Education is Love

April 1, 2021


Teaching Matters is committed to providing educators with resources that will impact our classrooms and communities. Our mission -  to close the opportunity gap of this radically unequal education system for under-served and historically marginalized children - must be actualized now. For the last year, we have been forced to confront a very tense new normal and racist hate crimes are a deeply unfortunate, routine part of this.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, we have witnessed disgusting public rhetoric denigrating Asians and Asian Americans as well as increased reports of anti-Asian hate. But violence and discrimination targeting the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities is not a new phenomenon; this violence has deep roots in US history. AAPI culture is either missing or  appropriated more than it is celebrated.

The opportunity to educate students about all cultures and celebrate the ways in which important people of color have made important contributions to the rich history of this country is also an opportunity to combat racism and hate. We know that it is hard to hate something or someone when you have a true insight into who and what they are. For example, learning that Asians and Asian Americans played a major role in the transportation revolution through building our railways should certainly not be a Snapple fact, but common knowledge.

Below is a list of resources for your students to assist you in teaching about AAPI culture and the lived experiences of Asian and Asian American people in this country.

Elementary School Resources

Books About Names
A typical form of bullying that occurs relates to Asian Americans being teased about their names or the languages they speak.
      • Always Anjali tells the story of a young girl, Anjali, who changes her name to Julie after she’s bullied for having a different name by other kids at school. The story follows Anjali in finding pride in her name and standing up to those who seek to belittle her.

      • The Name Jar tells the story of a recent immigrant from Korea, Unhei, and her fear about what the other children will call her. A classmate learns the meaning of her name and helps the class pronounce it correctly.
Books About Foods
Another form of bullying relates to the foods children bring to school and the resultant shame children may feel about their cultural heritage. Stereotypes about what Asian Americans eat abound.
      • No Kimchi for Me and The Pho Team normalize Asian American foods and introduce them to readers of any age.

      • My Family is from Different Places highlights families with mixed racial heritage and also includes a poignant incident of a girl feeling bad that her friends are not trying a dish her mom has brought to school.
Books About Appearance
Many Asian Americans report being bullied for the shape of their eyes, and internalized dislike for eye shape can exist in Asian communities, as well. Ridicule and internally felt shame can also occur with regard to facial hair.
      • Eyes that Kiss in the Corners shares a young girl’s pride in the shape of her eyes.

      • Laxmi’s Mooch offers a nice counterpoint to stereotypes about facial hair.
Books Centering Asian Americans in U.S. History
The struggles to combat exclusion and the fight for equal rights can be introduced even in the early grades through stories that approach issues of injustice gently.
      • A Fish for Jimmy, inspired by the author’s family story, takes place in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during the 1940s. Taro sneaks out of the camp every night to catch a fish for his brother Jimmy to help make him stronger. The note to readers contextualizes Japanese incarceration for educators or parents to help children understand this painful chapter in U.S. history.

      • Good Fortune: My Journey to Gold Mountain tells Li Keng Wong’s story of being detained at Angel Island Immigration Station as a young child arriving from China to the U.S. in the 1930s.

      • Journey for Justice: The Story of Larry Itliong introduces young readers to the story of Filipino-American Larry Itliong, who co-founded the United Farm Workers with leaders such as Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta to fight for the labor rights of the essential farmworkers who feed the nation.

Middle Grade Resources

Several books for the middle grades humanize the stories of Asian American communities and draw from diverse cultural heritages to better situate the lived realities of the protagonists.

    • Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, a four-part series by Sayantani DasGupta, introduces a South Asian American protagonist who faces bullying in her school for her heritage and for her mom passing out Indian sweets for Halloween but goes on to heroic feats in this intergalactic adventure.

    • Front Desk, Three Keys and Room to Dream, Kelly Yang’s books, an Asian American teen balances life in the U.S. and helps her immigrant parents run their family-owned motel. The stories weave together immigrant solidarity (the family helps house new immigrants in empty rooms) and teen coming-of-age angst of finding a path different from her parents.

As an advocate for children in education, I see a glaring problem with the way history is taught in the traditional American school system. Excluding the experience of people of color from  social studies curriculum exacerbates an already massively divisive problem. The majority of traditional curriculum is taught from white patriarchal text reinforcing both white dominant culture which does not affirm and value the contributions by people of color. Authentic culturally responsive (CR-SE) curriculum teaches white students about cultures other than their own and validates students of color and their rich history. We hope these resources will help foster diversity and equal treatment in the classroom and in your home communities so that future acts of anti-Asian hate can be avoided.

CR-SE Resources


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