I had such a wonderful time presenting Sumo Joe to 225 kindergarteners and first graders at Sowams and Nayatt Elementary Schools in Barrington, Rhode Island. The Barrington public school librarians created an Asian & Pacific Islander (APICBA) Community Book Award 2022 program to introduce all the students at the elementary schools to the five picture books they selected. In addition to the students, anyone in the community can vote, and a winner will be announced at the end of the month.
I was thrilled to present two different programs to these voters! For the Kindergarteners, we acted out Sumo Joe, while sitting on our bums. We counted to ten both in English and Japanese. We learned to tie on the mawashi (the sumo belt). We learned two different training drills for sumo: teppo and shiko. Finally, in our pillow ring, we tried Aikido Jo’s move. Kiyah!
For the first graders, I recounted my publishing journey for Sumo Joe. They guessed if I had won the picture book competition that I entered. (I did not!). I showed them all the steps of the book from scribbled notes, to illustration sketches, to F&G (Folded and Gathered), and finally, to the finished book. The revision process is long and not unlike what they do in class! In fact, they were all writing their own books!
Thank you to the school librarians at the Barrington Public School system for creating this reading program to introduce kids to Asian Pacific American children’s books! In the wake of book banning across the country, particularly of BIPOC and other minority creators, this is a quiet statement of support.
I look forward to returning to present Changing the Game: Asian Pacific American Female Athletes to the third graders later this year!
Asian & Pacific Islander (APICBA) Community Book Award 2022 voting is still taking place. Below are the current stats:
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.