Five women pose for a photo in front of a decorated photo booth station
Family engagement committee members and student support specialists at Malabar Intermediate pose for a photo with author Jennifer Shaw (center).

MANSFIELD — Jennifer Shaw stood on the stage at Malabar Intermediate School, clicking through the slides with a remote control. 

Images popped up on the screen of a cheerful cartoon family, happily preparing traditional Chinese dumplings.

Shaw is a speaker, author and singer songwriter based in the Columbus area. She visited Malabar last week to read her book, Dumplings Mean Family, to the students.

The book is based on Shaw’s adopted children and their transition to life in the United States. Shaw and her husband adopted three of their children from China when they were 6, 8 and 9 years old.

After they moved to the United States, the children longed for the traditional Chinese dishes they’d grown up eating. The family was unable to find authentic cuisine in local restaurants, so they learned to make dumplings together.

Before reading the book, Shaw talked to the students about adoption and the cultural differences between China and the United States.

“I meet a lot of kids that were adopted and they think they’re the only one,” Shaw told the students. “Lots of people get adopted. It’s just another way to join a family. 

“There’s so many reasons why a kid might need a new family but there’s one thing that’s always true. It’s never something the kid did,” she added.

After the presentation, students picked out a notebook to use as a writing journal.

Shaw said she felt rather ambivalent about writing as a child, but as time went on, it became a cherished mode of self-expression. 

“What I found as I got older is that writing is an incredible tool you can use to share your ideas,” she said during the assembly. “The world will be better if you share your ideas.”

Each student also got to try a homemade dumpling from Dan Lew Exchange, courtesy of donations from multiple area businesses.

in a dark room a projector shows a cartoon family with caucasian and Chinese children. they all smile. a dumpling with the words "dumplings mean family" is in the center of the image.
Author Jennifer Shaw read her book, Dumplings Mean Family, to students at Malabar Intermediate School.

Shaw said she was impressed with the various educational elements of the event.

“I go to a lot of schools and normally I just come and do an assembly,” she said.

Shaw’s visit and the additional activities were coordinated by student support specialists Deanna Mack and Teresa McDowell and the school’s family engagement committee.

“It’s all about a learning opportunity. Learning about other cultures, how we can blend and get along,” said Danielle Saffold, a parent and member of the committee.

“They are really enthusiastic about the speaker,” McDowell said. “They were asking really nice questions. They paid attention very well. They really seem to enjoy it.”

Shaw agreed.

a student picks up a stencil from a table with a blue table cloth and various pamphlets
A student at Malabar Intermediate picks up a free stencil from a Mansfield Richland County Public Library resource table. Students received free journals and supplies as part of a literacy event featuring author Jennifer Shaw.

“I’ve had amazing questions here,” she said. “I always think that’s a real mark of how engaged they are is the number of questions you get at the end. I had like 90 percent of hands up.”

Saffold said she was a little nervous about how the kids, especially picky eaters, would react to the dumplings. But many enjoyed them and even asked for seconds.

McDowell and Saffold said the family engagement committee is always looking for volunteers. Interested community members can contact a committee member, a Malabar staff member or fill out a survey at the next community event.

 “We are looking for not just parents, but people in the community — leaders, non-leaders — because it takes a village to raise a child and teach a child,” McDowell said.

“Everyone can have a positive influence on our students. Our students come from different backgrounds. We have people in our community that have different backgrounds. They can match up with someone in the school building, a student, and be a positive influence.”

Staff reporter at Richland Source since 2019. I focus on education, housing and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. Got a tip? Email me at