Reading Together Book Project

The Minnesota Humanities Center's collaborative work with the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans (CAPM) focuses on amplifying missing narratives from the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, increasing access and building upon the excellence of arts and cultural programs, and building capacity. The Reading Together Project seeks to address the lack of children’s books that speak to the experience of being an Asian Pacific Islander (API) child or youth in the United States. The project supports the development of English literacy skills while recognizing cultural heritage, and creating opportunities for children and families to learn about API cultural heritage together.

2013 Reading Together Book Project

The Minnesota Humanities Center and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans are pleased to announce 2013 Reading Together Book titles are now available for purchase through


Linh and the Red Envelope,
Written by Diane Tran and
Illustrated by Alex Shimkus
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The lunar new year is here, and Linh wants to help her mom prepare for the big celebration. There is much to do around the house before the family reunion dinner. Try as she might to help her mom with the traditional customs that bring good luck in the new year, Linh keeps making mistakes.

Will she and Pinky the stuffed pig fix their messes in time to get a lucky red envelope?

Melody of Qeej,
Written by Mai Kou Xiong and
Illustrated by Vang P. Lee
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Phengxue was always too busy with soccer and friends to take an interest in the ancient Hmong qeej (“keng”), until his two best friends encounter the instrument during a visit. Their curiosity brings them to Grandfather, whose wisdom teaches the three boys the importance of the qeej during Hmong funerals. Not only does this instrument play beautiful melodies, it also guides a loved one’s soul back to the land of the ancestors. Phengxue’s heart is pulled by its soft music, as if the qeej is speaking to him, nudging him to learn this special instrument.

Will he answer its call to become a great qeej player?

Night Breeze,
Written by Steve Wright and
Illustrated by Ilhwa Gloria Kim
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Ian loves to gaze at the night sky and longs to discover the mystery of his birth story and adoption from the Philippines. Who is his birth mother, and why did she leave him at an orphanage when Ian was a newborn?

Ian discovers that the stars may contain answers that will point him home so that he can take his place among the stars.

Tawan the Sun Girl,
Written by Chay Douangphouxay and Illustrated by Alex Kuno
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Before a Lao child is born, the child’s parents spend endless nights trying to think of the perfect name. Once the name is carefully and lovingly chosen, the child must strive to live up to that name. If the child is successful, it will bring great honor and joy to the family. But if the child fails, it can bring much sadness and misfortune.

Each of the characters in Tawan: The Sun Girl has been given a special and meaningful name. Their names were given as a guide to help them become better people. But when the true test of life comes knocking on their door, will Tawan, Din, Nom, and Prince Jaiboun choose to live up to their names?


Chay Douangphouxay is an award winning Lao-Khmer American artist/activist from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ms. Douangphouxay uses her art to educate and inspire others to advocate for their communities. Her first solo chapbook, Remission: Finding Light In the Midst of Social Darkness was released as part of the 2012 Legacy Fellowship Grant and has been widely utilized as a national educational tool on issues of class, gender, and race. Chay is the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Twin Cities Chapter of National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), a national organization working to forge a grassroots progressive movement to advance social justice and human rights for Asian-Pacific Islander (API) women and girls. When Steve Wright was younger, his heroes were athletes who could hit the ball the farthest, throw the hardest, or run the fastest. As Steve grew older, he came to realize that the true heroes are our storytellers. The true power of a story lies in its ability to meet the readers where they are at and to transport and transform the reader simultaneously. As a 5th grade teacher, Steve’s best days in the classroom are when storytellers come and cast their spell on his students in ways that no others can reach them. Steve bats right and throws right.
Mai Kou Xiong came to the United States when she was eight years old and settled in Santa Barbara, California. Mai Kou has been an educator for 17 years, teaching math and coordinating Hmong literacy and culture programs and currently works as the Hmong reading intervention specialist for the Hmong Dual Immersion Program at Jackson Preparatory Magnet School. Ms. Xiong co-hosts a Hmong talk show called “Xav Paub Xav Pom” with 3Hmoob TV and reports on critical issues and events that affect the Hmong community. Mai Kou is one of the authors of the children’s book Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella with Dr. Jewell Reinhart Coburn, and they are in the process of publishing their next book, The Enchanted Necklace. Diane Tran manages electoral and advocacy projects at Grassroots Solutions, a national consulting firm specializing in grassroots strategy, organizing, training, and evaluation. Ms. Tran serves on the boards of directors for the Citizens League, the Minnesota Public Health Association, and the Leaders of Today and Tomorrow Program of the League of Women Voters Minnesota. Diane earned academic honors while completing a self-designed bachelor’s degree in International Social Policy with a double major in Humanities at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. Ms. Tran leads a network of emerging leaders in Minnesota committed to building relationships, trust, and a shared vision for the state, and she blogs about active citizenship and the Millennial generation at


Alex Kuno is a professional artist and illustrator living and working in Lowertown, St. Paul. The Miscreants of Tiny Town, his ongoing painting series of improvised, darkly satirical fairy tales and morality plays, has been featured in numerous solo and group shows in museums and major galleries throughout the Twin Cities and around the country. Kuno’s work is currently represented by Curly Tale Fine Art in Chicago, and he can be seen on tpt’s MNOriginal. Alex Patrick Shimkus was born in Seoul, Korea and raised in Bloomington, Minnesota and is a children’s book illustrator and a cartoonist. He has published an educational book titled, Teaching Tips for Kids with Asperger’s. Alex studied fine art at Normandale Community College and earned his B.F.A. in illustration at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. When Alex is not working, he is playing in his studio with all sorts of doodles, drawings, doo-dads, and trinkets.
Ilhwa Gloria Kim is a student artist pursuing a degree in art and psychology at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, with an emphasis on animation. Ms. Kim is mostly self-taught, and digital painting is her favorite type of illustration. Inspired by children, she often volunteers at different events as a face painter or art project instructor. Vang Lee graduated from Fresno State University. Mr. Lee facilitates Hmong men's groups for a domestic abuse program in St. Paul, Minnesota. Vang enjoys camping, hiking, and drawing, and he lives with his wife in Woodbury.

2012 Reading Together Book Project

The Minnesota Humanities Center and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans are pleased to announce 2012 titles of Shoua and the Northern Lights Dragon and The Imaginary Day are now available for purchase online through

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Shoua and the Northern Lights Dragon
By Ka Vang
Illustrated by Aimee Hagerty Johnson

2012 Midwest Book Award Finalist for Children's Fiction

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Quiet and shy Shoua is heart-broken when she is not allowed to go on a camping trip with her grandfather, father and two brothers, simply because she is a girl. When Shoua’s mother has a special dream about a falling star in the forest her grandfather mysteriously allows Shoua to come along and camp in the north Minnesota woods. While camping a star falls and a wounded dragon is found. Shoua becomes determined to save the dragon in order to prove her place in the family. In the process, she discovers her own voice and magical power!
The Imaginary Day
By May Lee Yang
Illustrated by Anne Sawyer-Aitch

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On the first day of summer break, twin brothers, Tou Bee and Tou Cher are bummed when their mom takes away their video games. She makes the crazy suggestion that they use their imaginations instead! Determined to find their video games, the boys go on a quest that includes ninjas, dungeons, wild dogs, and even a dragon!