Chinese Culture

This storytime would be appropriate for a Chinese New Year celebration (the date varies, from late-January to mid-February) or during May in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Welcome/Opening Activity:

Welcome the children with your regular storytime opening song and teach them to say “ni hao,” a Mandarin Chinese greeting that means “Are you well?”


Title: Apple Pie 4th of July
Author/Illustrator: Janet S. Wong, ill. By Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Publisher/Date: Harcourt, Inc., 2002
Comments: Recommended for ages 4-8. This brightly illustrated story reflects the experience of a young girl living between cultures, wondering if Americans will want to eat Chinese food from her family’s store on the Fourth of July.

Title: Gai See: What You Can See in Chinatown
Author/Illustrator: Roseanne Thong, ill. By Yangsook Choi
Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2007
Comments: Recommended for ages 4-8. Rhyming text and rich illustrations take the reader through the sights and smells of a “gai see” or Chinese street market. A glossary explains the Chinese foods and traditions mentioned in the story.

Title: Dim Sum for Everyone!
Author/Illustrator: Grace Lin
Publisher/Date: Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., 2001
Comments: Recommended for ages 4-8. Brilliant colors and rich patterns illustrate this story about a family enjoying a meal at a dim sum restaurant. This book introduces Chinese cakes, dumplings and other “little dishes” as well as the Chinese names for family members.

Title: Henry’s First-Moon Birthday
Author/Illustrator: Lenore Look, ill. By Yumi Heo
Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2001
Comments: Jenny helps her Grandmother prepare for the traditional one-month celebration for her baby brother. A glossary presents nine Chinese words or phrases, and Heo’s childlike drawings will appeal to young children.

Title: The Pet Dragon: A Story about Adventure, Friendship, and Chinese Characters
Author/Illustrator: Christoph Niemann
Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2008
Comments: Recommended for ages 4-8. This whimsical tale of young Lin and her pet dragon has Chinese character superimposed on the illustrations, cleverly showing the relationship between the character strokes and the objects they represent.

Storytelling/Oral History:

“The New Year’s Animals: A Chinese Folktale” tells the story of how the Jade Emperor chose the twelve animals of the zodiac. This story is one of 20 multicultural folktales that appears, along with patterns for feltboard storytelling and a Readers’ Theater script, in Judy Sierra’s book,Multicultural Folktales for the Feltboard and Readers’ Theater (Oryx Press, 1996).


Make small envelopes out of red paper. Let the children decorate them with gold gel pens or rubber stamps and a gold stamp pad, to make a lai-see or hungbau envelopes. (Chinese character stamps are widely available at craft supply stores and through the internet.)

Here are a couple of websites with good ideas for kids crafts that reflect Chinese culture, including a Chinese lantern, dragon toy and welcome door hanger:

Games/Other Activities:

Families can work together to solve Chinese tangram puzzles. A downloadable template is available at:

If you have 10 or more players and outdoor space available, place “Catch the Dragon’s Tail.” Have players line up with both hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. Without breaking the line, the “head” of the dragon tries to tag the “tail” while the other players try to keep it from doing so. Once the tail is tagged, the tail moves to the front of the line to become the new head and the game continues.

For more games, see “Traditional Games” at the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project at:


Suggested snacks include lucky red eggs (hard-boiled and dyed bright red) that are traditionally given to guests at one-month celebrations, or oranges or tangerines, which symbolize abundant happiness. You could also serve dim sum (frozen egg rolls and dumplings are available at many supermarkets) or chow mein noodles and apple pie to symbolize the meshing of Chinese and American cultures depicted in Apple Pie 4th of July!


Sing your regular storytime closing say, give the children a “gold” chocolate coin to put in their lucky red envelopes and say “zai jian” for “goodbye.”