Asian-American Heritage Through Literature

Suggestions for using literature to enhance understanding during Asian-Pacific-American Heritage Month in May.
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Creating Learning Experiences

Good books have much to offer, but students learn more when they enhance their learning through related activities. Some ways in which you can extend student learning are:
Read Aloud: Children may not initially pick up a book for independent reading if it looks different from their own lives or other books they have read. "Scaffold" the experience by introducing concepts they will need to know in order to understand the story. The more the book is different from their own background, the more help students need in understanding it and connecting to it. As you read it aloud, pause from time to time to make brief explanations as necessary.

Making Connections: Include opportunities for students to compare and contrast what is happening in the book with their own experiences. Help students make emotional connections in addition to factual understandings.

Paired books: Pair an Asian-American book with a book from another culture that matches thematically. This allows students to connect experiences across cultural groups.

Geography: Help students know exactly where a story originates by keeping a map posted and pinning tags to show where stories are set or where characters live.

Storytelling: "Kamishibai" is traditional Japanese storytelling using a stack of large, illustrated cards. The storyteller reads the text printed on the back card, and children see the corresponding illustration on the front of the card facing them. As each card is read, the storyteller moves the back card to the front and repeats this process until all cards have been read. A number of commercial kamishibai of traditional tales are now available in English, and it is also a great learning experience to have the children create their own.

Readers Theater Adaptation: Rearrange the text of stories so that they are written in Readers Theater text format. You can do traditional Readers Theater or prepare the text on the back of kamishibai cards so that it is written in dialogue format. In either case students have meaningful opportunities to develop fluency in reading.

Audio Books: Listening to an audio book that is well read often offers an opportunity to hear a voice of someone from that culture. The natural pronunciation of the foreign words may bring the experience to life more.

Movies: Find movies that give children a better sense of Asian-American life. It's a good idea to show movies with subtitles, so students also have a sense of the language.

Guest Speakers: Take advantage of your school and neighborhood communities. Invite Asian-American adults to share their first-hand experiences growing up with two cultural identities. Have students prepare questions for the speaker in advance.

Advertise Books Through Displays: When books are on typical library shelves, readers only see the spine. Seeing a book's front cover invites children to enter the book. Select books with enticingly illustrated front covers. Prepare a display that includes artifacts that appear in the book. Rotate books often so students are always interested in the newly featured titles.

Penguin Young Readers Group

Brought to you by Penguin Young Readers Group.

The Penguin Group is the second-largest English-language trade book publisher in the world. The company possesses perhaps the world's most prestigious list of best-selling authors and a backlist of unparalleled breadth, depth, and quality. Penguin Young Readers Group features books by authors and illustrators including Judy Blume, Brian Jacques, Eric Carle, and beloved characters like Winnie-the-Pooh, Madeline, The Little Engine that Could, and many, many more.
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