Celebrate AANHPI Heritage Month

A note from Evelyn DeJesus, Executive Vice President of AFT

Happy Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! May is a time to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of the more than 24 million AANHPI’s in the United States.

The AANHPI community is the fastest growing and most diverse racial and ethnic group in the United States. It’s a mosaic of rich cultural and ethnic identities which represents over 100 languages and 50 ethnic groups. AANHPIs have made significant social, economic, cultural, literary, culinary, and political contributions to American life.

Asian American workers have been integral to the U.S. labor movement since the 1800s when plantation workers in the Hawaiian Islands began forming unions to protest working conditions and continue to play critical roles to date. 
It's also not lost on me that this year’s celebration is different than previous years. As we emerge from the global pandemic, many in our communities are still grieving loss, and some members of our AAPI communities have been victims of discrimination, racial slurs, assault and even death. According to the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center close to 3,800 racist incidents were reported last year a significant increase from previous years. We must not only bear witness to but be active participants in the calls for racial equality, justice and healing. This is the time to come together and stand united against all forms of hate. To learn more about the AFTs stop Asian hate campaign visit www.aft.org/stopasianhate

Join me in honoring this important month by posting selfies with the AFT #AAPIPROUD signs and call out the need to #STOPAAPIHate. Let’s use this moment to celebrate AANHPI heritage month by reading books highlighting AAPI authors, characters, accomplishments, and everyday experiences of individuals who are Asian, Native Hawaiian, & Pacific Islander. We also want to encourage you to share these important resources and stories with students, colleagues and family members year-round, not just during the month of May!

As a grandmother of two half Asian grandchildren, I know how important it is for our students to read books that reflect their lived experience and culture. 
Over the years, the AFT and First Book have distributed hundreds of thousands of books highlighting diverse authors, characters and cultures—including bilingual titles. Through our partnership, we have supported school libraries, back-to-school efforts, citizenship clinics and large-scale resource distributions across the country, including in Guam, California, New York and Florida, to provide high-quality books, school supplies and basic-needs items to predominately AANHPI communities.

AAHNPI Heritage Month


AAPI Task Force member Tracy Lai reflects on AAPI heritage, anti-AAPI hate and the importance of teaching true history.
Join our community in celebrating the generations of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans who have enriched global society, playing a critical role in its development and success with a wealth of digital resources.
Colorín Colorado celebrates Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage and History all year round with dynamic booklists, multimedia resources, and classroom activities!
Our Asian & Pacific Islander Characters & Cultures section includes books that spotlight the diversity, histories, cultures, and experiences among those who identify as Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander.

Read aloud tips for AAHNPI Heritage Month

Read alouds are a great way to share stories with your students during AANHPI Heritage Month and year-round! It’s important for students to see themselves and identify with the authors, issues or themes being covered in the books they are reading. Here are some tips to have a great read aloud celebration!

Tip #1: Choose Your Read Aloud Space

Find a cozy space for you and your students to read together. Creating positive reading experiences is important to cultivating connection and a love for reading with students. Choosing a read aloud space that your students usually gravitate to like an area of the room with comfortable chairs, or a large amount of space is always a good choice. If this type of space does not already exist in your classroom, try getting your students input on how to rearrange the classroom during read aloud time to create a positive atmosphere.

Tip #2: Encourage Questions

While the highlight of a read aloud is obviously the top-notch voice acting skills of the educator, encourage your students to engage with the text as well. Let children ask questions in real time if a concept or theme comes up that needs more explanation. If stopping to take questions in real time does not work for your class flow, encourage kids to write their questions in a journal to ask following the read aloud.

Tip #3: Choose the Parts of the Books You Would Like to Focus On

Do not feel pressured to finish an entire book aloud. Choose the specific parts of the books that you would like to explore with your class as a group. Is there a very engaging dilemma that the protagonist has now encountered that you want to break down more? Have you noticed the title starts off a bit slower and is not as engaging to students? These are all moments to have a read aloud.

Bonus Tip: Reading aloud is a great way to encourage family interaction and family literacy! Select titles (or portions of titles) that are meaningful to your students and families that can be read before bed or during family time.

Other Timely Classroom Resources

  • Teachers Guide. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage and History in the U.S. by EDSITEment a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Trust for the Humanities.
  • Learning for Justice. Teaching Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage.
  • Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center. A museum without walls.