May kicks off Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. One great way to recognize and celebrate the month with your children is to read children’s books written by Asian American and Pacific Islander authors and featuring AAPI characters.
As an Asian-American mom raising multiracial children, it’s important that we celebrate and learn during Asian American and Pacific Islander month. I want my children to know their heritage and cultural traditions. I want them to be introduced to other cultures early and often. And I want to foster pride in their heritage, so they’ll be able to teach their friends about it in the future.
10 Children’s Books to Celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Month
Here are 10 books for preschool and elementary-age children that offer positive, diverse representations of Asian American Pacific Islander history and culture. This is definitely NOT an exhaustive list, but a taste of the many wonderful AAPI books available.
Asian-Americans Who Inspire Us by Analiza Quiroz Wolf
This collection of Asian-American heroes inspires young readers to do great things. With splendid illustrations and detailed descriptions, this book will teach kids about the amazing contributions of people like Vietnam Memorial architect Maya Lin, Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi, musician Yo-Yo Ma, astronaut Ellison Onizuka, anchorwoman Lisa Ling, activist Philip Vera Cruz, and many more. Kids can see themselves as ordinary people who can do extraordinary things.
My Tree by Hope Lim and illustrated by Il Sung Na
A little boy who recently immigrated to America is happy to see that his new backyard has a beautiful plum tree, just like his backyard in Korea. He feels safe under this new tree and even names it “Plumee.” But when a storm knocks the tree over, the little boy finds himself feeling big emotions about his new surroundings. This book is for kids ages 4 to 8 and explores immigration, self-discovery, and emotional growth.
The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Khoa Le
This beautiful picture book teaches kids about empathy and resilience. The story follows the author’s childhood experience as a Hmong refugee and takes readers from the jungle of Laos to her arrival to the United States. This lovely story brings to life the refugee experience with compassion and humanity.
Amira’s Picture Day by Reem Faruqi and illustrated by Fahmida Azim
Amira is a happy kid who loves Eid, a time-honored Muslim holiday. She gets to wear new clothes, hand out goody bags, and celebrate with her community. The problem? Eid falls on school picture day. How will her friends remember her if she isn’t included in the annual school picture day? This is a sweet book for kids that explores themes of diversity, compassion, and anti-racism.
Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories by Phuoc Thi Minh Tran, illustrated by Dong Nguyen & Hop Thi Nguyen
Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories is a gorgeously illustrated collection of classic Vietnamese fairy tales and folk stories that give readers insight into the rich literary history of Vietnamese culture. These stories make perfect new additions for story time and bedtime reading.
Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki and illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
It’s the first day of school, and Suki wants to wear the kimono her grandmother gave her over the summer. Her older sisters warn her that people will laugh, but Suki doesn’t care. At school, other children are more mean than curious, but Suki sits tall, with the same dignity her obāchan (grandma) has. When she has the chance to introduce herself to the class, Suki is so excited to talk about her kimono.
Chinese Fables: The Dragon Slayer and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom by Shiho S. Nunes and illustrated by Lak-Khee Tay-Audouard
Great for all ages, kids and parents alike, this lovely collection of classic Chinese fables explores themes of integrity, respect, courage, and self-reliance. With lots of striking illustrations, these stories dating back to the third century BCE come alive for both young and old.
Pan de Sal Saves the Day by Norma Olizon-Chikiamco and illustrated by Mark Salvatus
Pan de Sal is a young girl who feels and looks different from the kids around her. Even her name is different. She feels out of place and can’t see the value of her talents. But when an unexpected situation calls for a skill that only she has, Pan de Sal realizes that being different doesn’t mean she isn’t special. This book for all ages explores themes of self-discovery, cultural diversity, and compassion.
Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis and illustrated by Kenard Pak
Preschoolers and older kids can learn about the rich native Hawaiian traditions in this poetic and beautifully illustrated book. Readers learn how the family is an important and connected part of nature through the story of kalo, which is a traditionally important plant in Hawaiian culture. Kids will enjoy the lyrical verse, and the lovely artwork will spark imagination and delight.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Dung Ho
In this touching book, a young Asian girl talks about what makes her eyes special and how they connect her to members of her family. Her eyes “kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.” At bedtime, her mother’s eyes “tell me I’m a miracle.” Though her amah (grandma) is beginning to lose her sight, her eyes are filled with stories. This book is a must-read to affirm Asian American children’s identities and expand all children’s ideas of what is beautiful.
Looking for more books? Check out this extensive list of AAPI children’s books at The Pragmatic Mom.