Contacts for media: Emily Gowdey-Backus, director of media relations, Emily_GowdeyBackus@uml.edu and Nancy Cicco, assistant director of media relations, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu
Elementary schoolteachers in Lowell and across the country have a new way to engage young readers, thanks to UMass Lowell faculty working to integrate the richness of Asian cultures into the K-12 curriculum.
Inclusive of fables from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma (now Myanmar), China, Japan, and Korea, “Perspectives on East and Southeast Asian Folktales” examines depiction of identity, morals, Buddhist values and other issues.
“This book highlights a plethora of cultural and linguistic assets reflected in East and Southeast Asian folktales for children. As an interdisciplinary collection it is an excellent guide to culturally sustainable schooling for educators and scholars engaging with the immense variety of ways to tell stories in Asian communities,” said UMass Lowell’s MinJeong Kim, associate professor of language arts and literacy in the university’s School of Education.
Kim co-edited the volume with UMass Lowell psychology Professor Emerita Allyssa McCabe.
Penned by a variety of scholars, the book aims to better enable K-12 teachers – many of whom lead classrooms in urban settings with diverse student populations – to connect with their pupils and to celebrate the cultural heritage of Asian American students who may have already heard these stories in their homes.
“We were privileged to hear favorite folktales that were new to us and filled with wisdom,” said McCabe. “Research projects generally add to our knowledge, but this project revealed so very much that is distinctive for Vietnamese, Cambodian, Burmese, and Laotian cultures – but also much that would benefit everyone. What’s more, the folktales are very entertaining.”
As the second-largest community of Cambodians in the U.S., 30%, or more than 4,100 children, in Lowell’s schools are Asian American, according to 2019 figures from the state Department of Education.
The book is a companion edition of sorts to the illustrated children’s book “A Long, Long Time Ago in Southeast Asia,” a compilation of translated folktales from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar. Used in Lowell public schools, the book’s stories were gathered by UMass Lowell faculty scholars, including Kim and McCabe, from members of Lowell’s Asian American community.
UMass Lowell’s Center for Asian American Studies will host a book launch for the new text Tuesday, Jan. 24, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Free and open to the public, the event will be held virtually and on UMass Lowell’s South Campus in Coburn Hall in room 225 at 850 Broadway St., Lowell. Members of the public who wish to attend should visit www.uml.edu/research/caas to register and, if attending remotely, receive credentials for the teleconference.
“The Center for Asian American Studies is thrilled to see this latest book project come to fruition under the leadership of two excellent faculty in psychology and education. It epitomizes what we seek to foster: research collaborations across disciplines to serve Asian American and Asian diasporic communities. Scholars, teachers, parents, and community members will find this collection immensely insightful and useful,” said UMass Lowell’s Sue Kim, an English professor who co-directs the center and serves as associate dean of undergraduate studies in the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
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