawning or that they lack discipline for taking a sip of water. The comment I see over and over from teachers is, “But we are people, not robots!”

While this is true, it’s been my experience that students, teachers, and parents usually have a higher level of self-control than their counterparts in America. This isn’t a criticism; it’s simply an observation. It’s a known fact that people will see the world through their own personal lens. That lens is constructed from their experiences with family, environment and culture. I know what a huge influence school was for myself and my kids, so it only makes sense that these kids (and their parents) would be highly influenced from their time in the Chinese educational system. Little Soldiers: An American Boy, A Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve is the perfect way to get a glimpse into that system from an American perspective.

Lenora Chu, the author, is an award-winning journalist and provides a unique perspective as an American parent living in China. She and her husband chose to enroll their three-year old son (Rainey) in a public Chinese school while in Shanghai. They quickly learned that along with the many benefits that come from the rigor of this educational system, there are some troubling side-effects as well. This book offers a fascinating insight into the schooling, training, and expectations that our students face outside our online ESL classrooms in their day to day worlds.

While the book isn’t written by an ESL teacher and isn’t specifically for ESL teachers, I can now better understand:

  • Why are my students so well-behaved?
  • Why do parents apologize for things that I don’t even notice in class? (For example, I have had parents profusely apologize for their child’s posture in feedback.)
  • Why is being called “serious” in feedback such a high compliment?
  • Why do students have such different reactions to our reward systems and games in class?
  • What is at stake for our students? Why are exams such a significant impact to our students?

Would I recommend this book for ESL teachers? ABSOLUTELY!

It is the perfect balance of narrative and fact to keep you interested while ensuring you understand the facts. There are “behind-the-curtain” interviews with teachers, students, and leaders associated with the Ministry of Education. There are moments that will shock you, and moments that will make you so proud of your own students. You’ll come to love this sweet family, and especially Rainey. I’m still rooting for Rainey to succeed!

If you’d like to check it out, it’s available in hardback or Kindle. I have included an affiliate link below, so you can click right through and purchase your own copy (or a gift for that special ESL teacher in your life!)

Little Soldiers: An American Boy, A Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve

Little Soliders: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve is a must-read for any online ESL teacher!

Have you read the book yet? Let me know what you think in the comments!

If you have questions about VIPKid or becoming an online ESL teacher, I’d be happy to help! Please contact me, and I can get you started!