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May 8, 2018

4 Books and 1 Craft to Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

By Nancy Jang
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    I am American-born Chinese or ABC. For a long time, I didn’t really know what that meant except that I was born in the United States and my parents were from China. Over the years, I have found that being Asian American and Chinese American means so much more. It’s a mysterious, ever-changing blend of preserving my Chinese heritage and being an American born and raised in a great melting pot.

    Luckily for me, I grew up in Los Angeles, where the Asian community is strong. Although I speak very little Mandarin, I have an immense respect for my family and cultural traditions. Asian Pacific American Heritage month is my chance to share a little of my Chinese culture and celebrations with my kiddos. It's also a wonderful opportunity for my students and me to learn about other Asian American perspectives.

    I know that teachers are up to their eyeballs in curriculum and state or end-of-year testing, and I am no different. But I still try and incorporate some awesome books to read to my kids, a short video, and a project or two to be able to learn more about Asian American culture. And no matter what grade you teach, there is a book on this list of 27 that will delight and inform your class about Asian Pacific American Heritage.

    I start the study by reading Yoko by Rosemary Wells. This is a story of a little girl from Japan who is adjusting to a new school and making friends. Along with the usual difficulties of being a new student in school, Yoko's troubles are compounded by the fun kids make of her Japanese lunches. The wise teacher uses the subject of foreign food to teach her students to understand and embrace other cultures as well as exploring their own heritages.

    From there, I show the NatGeo Kids Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. and Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan videos that beautifully show the celebration of the cherry blossom festival called Sakura in Japan. The thousands of cherry trees in Washington D.C. were a gift from Japan many years ago and the festival there reflects this generosity. In our classroom we also celebrate Sakura with this wonderful spring cherry blossom art projects. If your students are writing, you can also teach them to write haikus to mount on their art projects.

    Japanese Cherry Blossom Art

    Materials: Black and pink tempera paint, water, construction paper cut to size, a cup, a brush, and straws.

    Directions:

    1. Water black tempera paint down in a cup until it is the consistency of black ink.

    2. Using a large paint brush, paint a branch onto the paper, using enough paint so that it pools.

    3. Using a straw, each student blows the ink across the paper, away from them, in one direction. Teacher tip: Tell them in advance and continue to remind them that if they feel dizzy, STOP and take a break.

    4. Set aside to dry.

    5. After the pieces are dry, use pink tempera paint and cotton swabs to dab flowers onto the branches.

    For more cherry blossom art, take a look what fellow blogger Shari Carter did with her kindergarten class in "Cherry Blossom Art and Other Springtime Activities."

     

    We then move on to The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. This is about a Korean girl who is concerned at school about her Korean name and is thinking about changing it to an American name. I discuss with my kids that people from different countries have names in different languages and when they come to the United States, they can choose a new name or keep the one they have. My parents chose the names Anna and Austin and moved their Chinese names to their middle name.

     

    I was born and raised in the United States and speak conversational Mandarin, but I never learned to read or write Chinese. Communicating was difficult the times when I went to visit my relatives in China and Taiwan. But as a child, we always found a way. Dear Juno by Soyung Pak is a charming story about a young boy overcoming the same kind of language barriers.

     

    Growing up, Chinese New Year was the biggest holiday my family celebrated. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, my family spent time cleaning the house, getting our hair cut, buying new clothes, and eating delicacies while relatives and friends visited. Every unmarried child received a beautiful red envelope with crisp bills inside (called leisees) and kids were allowed to stay up as late as they wanted. Finally, on New Year’s Day, we would line the streets of Chinatown to watch the parade with loud firecrackers that ushered in dancing dragons.

    Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn is a story about one family’s day celebrating Chinese New Year and in particular, about how young Sam decides to spend his lucky money envelopes. While originally disappointed in the modest sum he has been given, Sam takes his lucky money to find something to purchase and ends up learning an invaluable lesson.

    We follow up this moving story with a video called "Fortune Tales" that explains the history of Chinese New Year.

    Finally, I bring in my special red dress (chi-pao) and get out my pint-sized dragon costume. Although Chinese New Year has passed, I give each child a special red envelope and teach them to say Happy New Year in Chinese: Gung Hay Fat Choy!

    Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this month and I hope some of these books and activities will make it a fun and easy learning journey.

     

    Happy Teaching,

    Nancy

    I am American-born Chinese or ABC. For a long time, I didn’t really know what that meant except that I was born in the United States and my parents were from China. Over the years, I have found that being Asian American and Chinese American means so much more. It’s a mysterious, ever-changing blend of preserving my Chinese heritage and being an American born and raised in a great melting pot.

    Luckily for me, I grew up in Los Angeles, where the Asian community is strong. Although I speak very little Mandarin, I have an immense respect for my family and cultural traditions. Asian Pacific American Heritage month is my chance to share a little of my Chinese culture and celebrations with my kiddos. It's also a wonderful opportunity for my students and me to learn about other Asian American perspectives.

    I know that teachers are up to their eyeballs in curriculum and state or end-of-year testing, and I am no different. But I still try and incorporate some awesome books to read to my kids, a short video, and a project or two to be able to learn more about Asian American culture. And no matter what grade you teach, there is a book on this list of 27 that will delight and inform your class about Asian Pacific American Heritage.

    I start the study by reading Yoko by Rosemary Wells. This is a story of a little girl from Japan who is adjusting to a new school and making friends. Along with the usual difficulties of being a new student in school, Yoko's troubles are compounded by the fun kids make of her Japanese lunches. The wise teacher uses the subject of foreign food to teach her students to understand and embrace other cultures as well as exploring their own heritages.

    From there, I show the NatGeo Kids Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. and Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan videos that beautifully show the celebration of the cherry blossom festival called Sakura in Japan. The thousands of cherry trees in Washington D.C. were a gift from Japan many years ago and the festival there reflects this generosity. In our classroom we also celebrate Sakura with this wonderful spring cherry blossom art projects. If your students are writing, you can also teach them to write haikus to mount on their art projects.

    Japanese Cherry Blossom Art

    Materials: Black and pink tempera paint, water, construction paper cut to size, a cup, a brush, and straws.

    Directions:

    1. Water black tempera paint down in a cup until it is the consistency of black ink.

    2. Using a large paint brush, paint a branch onto the paper, using enough paint so that it pools.

    3. Using a straw, each student blows the ink across the paper, away from them, in one direction. Teacher tip: Tell them in advance and continue to remind them that if they feel dizzy, STOP and take a break.

    4. Set aside to dry.

    5. After the pieces are dry, use pink tempera paint and cotton swabs to dab flowers onto the branches.

    For more cherry blossom art, take a look what fellow blogger Shari Carter did with her kindergarten class in "Cherry Blossom Art and Other Springtime Activities."

     

    We then move on to The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. This is about a Korean girl who is concerned at school about her Korean name and is thinking about changing it to an American name. I discuss with my kids that people from different countries have names in different languages and when they come to the United States, they can choose a new name or keep the one they have. My parents chose the names Anna and Austin and moved their Chinese names to their middle name.

     

    I was born and raised in the United States and speak conversational Mandarin, but I never learned to read or write Chinese. Communicating was difficult the times when I went to visit my relatives in China and Taiwan. But as a child, we always found a way. Dear Juno by Soyung Pak is a charming story about a young boy overcoming the same kind of language barriers.

     

    Growing up, Chinese New Year was the biggest holiday my family celebrated. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, my family spent time cleaning the house, getting our hair cut, buying new clothes, and eating delicacies while relatives and friends visited. Every unmarried child received a beautiful red envelope with crisp bills inside (called leisees) and kids were allowed to stay up as late as they wanted. Finally, on New Year’s Day, we would line the streets of Chinatown to watch the parade with loud firecrackers that ushered in dancing dragons.

    Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn is a story about one family’s day celebrating Chinese New Year and in particular, about how young Sam decides to spend his lucky money envelopes. While originally disappointed in the modest sum he has been given, Sam takes his lucky money to find something to purchase and ends up learning an invaluable lesson.

    We follow up this moving story with a video called "Fortune Tales" that explains the history of Chinese New Year.

    Finally, I bring in my special red dress (chi-pao) and get out my pint-sized dragon costume. Although Chinese New Year has passed, I give each child a special red envelope and teach them to say Happy New Year in Chinese: Gung Hay Fat Choy!

    Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this month and I hope some of these books and activities will make it a fun and easy learning journey.

     

    Happy Teaching,

    Nancy

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GRADES: 1-2
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