Welcome to Top Grade: CanLit for the Classroom, a blog and preview video series that features new releases from Canadian book publishers ideal for use in K-12 classrooms and school library collections. Throughout the year, we dive into new titles, highlighting relevant curriculum links and themes.
Written by secondary school teacher Spencer Miller
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increase of anti-Asian hate in Canada. Members of the Asian community experienced racist attitudes and attacks both in-person and online. People responded all across Canada by protesting and speaking out, helping to draw attention to the problem.
In March of 2023, the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) released a report looking back at this time and what we can learn from it.
A key finding that educators should know is that a lack of anti-Asian racism awareness in school may have contributed Asian-Canadian students to internalizing their experiences of racism as their fault. One of the report’s Calls to Action for educators is to “develop comprehensive anti-racism education that includes the history and current context of anti-Asian racism”.
Where can educators start?
This year there has been an encouraging amount of new books from Asian-Canadian creators with positive representation and empowering messages for young readers. Teachers can use these books to raise awareness of anti-Asian racism and encourage young readers to celebrate the diverse culture and history of Asian communities in Canada.
Teachers should plan to share a variety of stories from Asian-Canadian creators throughout the school year. Include stories that deal directly with anti-Asian racism and other stories that entertain students, make them laugh, and encourage them to explore.
Include Asian-Canadian voices in your classroom with these brand-new books.
Once, A Bird (ages 3-5) is a wordless picture book reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic. It carries a hopeful message about our interconnectedness with the natural world and the hope that nature brings us.
The Little Green Envelope (ages 3-6) explores what it feels like to be far away from our friends, a relatable feeling for children who have had to isolate during the pandemic. In the story, a young girl named Olive uses a little green envelope to send a letter to her far-away friend.
Kai’s Tea Eggs (ages 3-7) is a magical celebration of Chinese culture and food! Ming the Dragon takes Kai on a journey to learn about her culture in preparation for Multicultural Day at her school.
100 Chapatis (ages 4-7) carries a gentle lesson about patience in a story about a young boy and his grandfather making one hundred chapatis while they wait for the news of the boys new baby sibling’s arrival.
The Words We Share (ages 4-7) celebrates the connections between parent and child. In highly relatable story to children of immigrants, a young girl helps her dad navigate life in a new country where she understands the language more than he does. Check out the Educator Guide and video introduction.
Mira and Baku (ages 4-7) shows the power of imagination in helping children process grief and trauma. In a story set during Japanese Canadian incarceration in World War II, a young girl searches for her missing father with the help of a magical friend. Check out the Educator Guide and learn how to draw Baku.
In Bompa’s Insect Expedition (ages 4-8) readers are taken into the transfixing world of insects. This story celebrates time with grandparents and shows kids that you don't have to go far to have an adventure in nature.
Kimiko Murakami: A Japanese-Canadian Pioneer (ages 4-8) is the biographical story of an inspiring Japanese-Canadian pioneer and internment camp survivor, beautifully illustrated for a young audience. Watch the book trailer.
Everyone is Welcome (ages 6-8) is a book to begin a conversation about anti-Asian hate, thoughtfully teaching young readers about racism and how it can be countered in our communities. The story follows a young girl who notices instances of racism in her community and decides to do something about it.
Vee in Between (ages 6-8) is based on the author’s childhood experiences as a transracial adoptee. In the story, Vee feels like she doesn’t belong and her white parents don’t always understand. Vee learns to embrace every part of herself. Watch Vee in Between in the news.
Emi & Mini (ages 6-8) is a heartwarming story of a little girl's growing love for her pet hamster. Initially, Emi is disappointed in her pet, preferring a dog. But after her hamster goes missing, she realizes how much she cares.
In The Journey of the Ancestors’ Gifts (ages 6-9) the Nguyen kids are back and going on vacation! It’s their first time visiting Vietnam, the childhood home of their Grandma Nội. Another fantastic entry in the series. Check out The Nguyen Kids series educator guide.
Mehndi Boy (ages 6-11) is an affirming story about a young boy who falls in love with the art of mehndi. When his favourite uncle tells him mehndi isn’t for boys, Tehzeeb must find the courage to be his true creative self. Watch author Zain Bandali introduce the book.
In Obaasan’s Boots (ages 9-12) cousins Lou and Charlotte spend the day with their grandmother in the garden. Grandma shares her experience as a Japanese Canadian during WWII, revealing the painful story of Japanese internment. Lou and Charlotte come to understand how history has shaped their identity.
The Unloveable Alina Butt (ages 9-12) dives into all the messiness and embarrassment of growing up. Alina struggles to fit in after changing schools four times since her family moved to England from Pakistan. Her wacky sense of humour helps her find her unique way to shine. Check out the helpful Teacher Guide.
Spencer Miller is a teacher, writer, reader, and fan of the Toronto Raptors. He is currently pursuing graduate studies at the University of Calgary (Treaty 7). You can follow more of Spencer’s passion for books on Instagram @YACanadaBooks.
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