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Connecting with Our Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Roots Through Stories

Explore and celebrate heritage as a family with books, movies, and TV shows.

Child and parent having conversation while looking at laptop

What stories do we want to pass on to the next generation? Storytelling is an important tradition for Asians, shaping our languages, history, and art across a vast diaspora. The tradition may look a bit different in the digital age, but its ability to connect, inform, and inspire remains the same.

The history of Asian communities in the United States goes back centuries, yet we're only now starting to see ourselves on-screen and in books. Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month gives us the chance to reflect on our stories and the values we want to share with our children.

The next time you settle down to read or watch something with your family, consider using these tips to spark conversations about our cultures, communities, and more.

Making Connections and Learning More About Your Own Heritage

From their earliest years, kids begin to develop an ethnic-racial identity, based -- in part -- on their environment. That's why it's so important for kids to see their own race and ethnicity shown in a positive and authentic way in media. It can also help build self-esteem, especially for children of color.

Use age-appropriate books, shows, and movies to dig deeper into your family's heritage and history. When you read Beautifully Me, what similarities can your child find with Zubi's Bangladeshi family? Does your breakfast tradition include parathas too? Or if you're watching Mira, Royal Detective, what can you share about the lively music and dancing? Help your kids connect with stories like these by relating the events to their own lives.

Exploring Other Cultures and the Diversity of AANHPI Communities

Aside from our collective love of tea, there's an incredible amount of diversity among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Exposing kids to these diverse identities and experiences doesn't just make their worlds richer, but also helps them develop positive attitudes toward others.

Consider using screens and books as starting points to learn about other communities. Encourage your kids to read books set in Asia and the Pacific, or check out powerful stories of Asian immigrant families. Then discuss the similarities and differences from your own lives to expand your child's understanding. From Moana to Ms. Marvel, we now have a variety of narratives to be inspired by and learn from!

Having Conversations About Difficult Topics

Media can also be a powerful tool to talk about issues that families of color know all too well. Topics like the rise in anti-Asian hate in recent years or the constant stereotyping of our cultures can be hard to approach with kids.

When you do come across negative portrayals, explain the problems you see to your kids and reflect on them together. Reading reviews of kids' entertainment like books and movies ahead of time can help you keep in mind your child's age and ability to process these issues. And don't forget to balance these discussions with stories of joy and resilience -- we may face many challenges, but there's always hope and triumph.

Of course, we deserve to be seen, heard, and honored beyond May. There's more work to be done, but we can also appreciate the amazing stories of AANHPI communities that are finally being centered. We can hope that representation helps our youth proudly claim their cultures and narratives. After all, they're the next generation of storytellers.

For more ways to celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, click here.

Raisa Masood

Raisa is passionate about helping kids thrive, which has led to her making a career out of reading and watching children's media. As a content editor at Common Sense, she works on tips and advice for families on managing media and tech at home. She has also previously worked in children's publishing and nonprofit organizations. Raisa loves to read, travel, and watch soccer. You can find her exploring New York City during her free time, and trying to hunt down the best dumplings in the city (she has a never-ending list).