First Celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month – Elementary School

Asian Books from My Library

Asian Books from My Library

I wrote a couple months ago about how I ended up volunteering to be the Asian Culture Chair at my child’s school in February of this year.

Our school celebrated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May) for the first time in recent history (maybe ever). A group of teachers along with our PTA Asian-Pacific Culture Chair (me) met in April to come up with strategies on how to celebrate the month. The teachers and staff members were a wealth of ideas; the PTA is only involved in having money to spend on Asian cultural activities and wanting to start a yearly celebration. But all the credit should go to the teachers and staff who implemented the ideas.

The teachers came up with activities to highlight Asian culture. There were morning announcements highlighting various countries. Some of the announcements highlighted a treasure hunt for certain items. And the students completed a craft highlighting Asian/Pacific Islander culture in each classroom.  My son’s class even made sushi in their kindergarten classroom.  I’m still not so sure how they did that.

Each week of May classrooms tried to have a 30 minute DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time to highlight books with Asian/Pacific Islander authors, characters, or culture. The librarian, had many of the books about Asian subjects on display in the library. There were posters up in the library on Asian Americans and posters in the Atrium to highlight Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Some teachers and staff had two after school sessions for grades 3-5 to make origami. They were popular and well attended and free, and even came with an Asian snack for the kids to try.

There was a display area in the school entry with names of Asian countries and displayed origami the children made.  This is where I fell down on the job, it didn’t occur to me until the month was half over that I should have sent out a letter to parents asking for donations to hang on the display.  I had some ao dais (traditional Vietnamese outfit) I could have contributed.  Well this is my first time being Asian Culture Chair, I will do a better job next time, now that I know what is possible.

A little history: Four hundred dollars was taken away in the February PTA meeting because there was no leadership for the Asian Outreach committee.  I volunteered after the meeting and in April the funds were restored to the committee which was renamed “Asian Pacific Culture Committee”.  I don’t think they expected me to spend the whole amount, but I said I was going to.  And whatever was not spent on craft supplies and the like, I was going to spend on books for the school library.

I reviewed the books our school owns, and talked to the ESOL teacher to try to identify which countries students and staff are from.  The following countries were identified:  China, Japan, Cambodia, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Vietnam, Mongolia, India, Korea, and Jordan.  And I know from talking with a local mom that Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asia, will be represented at our school next year too.

Our school has many books on China and Japan, so I tried to get books from smaller countries.  But there are not necessarily books from the countries available or they have not been pre-approved by the public school library system.    I bought all my books off of Amazon.  I concentrated on getting the most for our money and buying hardcover books.  Any books which were paperback, I bought new.  Most of the books I bought used.  I bought 40 books for a total of $300.11.  Some of the books I got used were $0.01 and $3.99 shipping, so $4.00 for a used hardcover book.   Twenty-five books were used and 15 books were new.  I paid an average of $7.50 for each book.  Here is a list of books I bought for the school library.

Title Author Country/Comment
Nasreen’s secret school : a true story from Afghanistan Jeanette Winter Afghanistan  (true story)
Moonbeams, dumplings and dragon boats Nina Simmonds et al Asia, China (non-fiction)
Asian Kites (Asian Arts and Crafts For Creative Kids) Wayne Hosking Asia  (non-fiction)
Asian Holidays (Read-And-Discover Ethnic Holidays) Faith Winchester Asia   (non-fiction)
Asian-American Crafts Kids Can Do! (Multicultural Crafts Kids Can Do!) Sarah Hartman Asia  (non-fiction)
Angkat : the Cambodian Cinderella Jewell Coburn Cambodia  (folktale)
Judge Rabbit and the Tree Spirit: A Folktale from Cambodia Lina Mao Wall Cambodia (folktale)
A Song for Cambodia Michelle Lord Cambodia (biography)
Who belongs here?: An American Story Margy Burns Knight Cambodia, prejudice
Tales Told in tents – Stories from Central Asia Sally Pomme Clayton Central Asia
Stories from the Silk Road Cherry Gilchrist Central Asia, China
The Magic Paintbrush Lawrence Yep China
Rainbow People Laurence Yep China (folktales)
The Year of the Rat Grace Lin China
Starry River of the Sky Grace Lin China
Bringing in the New Year Grace Lin China, Lunar New Year
Jouanah, a Hmong Cinderella Jewell Cobern Hmong  (folktale)
Finders Keepers? A true story in India Robert A. Arnett India
My Mother’s Sari Sandhya Rao India, South Asia
The Dancing Pig Judy Sierra Indonesia
Go to Sleep Gecko!: A Balinese Folktale Margaret MacDonald Indonesia   (folktale)
The Name Jar Yangsook Choi Korea
The Firekeepers Son Linda Sue Park Korea
Kite Fighters Linda Sue Park Korea
Nine-in-one, Grr! Grr! : a folktale from the Hmong people of Laos Spagnoli Laos  (folktale)
Horse song : the Naadam of Mongolia Ted Lewin Mongolia
One Green Apple Eve Bunting Pakistan (?), Muslim
The Secret Message (Persian) Mina Javaherbin et al Persian
Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella Myrna J. De La Paz Philippines
Pedro and the Monkey Robert D. San Souci Philippines
Umbrella Queen Shirin Bridges Thailand
The Gold Threaded Dress Carolyn Marsden Thailand
Silk Umbrellas Carolyn Marsden Thailand
Children of the Dragon Sherry Garland Vietnam (folktales)
The Lotus Seed
(2 copies)
Sherry Garland Vietnam  (replaces missing copies at school)
Duck for Turkey Day Jacqueline Jules Vietnam, Thanksgiving
Going Home, Coming Home/Ve Nha, Tham Que Huong Truong Tran et al Vietnam
Journey Home Laurence McKay Vietnam
The Golden Slipper Lum Vietnam (Cinderella story)

From the ESOL teacher, I did find out that even though we don’t have that many Asian-Pacific students at this school, there are more from Vietnam than any other country! So I guess when I was going through the student directory and found many names I recognized as Vietnamese was not just because I could recognize Vietnamese names.

I delivered the 40 books I ordered from Amazon by May 20, not quite in time for the start of Asian Pacific American Culture Month.  But it was a small start for a new celebration.

I also donated 10 books from my own collection and continue to look for books about Asian culture at the local library book sale.  I usually buy everything I find about Vietnam, but now I will buy stuff about other Asian countries to donate in the future.  The best thing about the books from Amazon is that they were generally in better condition than the books I find at the library sale, which may have been pulled from the shelves because of the condition of the books.

I did end up ordering many books from the Amazon seller “BetterWorldBooks“, only to find out that the library used book store sends all of their old books (unsold after a certain amount of time) to “BetterWorldBooks” to sell.  It was just a funny coincidence.

I was tedious in my record keeping when ordering each book.  I ordered only one used book per transaction so it would be easier to account to our PTA treasurer for reimbursement.  But I ordered my new books in a couple transactions to make sure I got my free shipping from Amazon with “Super Saver” discount shipping.

All told, I can see why the librarian was happy that someone else was doing the buying and deciding what books to buy.  It actually took many hours to research books that might be appropriate and then it still took time from our school librarian to make sure that all of the books I was interested in purchasing for the school were both approved for our school system and for the elementary age level.

Well that was our first year celebration. I would love if readers posted more ideas for celebrating Asian Pacific Heritage Month.

I don’t expect to buy more books next year, I expect to give most of our funds to the Arts and Culture Committee so that we can bring in an Asian cultural performer.

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