by Dee-Anna Pippenger
May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month which is a perfect time to encourage children to celebrate cultures and traditions different from their own. May was very intentionally set aside for APAH month to honor the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843. It also commemorates the completion of the transcontinental railroad in May of 1869 which was primarily constructed by Chinese immigrants. (source)
Why is it important to teach children about different cultures?
Kids naturally value what we value. If we take time to say “this is important”, not with our words, but with the way we spend our time and attention, they will likely follow suit. It’s not so much important to teach our children what to think, but that being curious shows interest, and interest shows that we care. If we can raise kids who know how to be interested in someone else’s story, we could eliminate so much hurt in the world.
And yet children ask honest questions and make honest observations. These are not always easy to navigate, but the more we try, the better we get. And when we take the time to learn about another culture, we get to celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of a culture. We teach our kids to celebrate the differences because different is not bad. Different can be exciting. Different can be interesting. Different can be beautiful. Different can be delicious. In the same conversation, we can also challenge our kids to consider “what makes us the same?”. Helping kids celebrate what makes them the same and different as their classmates, neighbors or friends allows kids to navigate a diverse world with a very open heart.
How can we teach our children about Asian Pacific American Heritage?
Because we are book nerds here at Bharat Babies, we obviously think that reading is the best way to celebrate APAH month. Diverse children’s literature offers a special pass into someone else’s story that hasn’t been told as often. Reading naturally helps us engage in powerful conversations with our kids and literally opens up new worlds. Here is a list of just a few books that you can find to celebrate APAH month. See if you can find some of these titles to enjoy as a family.
Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic (6-9 years) by Ginnie Lo - Auntie Yang is delighted to find soybeans, a favorite food from her homeland of China, growing in Illinois. She begins a soybean picnic tradition with her family and friends, which turns into a community-wide annual celebration.
Duck for Turkey Day (4-8 years) by Jacqueline Jules - Tuyet, a Vietnamese American is worried about what her friends will think about her family having duck for Thanksgiving. She soon discovers that her family is not the only one with different traditions!
A Different Pond (6-8 years) by Bao Phi - Bao Phi gets up early every morning to go fishing with his father so they will have food to eat for the day. During their fishing trips, Bao’s father tells him stories about his childhood fishing on a different pond in Vietnam.
Cora Cooks Pancit (4-8 years) by Dorina Lazo Gilmore - Cora loves being in the kitchen and while her siblings are out for the day, she gets a special opportunity to cook with her Mama. She helps to prepare the Filipino dish Pancit for the family and is excited to see what her family thinks.
Bee-Bim Bop! (4-7 years)by Linda Sue Park - In rhyming text, we are taken on a journey with a young girl and her mother as they go grocery shopping and finally prepare one of the girl’s favorite dishes - Bee-Bim Bop!
Malala’s Magic Pencil (5-8 years) by Malala Yousafzai - Written by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai, she tells the story of a television show that she loved as a child about a boy and a magic pencil. She pretends that she too has a magic pencil and uses it to erase the things she does not like. She learns that she can use her childhood game throughout her life to try and make the world a better place.
A Path of Stars (5-8 years) by Ann Sibley O'Brien - Dara’s grandmother, Lok Yeay, tells her granddaughter stories about her childhood in Cambodia with her brother and how she desires to see him again one day. Upon learning of her grandmother’s brothers death, Dara must comfort her grandmother. Together they hope to visit her homeland again one day.
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story From Iraq (4-7 years) by Jeanette Winter - A longtime librarian, Alia Muhammed Baker is determined to save her library from a war that has broken out in her country.
The Magic Brush (4-8 years) by Kat Yeh - When Jasmine is young, her grandfather Agong teaches her Chinese calligraphy through “magic”. After his death, Jasmine hopes to keep the tradition alive with her younger brother.
Always Anjali by (5-8 years) Sheetal Sheth- Anjali and her friends are on a mission to get matching personalized license plates for their bikes. The only problem is Anjali can’t find her name. After being bullied because of her unique name, Anjali discovers the beauty and significance of her name by diving deeper into her roots.
Super Satya Saves the Day (5-8 years)by Raakhee Michandani- When Super Satya’s cape is stuck at the cleaners for a day, she struggles with a lot of self-doubt until she takes a chance and faces her fears. She discovers she is Super Satya, with or without the cape!
Shubh Raatri Dost/Good Night Friend (3-8 years) by Nidni Chanani-As day turns to night, follow Bhai (brother) and Behan (sister) in their Indian farm home while they bid their animal friends a good night. This sweet sleep tale allows readers to develop both Hindi and English vocabulary.
We would love to hear which ones you find and enjoy most!
You can also check out the The Asian Pacific Heritage Month website for more information on ideas to celebrate this month at home or in the classroom!