A national nonprofit is hoping to bring more books with Asian American Pacific Islander characters to classrooms.

The Very Asian Foundation is working to share the stories of the Asian community. The foundation launched “The May Book Project,” which helps schools nationwide build their collection of children’s books featuring Asian characters.

“We feel it is important for all kids to see themselves reflected in books and to see all kids reflected,” Very Asian Foundation Executive Director Soogi Hong said.“I think it’s really about understanding and being able to appreciate the differences and that those differences can be celebrated. Not to be made fun of, but that they can be proud of their heritage, that they don’t need to blend in, and that they are special.”

On May 24, the foundation hosted an event at Estrella Elementary in South Los Angeles where they donated books and two authors – publisher Karen Chan and Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon – read to the students.

“I think that is what events like this and books like this are doing for our younger generation, which is to expose them to the breadth and depth and beauty of humanity and hopefully show how we can celebrate our differences but also at the same time feel like we’re all the same in some way,” Shannon Lee said.

“The Asian American Pacific Islander community is very big, we’re very diverse, we have all kinds of different stories, we speak different languages, and at the end of the day we’re all human and we all have very human experiences,” Chan said.

Estrella Elementary is 93% Hispanic and only 0.2% Asian. Still, the students were very excited to learn about a different culture.

“They really show that their culture is very independent and they are not any different than any other people,” student Alice Ruiz said.

“I’m going to remember to always acknowledge different people and their cultures and be respectful,” Anthony Perez said.

Anyone interested in helping school libraries add to their collections featuring Asian characters can make a donation to the Very Asian Foundation. They hope to donate books to school nationwide.

More information is available at veryasianfoundation.org.

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