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Guide to Observing Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) is proud to recognize and celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, during which time we honor and celebrate the culture, history, and contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders. Observance of AAPI Heritage Month began in 1978, and in 1992, Congress passed a law designating May as AAPI Heritage Month.


Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month in classrooms and schools can help students and families feel seen, heard, and valued –– and it creates space for all students to learn about the contributions of Asian/Pacific Islander Americans to our country’s prosperity and spirit. 

As we celebrate our country’s Asian/Pacific Islander American heritage, it is important that we also address any barriers or challenges that Asian/Pacific Islander Americans may face in their efforts to reach their utmost potential. We know that America is stronger, both here at home and on the world stage, when we harness the strength of every voice and every community that makes up our nation.

We aim for SDCOE to be a place where, in accordance with our board goal of providing educational opportunities and support so that all students are successful, we prioritize the specific needs of Asian/Pacific Islander Americans and all historically marginalized communities in our policy and ongoing dialogues.

About Asian American Pacific Islander Students

The overarching term of AAPI includes cultures from the Asian continent — including East, Southeast and South Asia — and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. According to the Pew Research Center, AAPI people are a diverse and growing population that make up about 7% of the total U.S. population. As of 2021, there were about 24 million people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the United States.

Supporting AAPI Students 

Listening to Students and Community Members 

SDCOE seeks to listen to diverse voices within our community and honor their knowledge and beliefs about educational concerns and best practices for our students. These statements were shared by Asian/Pacific Islander American students and community members, and we strive to listen and amplify these voices:

  • Center students’ languages, literacies, cultures, and histories
  • Diversify the curriculum, ensuring positive representation
  • Support parent/family voice
  • Ensure safe and inclusive classrooms
  • Learn about and accommodate for cultural holidays
  • Collaborate with community partners

Resources for Educators 

Deeper Learning

These resources contain information and opportunities to learn more about the AAPI community and to deepen understanding of the identities and challenges of the AAPI community.

Books by Grade Level

Grades TK-3

  • Drawn Together, by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat
  • Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho
  • Home is in Between, by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Lavanya Naidoo
  • Love is in the Library, by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Yas Imamura
  • Watercress, by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin

Grades 4-8

  • Amina’s Song by Hena Khan
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang
  • Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
  • Stargazing by Jen Wang
  • When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Grades 9-12

  • From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry by Paula Yoo
  • Himawari House by Harmony Becker
  • Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malindo Lo
  • They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker
  • We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

Countering Racism in Schools

Intentionally learning about our Asian/Pacific Islander students, families, and colleagues –– during AAPI Heritage Month and throughout the year –– builds understanding, fosters inclusion, and nurtures allyship. SDCOE created a guide for educators to address anti-Asian hate with ways to listen to our students, create space for healing dialogue, and acknowledge and address current events. 

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