It is Asian Heritage Month here in Canada, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the US and we didn't want to let that pass unnoticed. So even though it has been a hot minute (or two) since we last posted a blog, we wanted to share some of our favourite books with you! Although things get better every year, the vast majority of children's books available in North America still tell Euro-centric stories and feature white characters. And while there is nothing wrong with reading your kids the classics, we are all striving towards greater diversity and inclusion and that starts in childhood! So let's diversifying your child's bookshelf. Books are one way to introduce important concepts such as racism, inclusion, and celebrating differences in one of the ways children learn best - through stories!
Especially over the last year as we have seen a dramatic rise in anti-Asian discrimination and hate crimes, it is important to recognize and celebrate the rich and complex stories, histories, and people with Asian heritage. That’s why we have put together this list of five amazing children's books.
Some of these books we have read and read to our families, others come highly recommended. All books are written by authors of Asian heritage.
1. The Proudest Blue
by Ibithaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, and illustrated by Hatem Aly
A book celebrating the first day of hijab for a young girl, as seen through the eyes of her little sister. We love this book because while it touches on the discrimination that girls and women wearing hijab face, it is primarily a celebration of joy and pride for this important milestone and her beautiful, blue scarf.
2. Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon
by Kat Zhang and illustrated by Charlene Chua
While this book would be an awesome addition to any classroom, especially for Chinese New Year. But we also think that stories like these should be read and enjoyed all year round. After all, dragons and children’s books go together like pickles and pregnancy! Just as we love to see the characters in children’s books becoming more diverse, we love to see stories from all over the world. In this book, we love that the familiar idea of a dragon is expanded beyond typical stories of knights and castles.
3. It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
by Kyo Maclear
This book is probably a bit better for slightly older children, ages 5+, but it is a beautifully told story with lovely illustrations. It also introduces children to important timelines, events, and themes that are relevant still today. Telling the true story of artist and author Gyo Fujikawa, it touches upon Japanese internment camps during WWII and segregation. This true story is a perfect opportunity to begin important conversations about racism and discrimination with your child in an accessible way.
4. Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Johanna Ho
This book is sometimes compared to Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and is about a girl learning to love her Asian features, particularly her eyes which she realizes are just like her mother’s, grandmother’s, and little sister’s. While this is a story about self-acceptance and self-love that can be appreciated by all readers, it can also help to begin a discussion between white parents and their children about inclusivity and celebrating our differences.
5. We Are Inspiring: The Stories of 32 Inspirational Asian American Women
by Angel Trazo
We’ll admit that we haven’t read this book yet, but we want to! Books like these, with many stories and histories to choose from, can be fantastic for children 4 and up. They are shorter and digestible for younger listeners, while also introducing important figures, events, and accomplishments.
The stories in this book include inspirational women of Asian heritage who are scientists, entertainers, judges, athletes and more. The diversity of stories included in this book in incredible and is an amazing opportunity to introduce children to stories of amazing inspiration women that they might not learn about otherwise.
Have you read any of these books? Do you have other favourites that you wish we had included? Join us on our social media and tell us your favourite books by authors of Asian Heritage! We also want to hear the other ways you are celebrating Asian Heritage month with your children. And if any of the books we have listed here are ones you absolutely need to add to your collection, we have linked each book to A Different Booklist, which is our favourite African-Canadian Owned bookstore in Toronto.