CAMINO — Barsotti Books and the Barsotti family are thrilled to partner with five local organizations for the second annual El Dorado READS program. The focus book will again be the updated version of 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 this spring and will be available to all fourth-grade classrooms in El Dorado County. The El Dorado Reads Okei-san project will run April 9 through May 30.
“We are so excited to be a part of this wonderful program, working together with the El Dorado Arts Council, the El Dorado Community Foundation and the El Dorado County Office of Education” 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.”
As part of this one of a kind 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 & Silk Colony Farm — the site of the Okei-san story — on May 9, 2013. The Wakamatsu Colony Farm, recently acquired and now managed by the American River Conservancy, is located in the Gold Hill area, a mile south of Coloma and the Marshall Gold 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. In large part to its significance in Japanese-American relations, the site is on the National Register of Historic Places with a designation of National Significance.
Grant applications will be distributed through the El Dorado County Office of Education and are also available online at eldoradocf.org.
On the property, students will be able to walk in Okei’s footsteps thanks to wonderful support from the American River Conservancy, the Gold Hill Wakamatsu Foundation, and the El Dorado County California, Chapter of People to People International. Events will include touring the farm house where Okei lived, hiking up Okei’s favorite hill and learning about the variety of swords used in Japan during the period before Okei left her home for California. Additional presentations are also being planned.
Thirty schools in El Dorado County will be eligible to participate in El Dorado Reads Okei-san project. Each school will receive a kit which includes copies of the book, a reading and comprehension guide and themed accessories to help engage students in the experience.
“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.”