The month of May is also known as Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and the language arts department organized a thematic read-aloud series for students that highlighted AAPI voices and stories. Three books were selected and read by faculty and staff members.
Manhattan Middle School Teacher Shirley Hwang read Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma by Joanna Ho
Westchester Middle School Teacher Katherine Kaneko read Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites by Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence
Director of Information Technology Dr. Kwamé LaBassiere read Mop Rides the Waves of Life: A Story of Mindfulness and Surfing by Jaimal Yogis
In the first read aloud to sixth and seventh graders, Ms. Hwang read the story of how Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma played the six cello suites, composed by Bach, at the U.S.-Mexico border in April 2019 to demonstrate that music can build bridges between different cultures. Before reading, Ms. Hwang introduced Mr. Ma and his background to the middle school students, including a sample of one of his musical performances. The students were interested in how Mr. Ma was committed to increasing global connections through his Bach Project and asked Ms. Hwang many follow-up questions about the artist.
The next read aloud for third-grade students was centered on Japanese-American chef Niki Nakayama and her journey to opening a Michelin-starred restaurant in Los Angeles. Ms. Kaneko, who was born and raised in Tokyo and visited LA each summer, shared some of her personal connections to the settings featured in the book. As the character of Niki visited Tokyo, Ms. Kaneko was able to point out illustrations of real-life landmarks and towns that were familiar to her from her own childhood.
The fifth graders participated in the last AAPI Month read-aloud selection with Dr. LaBassiere. The book’s main character, Mop, was influenced by the author’s time living in Hawaii. The story depicts how Mop learns to navigate challenges in school and in life thanks to the lessons he learns on the water while surfing. Dr. LaBassiere is close friends with the author, and he is a surfer and surf instructor as well. The fifth-grade students were very interested to learn more about Dr. LaBassiere’s surfing background and how he practices mindfulness in his daily life.