Books, People | May 19, 2023

Honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month


Wendi Yen Huestis, Chief Advancement Officer of Worldreader, reflects on the power of stories in celebrating our identities during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

As Asian American Pacific Islander Month unfolds, I reflect on my personal journey, shaped by cultural transitions, language acquisition, and the impact of memories and storytelling. For me, there is a personal connection between my experiences and the work of Worldreader, which shines through in the book Silence by Lisa Zhang, available on Worldreader’s Booksmart app. This narrative resonates with my own story of moving from Japan to the United States, learning English alongside my mother, and the transformative power of literature in preserving memories and embracing Asian American identity.

Within the pages of Silence by Lisa Zhang, I discovered a connection to my personal experiences as an Asian American. The book portrays a mother and daughter navigating a new culture and language, mirroring the challenges my own mom and I faced. Zhang’s storytelling captures the nuances of family dynamics, cultural identity, and the significance of communication, bridging the divide between my lived experiences and the power of literature.

Silence not only echoes the joys and struggles of my journey but also addresses the effect of Alzheimer’s on language and memories. Moving from Japan to the United States, my mother and I embarked on a shared path of language acquisition, forming a bond that transcended cultural differences. Yet, when dementia silenced her voice, Silence became a bittersweet reminder of the vibrant conversations and loving, close connections we once shared.

In this deeply personal resonance, Worldreader’s mission takes on transformative significance. Their commitment to providing millions of children in over 100 countries with diverse digital literature has become an avenue for me to preserve and honor the stories that have shaped my identity as a bi-racial Asian American. Through our work, Worldreader empowers individuals to explore their heritage while discovering other cultures, fostering understanding, empathy, and connection.

Worldreader’s mission to get children reading and make digital books available to communities worldwide aligns with my own journey. The availability of books like Silence on BookSmart ensures that stories reflecting the Asian American experience can be shared, celebrated, and preserved. It fosters a greater appreciation for diverse narratives, amplifies underrepresented voices, and nurtures a sense of belonging.

As I reflect on the impact of Worldreader’s work, I am grateful for the opportunity it provides to bridge cultural gaps, challenge stereotypes, and foster empathy. It empowers individuals, like myself, to connect with our heritage, embrace our stories, and cultivate a deeper understanding of our identities as Asian Americans.

During Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, my personal journey aligns with the mission and impact of Worldreader. I find solace, understanding, and a profound connection to my experiences as an Asian American navigating cultural transitions and the loss of my mother due to Alzheimer’s. Worldreader’s commitment to making diverse literature accessible not only amplifies underrepresented voices but also allows individuals to preserve and embrace their cultural heritage. 

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, let us recognize the transformative power of reading, the importance of preserving our stories, and the role that organizations like Worldreader play in fostering empathy, understanding, and connection. May our personal journeys intertwine with their efforts, shaping a future where diverse voices are heard, celebrated, and cherished.

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About Worldreader

Worldreader gets children reading so they can reach their potential. We are an international nonprofit organization working with partners to get children reading at least 25 books a year with understanding, because regular reading improves reading comprehension, social-emotional learning, and digital literacy. Since 2010, Worldreader has supported more than 21 million readers in over 100 countries. 

Worldreader achieves impact with the BookSmart reading experience, which improves reading comprehension, social-emotional, and digital literacy skills for children ages 3-12 years old. With BookSmart, children have the required tools to build their reading skills through high-quality books, activities that reinforce reading in fun and interactive ways, and where they are celebrated for their reading success. BookSmart is available for free anytime, anywhere and works on all data-connected devices, online and offline.