May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a time to honor and pay homage to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders that have contributed to the history and culture of the United States. It’s important for everyone to celebrate this month and educate children about this immigrant group and its rich history of culture and heritage. And as a Filipino-American mother of a bi-racial toddler daughter (expecting my second child in July), it’s really important for me to teach my kids about their roots.
With the rise of anti-Asian racism and violent attacks in America this past year, it is all the more vital to increase cultural awareness and inclusiveness in our children.
“At the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, we meet with students and recent graduates who tell us that they never learned about Asian American or Pacific Islander (AAPI) stories in school,” Andrea Kim Neighbors, manager of education initiatives at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, tells SheKnows. “Many seek these histories out themselves through books, documentary films, or AAPI community organizations. This is something I can identify with as well. I was not aware of the term ‘Asian American’ until after college, and even then, it took some to see myself as part of the Asian American community. It is important to learn about AAPI stories and histories at all ages because we are not perpetual foreigners, we are not a stereotype. Our center aims to see AAPI stories taught in every classroom across the U.S., and to have our resources accessible and available for learners around the world, so that future generations can see themselves and their stories reflected in what they learn at school. We are part of a beautiful, complex, and global interconnectedness, and we have many stories to tell.”
From reading books and trying different cuisines to making crafts and visiting virtual museums, there are a number of ways to explore the history, art, and contributions of Asian-Pacific cultures with your little ones.
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1. Learn & play trivia
Make learning fun by creating an educational trivia game. Your kids can learn about Asian-Pacific history and culture. Create flashcards with categories such as historical facts, famous people, food/cuisine, art etc.. Write a few facts down for each country and award points for each correct answer. Not sure what to ask in this quiz? Then maybe start with …
2. Read about Asian & Pacific cultures
Enrich your child’s mind by reading them books that offer a positive representation of Asian American Pacific Islander cultures.
Asian-Americans Who Inspire Us by Analiza Quiroz Wolf
From Filipino Americans Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz to Chinese American doctor Margaret Chung, this book features various Asian Americans who have made an impact in U.S. history.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corner by Joanna Ho
This book is about a little Asian girl who learns how to love and appreciate the shape of her eyes.
Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki
This story is about Suki’s first day of school and how she is excited to wear a Japanese kimono that her grandmother gifted to her.
Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin
This story is about a little girl who goes to a Chinese restaurant with her family and enjoys a dim sum meal.
Mama’s Saris by Pooja Makhijani
This story is about a little Indian girl who wants to wear a sari just like her mother. (Not available in stores, but check your local library.)
Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore
Cora is a Filipino-American girl who helps her mom in the kitchen and together they make pancit, a traditional noodle dish from the Philippines.
Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi
This story is about a Pakistani-American girl named Yasmin and her journey through second grade.
Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories retold by Phuoc Thi Minh Tran
This book is a compilation of traditional children’s tales from Vietnam as retold by Phuoc Thi Minh Tran.
Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park
This story is about a Korean child who is helping her mom cook bee-bim bop.
Like a Dandelion by Huy Voun Lee
This book honors refugees and immigrants and is based on the author’s emigration from Cambodia to the U.S.
For more recommendations, please check out “Asians Everyday,” a virtual picture book exhibition curated by Taiwanese-American children’s writer and illustrator Grace Lin. This round-up features illustrated books by Asian-Pacific authors and illustrators.
3. Try different cuisines
Develop and expand your child’s palate by trying different cuisines. Whether you make the meal together, go to a restaurant or order takeout, there are a number of ways to expose your child to different Asian-Pacific cuisines.
4. Explore the geography of Asia and the Pacific Islands
Whether you utilize a globe or view Google Maps, you can talk to your child about all the different Asian-Pacific countries and see if they can locate them.
5. Create your own Asian-Pacific-inspired art
From creating Japanese origami to Chinese paper lanterns and scroll paintings to making Indian Rangoli art, your kids can roll up their sleeves and get creative with these art projects. Little ones can also learn how to dance Tinikling, a Filipino dance, or learn the art of the Japanese or Korean fan dance.
6. Plan a movie night
From Bao, Big Hero 6, and Raya and the Last Dragon (available on Disney+) to Over the Moon (on Netflix), there are a number of kids movies that you can watch with your children that feature Asian-Pacific cultures.
7. Visit historical sites, virtual museums and exhibits online
The Asian Art Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of Art, the University of California and other institutions offer virtual gallery tours for at-home explorations. You can also virtually visit memorials, parks, and historical sites within the U.S. through the National Park Service’s AAPI Heritage website. Or check your local listings for exhibits happening in your area.
Pick up these books starring girls of color for your kids’ shelves.
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