Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have played a key role in shaping America. We have recently seen some of the heartbreaking challenges many people with Asian and Pacific heritage face in America. For this reason, during May and all year, it is important to share the stories of immigrants from Asia and the Pacific Islands. There are so many unique cultures and stories to celebrate! We have to break the discrimination people are facing, and one of the ways we can do this is through ensuring we learn about and celebrate many cultures. These book recommendations for lower and upper elementary are perfect for your students to explore and learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage and cultures.
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Lower Elementary Book Recommendations for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (K-3rd)
I have a lot of favorite books. But this is one of my top favorites! This story begins with the story of sibling rivalry. Rubina gets a birthday party invitation. Her mother does not understand since her culture does not celebrate birthdays, so she insists that Rubina take her little sister along despite Rubina’s insistence that “they don’t do that here.” This adorable story is relatable but also shows the struggle second-generation immigrant children face.
Unhei just moved from Korea. She is anxious to be accepted by other kids at school. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. This adorable story teaches kids the important lesson of empathy and the importance of culture.
An Asian girl notices that her eyes are different from her peers. In this lyrical story, the young girl tells of her pride in her eyes because they are like her mother’s, grandmother’s, and little sisters. “They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.”
In this story, Juno Valentine goes on a journey to step in the shoes of female icons throughout history. Through her journey, Juno realizes her shoes are the best shoes to be in. This book is written by Evan Chen, a fashion designer who is a first-generation Chinese-American.
This is an autobiographical story of a child of immigrants who learns to connect with her heritage and be proud of herself and her family.
This story is inspired by Asian folklore Moon Rabbit. The story follows a little girl who befriends the “moon rabbit” and embarks on a nighttime adventure.
This is a poetic story of a simple fishing trip Bao took with his father in the early morning. Bao and his father o fishing for food, not for fun. During their trip, Bao’s father shares memories of fishing in their homeland of Vietnam.
This book is written from the author’s childhood memories as a Hmong refugee. Kalia is unhappy about not having braces, so her grandmother reminds her that true beauty is found in those we love.
This is the story of a girl from Afghanistan who dreams of peace.
Upper Elementary Book Recommendations for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (3rd – 5th)
This is the story of a friendship between two girls living in a refugee camp. Ten-year-old Lina is excited to find a sandal that fits her foot perfectly until she sees another girl that has the matching shoe. Both girls decide it is better to share the sandals.
A young boy visits his grandfather, who speaks a different language. The boy is frustrated by their inability to communicate until they draw together. Art brings the boy and his grandfather together, showing communication is more than just words.
This is a biography of actress Anna May Wong. It tells of her childhood, leading up to her struggles as an Asian American actress in the 1930s. Anna May Wong became a crusader and pioneer for Chinese American actors.
This is the biography of architect Maya Lin. Maya Lin always loved building and exploring. She grew up to be the artist-architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Laura Iwasaki and her family are paying their last visit to Laura’s grandfather’s grave. The grave is at Manzanar, where thousands of Americans who were Japanese were interned during World War II. Laura’s father, then a small boy, and his parents were some of those who were forced to live at Manzanar. Laura says goodbye to Grandfather in her own special way. She crosses generational lines and shows the patriotism that survived this shameful time in America’s history.