In support of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, and as part of our commitment to provide access to books and crucial resources across all communities, the Scholastic Possible Fund has committed to a donation of 1,000 books to TeachAAPI, on the recommendation of our AANHPI@Scholastic Employee Resource Group. TeachAAPI is a non-profit organization whose goal is to strengthen identity and self-advocacy for future generations of AAPI children while developing allyship with all children.
Learn more about TeachAAPI by visiting their website.
Below is our interview with two of TeachAAPI’s Co-Founders, Renee Yang and Serena Minikes.
How did TeachAAPI get started?
Renee Yang: It started at the height of COVID during a time when there was a lot of Asian hate. My co-founder and I both had sons who faced anti-Asian discrimination. That’s really what motivated us to develop an organization that focused on education. We’re really proud to drive both our identity-building but also inclusion around this organization.
What is the mission and vision of TeachAAPI?
Serena Minikes: Our mission at TeachAAPI is to weave AAPI or Asian American and Pacific Islander experiences into our collective identity as Americans. Our mission is that this next generation of Americans will innately envision AAPI cultures, peoples, and stories as part of America.
What are the efforts that go into building community programming and resources?
Renee: Our organization really believes that at the end of the day, education is the key to creating a more inclusive future for our next generation of Americans. When we say Americans, we really mean all Americans. So as an organization, we work to curate, create, and collaborate on AAPI resources that support the needs of both students and educators. For our students, our priority is creating immersive and engaging programs that are adaptable and suitable for learners of today and tomorrow. We’re really focused on how kids learn today and how they best absorb information.
Our programming is focused on storytelling in many forms— it’s heavy on engagement and retention, and we’re also keen to uncover little known or lesser-known stories that students may not be aware of.
And for teachers, our emphasis is really on offering resources that are ready to go— what we call ‘Shelf Ready.’ We know that teachers are so busy and time-strapped. So, our focus is on creating and curating content that is pre-vetted, adaptive, and easy for them to pick up and share with their students.
Scholastic has committed to donating books to TeachAAPI. How will the books be used to help build the AAPI community while also cultivating a love for reading?
Serena: Our plan starts in the late summer early fall, when kids are gearing up to go back to school and when teachers and parents are getting ready for this next year. We’ll reach out to the larger educational community across the nation via our networks to offer a bundle of middle school-focused curated books for teachers, students, and parents who are interested in nominating their school or classroom for this opportunity. We’ll invite these students or teachers to join and continue sharing their DEIB journey through a love of reading.
We chose middle school as an entry point as it gives us a unique opportunity to encourage students to advocate for themselves and for the inclusion and representation of AAPI stories in education. Our goal is to enhance the awareness of AAPI stories, self-advocacy, and learning and growth through storytelling. So much of our content and resources are designed to engage a classroom and further its love of reading with adventure through words. We hope this program will reach and engage middle school students across the country.
How do you envision the nonprofit organization expanding its outreach to the AAPI community?
Renee: When we talk about outreach it’s not just to the AAPI community, we really believe that it’s about sharing AAPI stories with all children, with the next generation broadly. We started in Los Angeles during COVID but because it was during this time—out of necessity— we were really focused on sharing our content and our programming through virtual and online means.
Over the course of the last two years, we’ve actually seen technology, virtual and online programming, as a true advantage. It actually gives us an opportunity to accelerate AAPI education and provide access to all communities across the nation, big and small. It enables us to call it ‘barrier free’ which means that our programs are able to span the country, and span across geographic, bureaucratic and even political boundaries. When I think about it, a lot of our outreach comes to us from small towns in the middle of the country, and we’re able to service them because of the way our format delivers our programming. We know this is really important because many teachers are facing a lot of challenges today— beyond being busy and time-starved.
Whether it is the access to books and diverse lesson plans; whether it is advocacy or representative materials in the classrooms; or even connecting with like-minded educators like themselves; we really think that our format and our approach help to enable that reach across the nation, so we’re really excited about that. We see ourselves and our goal as being a resource for all educators and students.
How can people get involved with TeachAAPI?
Serena: We’re always looking for parents, educators, school administrators, and allies to help spread the word about our organization and our resources to their communities. It really is a word-of-mouth organization. If you’re interested in learning more, being part of the conversation, or sponsoring this cause, you can find us by visiting our website: https://teachaapi.org/. We’re on Instagram and have a Facebook Community Group, so come and join us and say hello!
Is there anything else you would like to mention?
Renee: We have a deep appreciation for the Scholastic community in selecting our organization as the organization of choice for this month. It means a lot to us to be partnering with such an amazing, reputable brand that Serena and I, as parents, both love because we have kids who are massive Scholastic fans.