Here is a selection of nonfiction books, stories, teaching resources, and websites for celebrating Chinese New Year.
Everybody Cooks Rice by Nora Dooley
As Carrie goes from house to house looking for her brother at dinnertime, she discovers that many cultures prepare and eat rice as a mainstay of their meals. Among the neighbors Carrie visits are families from China and Vietnam. There are recipes in the back of the book, including one for fried rice.
Classroom Tip: Talk about what diverse cultures have in common. We make fried rice and adapt the recipe from the book.
Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year by Madeline Slovenz-Low and Kate Waters
On the Chinese New Year, six-year-old Ernie will perform his first Lion Dance. An intimate look at a Chinese household as the family shares a proud moment with their son.
Classroom Tip: I have multiple copies of this paperback and use it with a reading group as part of my guided reading program.
Look What Came from China, part of the Look What Came From... series by Miles Harvey
Part of a multicultural series, the book explores the foods, words, inventions, toys, games and sports, religion, music, and crafts that China has contributed to the world. Great suggestions for websites to visit.
Classroom Tip: I use this book with my lesson on Chinese inventions.
Miss Frizzle’s Adventures: Imperial China by Joanna Cole
Full of historical and cultural facts, the book is a learning adventure. Joanna Cole infuses this book with the same brand of information and fun that has made The Magic School Bus series such a success.
Classroom Tip: I use this book to kick off the unit, in part because Miss Frizzle is familiar to the children. It presents time/distance travel as a way to find out about another culture, its past, and contributions.
Fiction Books and Folk Tales
Fa Mulan by Robert D. San Souci
An ancient Chinese legend, the inspiring tale of a young heroine who poses as a soldier and rises to the rank of general. Vivid and sweeping illustrations portray traditional Chinese life and battle.
Classroom Tip: I’m always looking for books with strong women. Many students already know the character, so it’s interesting to compare/contrast with the Disney film Mulan.
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Betty Bao Lord
Shirley Temple Wong, a young Chinese girl, immigrates to New York in 1947 and assimilates into a strange new culture of schoolyard toughs, stickball games, and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Classroom Tip: Beyond the reading level of my students, this book makes a wonderful read-aloud chapter book. The chapters are organized by the months in a year so I make a simple calendar for 1947 and have students draw a picture to illustrate each month of Shirley Temple Wong’s year.
Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young
An unusual but beguiling version of the classic Little Red Riding Hood tale.
Classroom Tip: I use this story and the well-known one to teach the concept of compare and contrast.
Ming Low Moves the Mountain by Arnold Lobel
"Beautiful paintings of rural China illustrate the tale of Ming Lo and his wife, who fail to move the mountain looming over their house, even though they obey the instructions of the village wise man. The sage's final advice involves a rite they perform that does the trick, ending the fable with a funny twist." -Publishers Weekly.
Classroom Tip: A favorite among my second graders who are able to read it, and understand the funny, surprise ending. I use this book for readers’ theater because it adapts readily with little work on my part. My students know Arnold Lobel as the author of Frog and Toad books.
Exploring Cultures Through Art: China and Japan by Diana Grant
Many art projects and activities. There is a section about the Chinese New Year with projects specific to that celebration.
Classroom Tip: Although designed for grades 4-8, there are art projects that second graders can do. I especially like scroll landscape paintings and paper lanterns.
Multicultural Game Book by Louise Orlando
Five games from China, Fan Tan, Harvest, Nim, Spellicans, and Tangrams, are included in this book with 70 games from 30 countries around the world.
Classroom Tip: Harvest, a cooperative game, is played outdoors. The other four games can be set up on a games table once students have been introduced to them and know the rules. Small groups can play games at the New Year’s celebration.
China the Beautiful
Classroom Tip: Do a search for "chun lian" and you will find beautiful banners of spring poetry you can make in Chinese characters or English for around your classroom door.
From Unit Plan: Chinese Inventions and the Chinese New Year