15 Asian American Children's Books to Read As a Family Right Now
Studies show reading fosters empathy. However, a 2019 study published in The Frontiers of Psychology showed that reading alone isn't enough. The types of books matter, too. The study found that children's books help develop empathy the most when children read about and identify with characters dissimilar to themselves. Not to mention, it's also equally important for children to see themselves in the books they read.
But despite overwhelming research that reading diverse books is vital for fostering confident, empathetic kids, Asian American stories and other minority stories are still underpublished. According to The Cooperative Children's Book Center 2019 children's book survey, only 8.7 percent of children's books published in 2019 contained Asian or Asian American main characters. Meanwhile, 41.8 percent contained white main characters, and 29.2 percent contained animal main characters.
"Fear and misunderstanding of people who aren't like ourselves can have tragic and heartbreaking consequences, as we've seen recently with the rise in violence against Asians and Asian Americans," explains Asian American children's book author Andrea Wang. "Learning about different cultures fosters empathy and understanding, leading to a more just and peaceful world."
"The more stories kids read," author Mượn Thị Văn adds, "and the greater the variety of stories, the more kids will understand that life is not about me versus you, or us versus them. It's about you and me, and all of us together, because we're fundamentally the same, and everyone and everything affects everyone else and everything else."
Books alone cannot do the work of raising empathic children. The conversations parents and educators have about diversity as well as the actions they take toward others are just as important. But books are a great tool to have in your back pocket.
To help you diversify your library, we chatted with Wang and Văn, along with authors Hope Lim and Joanna Ho to create this collection of kid's books that depict Asian children coming to America. Within these picture books and middle grade stories, characters learn to make delicious foods from their heritage, embrace their bodies, and more, making them an amazing place to start when it comes to learning about the Asian American culture.