Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Early Chinese-American History Books for Kids for Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month | Blog Hop & Link Up

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month is a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States: the cultures, traditions and histories. Encompassing the Asian continent, Pacific Islands and Polynesia, this is a celebration of many varied and rich cultures. 

Learn more about 10 notable Asian Pacific Americans with Scholastic

After spending a year learning about China, it seems fitting for our family to learn a bit more about the history of Chinese-Americans. The Chinese were the first Asians to arrive to the US in large numbers, with thousands arriving in California during the gold rush of the 1850s. They would sign five year contracts to work in the mines, and when they were done they would prospect or work as laborers, domestic workers and fishermen. 

Chinese working on the transcontinental railroad
Photo source: The Library of Congress
Because of labor shortages, in 1865 the Central Pacific Railroad began recruiting Chinese laborers to work on the transcontinental railroad. By 1868, 80% of the Central Pacific workforce was Chinese. The work was dangerous and difficult, the conditions harsh, and the pay meagre. Despite this incredible contribution, Chinese immigrants suffered increasing prejudice, taxes and restrictive laws. In fact, in 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act - the first American immigration restriction aimed at one ethnic group, this act prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers and was in effect until 1943. 

Children's Books About Early Chinese-American History

Historical fiction is a great way to learn about heritage and culture. Following are a few books we particularly appreciated that explore Chinese American history for all ages. 

Please note some links to book titles are affiliated with Amazon. Any purchases made through these links may earn this blog a small commission. Thanks for your support!

Coolies by Yin is the beautifully illustrated story of two brothers who immigrate to the United States to work on the Transcontinental railway. This is a great book for kids to learn about the dangers and discrimination faced by the Chinese railway workers that made such an important contribution to American history.
Age range 7-10 (but would definitely be enjoyed by older elementary kids)
Brothers by Yin, a sequel to Coolies, is the story of a young boy who just arrives in San Francisco from China to live with his brother who runs a store in Chinatown. This beautifully illustrated story gives a sense of San Francisco in the 1880's, the fears and prejudices experienced by Chinese immigrants, and the power of looking beyond racial differences. There's also an endpage with historical information about Irish and Chinese immigration, as well as the development of Chinatown. Age range 7-10 (but would definitely be enjoyed by older elementary kids)

Earthquake by Milly Lee is a picture book describing one family's experience during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. This book is based on the true story of the author's mother and includes a fascinating end page with historical information about earthquake, and the struggle for safety many faced. 
Age range 4-8

Landed by Milly Lee is another great, informational picture story book about early Chinese immigration. Based on her father in law's true story, a 12 year old boy leaves China for the "Gold Mountain" in America. Because of the 1882 Chinese exclusion act, he is detained at Angel Island for weeks. This is a great book to learn about the fear and preparations many Chinese went through in hopes of finding a new home. 
Age range 9-12

Paper Son: Lee's Journey to America (Tales of Young Americans) by Helen Foster James is another beautifully illustrated book telling the story of young Chinese immigrants who hope to move to America for a better life. Being a paper son means he has to pretend to be the son of a family that already lives in America, which means weeks of preparations to answer the hours of interrogations found on Angel Island. 
Age range 7-11

The Gold Mountain Chronicles by Laurence Yep follow the lives of the extended Young family as they migrate from China to America, and their changing lives in the US over 150 years. The books can be read as stand alone or as a series, with Mountain Light, Dragon's Gate (Golden Mountain Chronicles, 1867) *, and Dragonwings * especially shedding a light on the plights of early Chinese Americans. 
*Both of these books are award winners. 
Age range: 8-12

Want more books and activities to celebrate Asian-Pacific Heritage Month?

  • Pragmatic Mom features books and book lists galore. You can find her recommendations tagged for Asian Americans here
  • Crafty Moms Share put together an excellent resource of books featuring the various cultures celebrated for Asian-Pacific heritage month that can be found here
  • All of the books featuring China and the Chinese culture that we read and enjoyed in 2013 are tagged here
  • Our Top 10 posts of 2013 exploring the Chinese culture can be found here.
  • Tutorials to learn about the Four Great Chinese inventions with far reaching and historical impact can be found here.
  • My pinterest boards to explore China Japan, India and Hawaii
  • Check out the great posts put together by the co-hosts of this blog hop that celebrate these diverse cultures and the various activities linked up to the linky below.
Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Blog Hop - Multicultural Kid Blogs
In honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, Multicultural Kid Blogs is sponsoring a blog hop, and you are invited! We are celebrating the cultures and peoples of this diverse region by sharing our posts and asking other bloggers to do the same! Our hope is to create a wonderful resource for celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month with children. Be sure to visit the co-hosts of the blog hop (listed below) and share your own posts at the linky at the bottom! You can find even more resources on this region in our Asia and Australia and Oceania boards on Pinterest!


  1. What a fabulous selection of books! Is this linky suitable to link my Chinese posts up to? (If I have the time, that is. I seem to be wasting a lot of my time sleeping at the moment! How on earth does one maintain a blog at the same time as sleeping for 8 hours each night?)

    1. This is absolutely suitable to Chinese posts! It is hard to maintain a blog and sleep a good night's sleep - but especially if you are also raising and homeschooling 5 kids!! (In fact, I have been neglecting this blog a bit over the past few days, which is why I just got around to checking out the comments)

  2. My kids are 1/4 Chinese American and they don't really know this history (as it really isn't their own background since their grandfather was the first to immigrate to the United States) so thank you for this wonderful list! Thank you also for joining us for Multicultural Children's Book Day!!

  3. What a fantastic list! I'm so glad you shared this today & thanks for supporting Multicultural Children's Book Day!

  4. Wow! I definitely want to get some these books for my son! Since we're immigrants too, it would be interesting for them to learn what people had to go through earlier!


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