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The China Connection will lead you to take a look at how China's growth as a world power has already affected Missourians, and what we should expect for the future. It focuses on Missouri-China links in three areas: economy, education and culture.The China Connection is a production of the Reynolds Journalism Institute and KBIA. This multimedia reporting project is produced by reporters Chenfei Zhang, Eva Dou and Rachel Rice.

Missouri mom starts a Chinese immersion pre-school in Columbia

Jane O’Toole plays more roles in her life than most people around you.

She’s the founder of Xiao Lao Hu (Little Tiger) pre-school; she’s an instructor at the MU Asian Affairs Center; she’s the vice president of Columbia Friends of China; she’s the mom of three kids; she’s also a super Chinese culture fan in her friends’ eyes. In her own words, her life revolves around her passion for China.

O’Toole started Xiao Lao Hu immersion pre-school program in her home last year. The program operated five days a week when there was a Chinese teacher working full-time. However, the program scaled back now that the only Chinese teacher returned to China. O’Toole teaches the seven students basic conversational Chinese herself.

“I just want to get the ball rolling,” O’Toole said, her goal is to get the program started and there would be Chinese offered to young kids in Columbia. 

With Mandarin being offered academically at more and more schools in Columbia, O’Toole said, exposing kids to Mandarin early on would bring more opportunities for them to study the language academically later.

Watch this video to learn more about Jane O’Toole’s Little Tiger pre-school.


China is O’Toole’s second home. She went back and forth between the U.S. and China since 1994. She first decided to go China after her freshman year in college. After spending one year there and going back to the U.S, she went there again to teach English at Shandong University. In 2008, her whole family moved to Changzhou, Jiangsu Province in China for one year.

Watch another video to see where her passion for China came from.


This story is part of The China Connection a multimedia project exploring various economic, educational and cultural links between Missouri and China.