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Children’s Books to Celebrate the AAPI Community In May and Every Month!

May 07, 2021    |   Celebrating DiversityChildren’s Books

May is American Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. This month-long celebration serves as a reminder to think about new ways to create an inclusive, welcoming, and representative learning environment that celebrates different backgrounds and cultures. In this article, you will find a list of popular children’s books, written by AAPI authors, who share their stories and experiences.

Honoring the rich heritage and culture of AAPI communities in your classroom does not have to be limited to just one month. These books are excellent resources for learning and facilitating conversations all year long!

Facilitating Meaningful Conversations

The AAPI community is made up of a variety of countries and cultures, with diverse practices and perspectives. As educators, we have an opportunity to help children learn about acceptance and the value that diversity brings to our classrooms. For example, in our conversations with children, you can remind them that everyone deserves love, kindness, and respect. Communicate to children that it is our differences that make us special.

Melissa Taylor, a literacy specialist, mom, writer, and former educator, reminds us that children’s books can serve as tools for developing social-emotional skills, such as “inclusivity, education, and empathy building.” She highlights the importance of talking to children and asking questions to facilitate conversations before and after reading books: “Ask children, ‘What do you have in common with the characters?’ If the culture is new to readers, ask children, ‘What did you learn about the characters or culture?’”

For more information, you might enjoy this article from PBS Kids: How to Use Children’s Books to Talk About Race and Racism.

Mixed: A Colorful Story
by Arree Chung

This book is an inspiring story from Chinese-American author and illustrator Arree Chung, who highlights tolerance and embracing our differences. It tells the story of three colors: the Reds, Yellows, and Blues, who all learn about how to embrace their differences and become friends.

Cora Cooks Pancit
Written by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant

This book is written by Dorina Lazo Gilmore-Young, who grew up in a Filipino-Polynesian-Indian-Italian family. It tells the story of a young girl who helps cook the Filipino noodle dish, pancit, for a family dinner. Cora shreds chicken, soaks noodles, and stirs the pot while she learns about her Filipino heritage. The story is simple, and highlights the connection between a mother and her daughter, while sharing stories of Cora’s ancestors.

The Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom
Written by Teresa Robeson, illustrated by Rebecca Huang

This picture book, written by Chinese-American author, Teresa Robeson, tells the story of Wu Chien Shuing, who loved math and science. Her story about navigating prejudice against her gender and her race to become a powerful influence in the field of physics, is inspiring, especially for young girls who are interested in STEM. The story includes themes of perseverance, determination, equality, and strength.

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners
Written by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho

This book has themes of self-love, acceptance, and celebrating your uniqueness. The story is about a young Asian girl who notices that her eyes look different from her peers’ and similar to her family members’. As she reflects on  the strength of powerful women in her family, she learns to see her own beauty. The story, with its poetic language and colorful illustrations, is a wonderful celebration of diversity.

You might also enjoy this video, which features author, Joanna Ho, reading this book in a virtual storytime.

Drawn Together
Written by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

This book tells the story of a young boy and his grandfather, who struggle to communicate because of language barriers. He only speaks English and his grandfather only speaks Vietnamese. However, the two form a connection through art and drawing. The story’s minimal text and colorful illustrations highlight themes of family and connection.

The Most Beautiful Thing
Written by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Khoa Le

This book is written by Hmong-American author, Kao Kalia Yang, who draws from her own experiences as a refugee in this story. It includes vibrant and colorful illustrations and tells the story of a young girl and her relationship with her grandmother, who teaches her about the importance of family, love, and gratitude.

More Resources & Ways to Learn

If you’re looking for more ways to celebrate AAPI heritage month, you might enjoy the music and video suggestions and other activity ideas below:

  • The website Kids Can Groove features an article with information about Asian children’s music, and a fun video with the popular Japanese children’s song, “Anta Gata Doko Sa.” The video, created by Elena Moon Park, features an animated oil painting by Lauren Gregory. Click here to visit the website and to find the video.

  • ABC’s of Racial Literacy: a video and resource from Sesame Street in Communities

  • 8 Ways to Celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month With Kids: an article from Connecticut Children’s Medical Center publication that includes ideas to enjoy and celebrate the month with young children.

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