The Best Upper Elementary Books for Asian Pacific Heritage Month

Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a great way to introduce different cultures and traditions to your students.

As Asian Pacific Islander Month covers many countries, your students are able to read nonfiction stories about inspiring people and their lives as well as fictional stories that teach about important lessons and different cultures. 

When you allow your students to learn about the way of life and traditions of others, you not only teach about that certain group of people, but you also make it possible for your students to accept and celebrate each other’s uniqueness.

Within each of these read alouds, students are sure to find similarities and connections to their own families. Any differences they may find has the possibility of starting meaningful discussions amongst your students. Each read aloud  is accompanied by a discussion question or activity that will expand these stories for your students during this special month. 

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang

We kick off our list with Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang. This story shows Amy Wu as a resilient little girl who is determined to make the perfect bao, just like how her family can. Intertwined within the story are small details that give readers a glimpse of what Amy Wu’s Chinese culture and family are like.

For example, the first page of the book guides readers on how to properly pronounce the word “bao.” Each illustration offers an opening to discuss the similarities and differences students may see between Amy Wu’s family and their own. 

Discussion questions: What steps are needed  to make bao just like Amy Wu’s family does in the book? Is there a special dish in your family that requires multiple steps too?

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by: Nikki Grimes 

This story follows the amazing Kamala Harris, daughter of immigrants and the first Black woman and Asian American person to be elected as Vice President of the United States. The story begins with Harris as a young child fighting for justice and freedom with her parents and how she took those same beliefs with her as she grew up. 

Activity: Use the information in the story to complete a pennant about Kamala Harris using this resource.

Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis

This read aloud celebrates Hawaiian culture and family. The story is simple, with each page building on to the next one, but don’t let that deter you from reading it to your class.  Elementary students of any age would enjoy this poetic story of a Hawaiin family as they farm taro for poi in preparation for a luau. The illustrations alone let the reader in on how this Hawaiian family prepares for a traditional luau. 

Discussion question: What special characteristics do you notice about the family as they prepare for the luau? 

Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom 

By: Teresa Robeson

This incredible, kid-friendly biography of Wu Chien Shiung shows her determination as she faces many difficulties in her lifetime- from attending school in a time where girls in China didn’t really go to school to facing sexism and racism in her career. Despite these hardships, this read aloud shows how Wu Chien Shiung became many “firsts” in the world of science. 

Activity: Continue the story of Wu Chien Shiung with this close reading comprehension activity. 

The Most Beautiful Thing by: Kao Kalia Yang

What is better than a read aloud that teaches a lesson? The Most Beautiful Thing not only teaches a powerful lesson on what is really important in life, but this lesson is taught while also showing the readers the story of a Vietnamese family. This read aloud is inspired by the author’s experience as a Hmong refugee which makes it all that much more special. 

Discussion question: What is a special lesson you have learned from a family member or friend? 

Sharing read alouds with your elementary students can be so beneficial, especially during important times in the school year such as Asian Pacific Islander Month. These beautiful Asian Pacific Islander stories celebrate family, the food that brings us together, the hardships some people face and the lessons that can be learned. I hope your students enjoy these books and their lessons as much as mine did!