Learning Our Heritage Through Children's Books
May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and I picked out some of my favorite children’s books to learn about our Asian-American heritage. The Hyde family are big fans of books in our house and I especially love (probably have an obsession) children’s books. Children’s books are an amazing tool to bring art into a kid’s life and to also teach them beautiful life lessons. Seriously, I love children’s books! I spent some good time researching children’s books about Filipino tales and Filipino culture. I came across these two that aren’t stories, but they have tons of information on the history and traditions of the Philippines. It isn’t much of an interesting read for a four-year-old, but Anthem did enjoy looking at the illustrations. He was especially excited when he recognized the jeepney, a colorful jeep that we rode many times while in the Philippines last summer.
They’ve also been useful for me because growing up in my Filipino family, traditions weren’t always explained to me. As a child, I would watch this VHS home video of my first birthday and I would see things that I didn’t see celebrated in American birthdays like the rack of goodies, or pabitin which is similar to a piñata, where kids would try to grab treats that hung on a bamboo rack. It was exciting for me to finally put names to traditions that I had done growing up and now with better understanding, can keep the tradition in my little family.
I not only wanted books that taught about Filipino culture, but I also wanted books that related to the Asian-American experience. I couldn’t find books about the Filipino-American experience (if you know of any, send them my way), but these following Japanese-American stories were ones I could relate to. Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon is a story of a half Japanese, half American boy who enjoys going to baseball games in America with his American Grandpa and going to baseball games in Japan with his Japanese Ji Ji. It captured my boy’s attention because it’s about baseball, but I love that it teaches the similarities and the differences between the two cultures. It’s a concept I want my half Filipino, half American boy to be able to see in his life as he spends time with his Filipino family and American family, learning to love and appreciate both cultures in his life.
I just discovered the Yoko series written by Rosemary Wells. I was at our public library looking for children’s books on Asian-American stories and the awesome librarian directed me to these wonderful books! The first book in the series, Yoko, tells a story of when Yoko brings her favorite Japanese food to school for lunch. Her classmates tease her for the strange food she was eating. This was my biggest fear, bringing Filipino food to school! I was so scared of being teased for my weird food that I dared not bring any of my favorite dishes. My older cousins who were in high school at the time made fun of me for being self-conscious about bring Filipino food to school. They were right to do so because looking back on it now, Chicken Adobo or Pancit is way better than that rectangle pizza they served in the cafeteria. Hopefully, this story will help my kid be brave to own his heritage and to also stand up for others who may eat “strange” food as well.
The Yoko books are not only adorable, but they have such sweet messages of being kind to others and being understanding one’s culture and upbringing. Anthem’s favorite Yoko book is Yoko Finds Her Way. It teaches kids how to read signs, but the plus for my boy is that it’s a reminder of when we went to the airport to go to the Philippines (a memory that is so fond to him and that has him asking to go to the airport all the time!).
Now my personal favorite is a book I read back in elementary school. I was so excited when I rediscovered it, but unfortunately, my kid is not interested in it probably because it’s not in his reading level. My Grandfather’s Journey is a story of immigration and how one can love two countries. It is a feeling I know too well seeing it in my father when he talks about his life back in the Philippines. I too have felt the longing for my home country, having been born in the Philippines, yet loving having grown up in The United States. It’s a beautiful story accompanied with wonderful watercolor illustrations and I highly recommend it to anyone who has more than one home on this beautiful Earth.
All About the Philippines: Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids by Gidget Roceles Jimenez and illustrated by Corazon Dandan-Albano here
Filipino Celebrations: A Treasury of Feasts and Festivals by Liana Romulo and illustrated by Corazon Dandan-Albano here
Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon here
Yoko by Rosemary Wells here
Yoko Finds Her Way by Rosemary Wells here
My Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say here
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