Baorong Li, Ph.D., with the Chinese language U.S. States Quarters book she authored that is now reprinted in China. (AAP staff photo by Tom LaVenture)
By TOM LAVENTURE
AAP staff writer
ST. PAUL (Feb. 3, 2010) – Baorong Li, Ph.D. said her successful book, “50 State Quarters Program – A Celebration of the States” in both English and Chinese, started out as a simple gift idea.
Now the Director of Diagnostic Assessment and Academic Research at Metropolitan State University, Dr. Li is a graduate of Sing Hua University in Beijing, where she and her spouse taught for several years before she went on to earn her masters and a doctorate in Education Administration and Policy Studies from the University of Pittsburgh.
Whenever she returns to China for a class reunion, Li said she likes to bring back a simple but creative gift for friends who are eager to know more about America. For her 2004 Sing Hua Class Reunion, she thought to create a Chinese language translation of the United States Mint’s 50 State Quarters Program.
“It was well received by friends and classmates,” said Li. “A couple of years later I went back and wanted to give them something about America that was not made in China, that told about the culture and its people here.”
Launched in 1999, the mint embarked on a 10-year project designed to release quarters with the familiar image of George Washington on the front – but with a special design for each of the 50 states in the order that they ratified the Constitution or were admitted into the Union.
Li said that friends had asked her to bring various state quarters as they were released on trips. She thought to take it a step further and create a book that explains the states and artwork depicted on the coins to help teach just a little bit about all the states.
“It is informative and educational,” said Li. “It is a very helpful reference book for school projects on history, geography and social studies.”
She said that American coin collecting is becoming more popular as the standard of living continues to climb in China. She said that “everything American is interesting” and that the book is popular.
The book works, with kids especially, because there is just enough fun facts and information about the states to make it interesting. She said that kids lose interest once the information gets to weighty. The coins give them a reason to keep returning to the project.
“This book is very informative and educational,” said Li. “Schools and libraries even decide to do some special events to promote the diffusion of knowledge among the youth of the United States about the individual states, their history and the rich diversity of the national heritage.”
Li based her translations on the official stories from the U.S. Mint Web site. She worked hard to translate in such a way to make the state nicknames and other colloquialisms understandable in Chinese.
She researched the intellectual property rights concerning the U.S. Mint information provided for its own States Quarter project, and said that after several conversations she got the go-ahead to use the information in her project.
Interest in the book began to grow from word of mouth as she donated copies to public schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations in the United States and China. She did a book signing at the Dragon Festival last summer, and she presented copies to the Minnesota chapter of the U.S.-China Friendship Association used the copies I donated to them as gifts to the Chinese Counsel and his colleagues when they visited MN in November 2009.
Having published a few hundred of the books with her own money, the popularity of the book in China prompted World Affairs Press, the oldest and most prestigious publishing house in China, to offer another printing of 3,000 – which she said were all sold on the first day.
“When I came home I was asked to do a book signing, and I thought ‘that is for famous people’,” said Li.
There are many book signings at the nations largest bookstore each day. She was surprised to learn that the line of people at the building, men and women, young and old, were all waiting to get a signed copy of her book.
On a recent trip to China, Li said she brought a few rolls of the Hawai’i Quarter – the last one released in the series of 50. She said quarters don’t make there way to China and tourists and families in America are the best chance to get the coins.
“The editor was handing out Hawai’i quarters,” she said.
When Li learned that the U.S. Library of Congress has already placed her book in its collection, she said it gave her a sense that she has some tangible thing to leave as her legacy to pass on to the next generation.