There’s no better sight than seeing the excitement in our little boy’s eyes when he finds a new book! It can only be described as pure joy. As a parent, it’s wonderful to see that he is just as happy in a library full of books as he is at Disneyland.
That’s why it’s important for me not only to find books that he is interested in but also books that reflect his heritage and culture. It’s important for children not only to see themselves or some version of themselves as ethnic minorities, but also to know that their lives and experiences are shared and are relevant to others.
In a survey of 2,000 educators by the literacy non-profit, First Book, 90 percent “agreed that the children in their programs would be more enthusiastic readers if they had access to books with characters, stories and images that reflect their lives and their neighborhoods,” because children want to read books about things that they can relate to.
However, diversity in children’s literature has been abysmal for years. Even in an ethnically diverse city like San Francisco where Asians make up third of the population, we rarely see books written by Asian (American) authors and are seldom exposed to stories that reflect our culture.
By not providing a more diverse selection of literature, we are failing all of our children and robbing them of an opportunity to be exposed to the world at large. As I’d always wondered when I was a child, what good is learning about a 16th century English playwright or the Battle of Waterloo, when my friends and classmates couldn’t tell the difference between North and South Korea.
Also, we know that education is the key in our battle against bigotry and racism, and the more diversity that children are exposed to from a young age, the more likely they will learn empathy and tolerance. Although we can’t eradicate all racism that happen in our society, by exposing our children to other cultures, lifestyles, religions, different from their own, the more we help them grow into better people.
As parents, we have a tendency to pass on the things that we love to our children, and as an avid reader, I’m thrilled that I could share my passion for reading with our little boy. And, I hope that we’ll be able to see more books that represent our culture and our lives.
Wonderful Children’s Books by Asian-American writers (K-5th Grade):
- New Clothes for New Year’s Day by Hyun-Joo Bae
- The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Chang Compestine
- Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho
- A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai
- My Chinatown: One Year in Poems by Kam Mak
- Bee-bim Bop! By Linda Sue Park (our favorite!)
- The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park
- My Mother’s Sari by Sandhya Rao
- Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say