Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Fishtank

May 03, 2023

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month provides an opportunity for students to focus on the voices and experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout history during the month of May. While Fishtank ELA highlights these voices in all grades and across units year round, we know it can be particularly impactful to dedicate this time to these stories. To help you make the most of this time, we’ve collected some of our favorite texts and units to teach for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.


Elementary School Highlights

In the kindergarten Falling in Love with Authors and Illustrators unit, students are introduced to the work of award-winning Taiwanese-American author and illustrator Grace Lin. Students learn about Lin’s life, her inspiration for becoming an author and illustrator, and think critically about how her life relates to the texts of the unit. The four Grace Lin texts that students read center around Asian and Asian-American characters, experiences, and traditions: The Ugly Vegetable, Kite Flying, Dim Sum for Everyone, and Fortune Cookie Fortunes.

Images from the Falling in Love with Authors and Illustrators unit

In 1st grade, students explore traditional stories from a variety of countries and connect them to their own lives in the Folktales Around the World unit. These folktales include The Paper Crane, a retelling of an ancient Japanese folktale, and Ming Lo Loves the Mountain, a literary folktale set in China. Through text and illustrations, students are able to recognize similarities and differences in the setting, characters, and key details of traditional stories. Students continue to explore the ways in which stories are told across the world in the Making Old Stories New unit. Students read Lon Po Po, A Red-Riding Hood Story From China and assess how the author changes characters, setting, and plot to reflect nuances of Chinese culture.

Images from the Folktales Around the World and Making Old Stories New units

In the biography-based 2nd grade unit People Who Changed the World, students learn about the lives and legacies of famous change agents. The unit begins with Honda: The Boy who Dreamed of Cars, which tells the story of pioneering Japanese businessman and innovator Soichiro Honda. Later in the unit, students learn about Chinese-American physicist Wu Chien Shiung and her battle against both sexism and racism, and her contributions to our understanding of the atom. 

Students revisit author and illustrator Grace Lin in the 4th grade unit Finding Fortune: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Through reading Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a fantasy novel inspired by Chinese folklore, students explore what it means to have good fortune and how a person’s family shapes their identity, values, and beliefs.

Images from the People Who Changed the World and Finding Fortunes unit


Middle School Highlights

In the 6th grade unit Expressing Yourself: Women in the Arts, students explore the topic of “coming of age” through stories of female artists of color who have fought to claim their space in the world of art. As part of this unit, students learn about the events and ideas that shaped Japanese-American sculptor Ruth Asawa’s life and inspired her work. 

7th grade students begin their yearlong exploration of what it means to be American with the Defining America: Poems, Essays, and Short Stories unit. Students explore a variety of voices, texts, and genres including an essay by Korean-American screenwriter and playwright Jason Kim in which he reflects on how setting and specific experiences shaped his identity. Students also read “Peaches” to explore how author Adrienne Su connects to both her Chinese and American identities.

Continuing their exploration of what it means to be an American, students read the acclaimed graphic novel American Born Chinese in the 7th grade Exploring Identity unit. Students discuss the American experience through the lens of a young boy’s conflicted relationship with his Chinese-American identity. The unit includes several supplemental nonfiction texts that help students uncover the power of stereotypes and bias, the role of the media in creating and perpetuating stereotypes, and the impact of stereotypes on individuals—including the author of American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang.

In the 8th grade unit Facing Calamity: Climate Change Facts and Fictions, students investigate whether humans are fundamentally good or evil through the lens of the climate crisis and its causes and impacts, the role of government, businesses, and individuals in finding solutions. Students read “Statement and Poem” by climate activist and Marshall Islands native Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner that addresses the issue of climate change in an open letter to her young daughter. Students also learn about the specific impact of climate change on the Marshall Islands in addition to other areas of the world.


Stay up to date with timely texts and ideas for engaging students year round on the Fishtank Blog and our social media accounts. We want to know how you’re celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ stories this month! Tell us your favorite texts to teach and activities for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

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