Usually, we talk about Chinese New Year but did you know that many other countries celebrate the new year at the same time? In Vietnam, it is called Tết and in South Korea, it is known as Seollal. We find one of the best ways to help our students understand different traditions is to read books for the lunar new year.
These new year celebrations are based on the lunar calendar which is calculated using the movement of the Earth around the Sun and the Moon around the Earth. Because of this, the lunar new year is usually celebrated sometime in January or February. This time of year is a time when families gather, share food and many local traditions.
We found it was quite difficult to find age-appropriate material for students at their reading level, so we ended up writing several short expository pieces that our students could use to contrast and compare the different holidays. We included a few other activities that students could use to learn about the traditions and customs. you can find our Lunar New Year Reading and Writing Activities in our store.
Here are some possible books to use in your classroom about the lunar new year. We are always adding to this list, so if you have a favourite that isn’t on our list, please comment below or send us an email. We love discovering new books.
Chinese New Year
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The belief that picture books are only for younger students is a myth. Students of any age enjoy being read to, even adults. If that wasn’t true there wouldn’t be a market for audiobooks.
Be sure to share these great books with your students and their families.
Lunar New Year (Celebrate the World) by Hannah Eliot This is a board book in a series of books about celebrations around the world.
Bringing In the New Year by Grace Lin This board book tells the story of one American-Chinese family as they prepare for lunar new year celebrations.
My First Chinese New Year (My First Holiday) by Karen Katz This easy read that shares some of the traditions that families in China celebrate.
Dragon Dance by Joan Holub This is an easy rhyming book that has lift-up flaps to pique interest in traditions through exploration.
The Year of the Rat: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac by Oliver Chin 2020 is the year of the Rat but there is a book for all twelve zodiac signs in the series. This would make a great series to recommend to your school librarian. Students can compare the different zodiacs.
The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine This story reminds readers about generosity and is set during lunar new year.
The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine This is a lovely story about sharing and compassion set during lunar new year.
Happy, Happy Chinese New Year! / Kung-Hsi Fa-Ts’ai! by Demi -This is a wonderful book that explains the different traditions of Chinese New Year.
A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong This is the story of the reunion between a child and the migrant worker father during the new year celebrations.
Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn Children receiving money for New Year is a tradition and Sam must decide what to do with his money.
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim This story is a retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears set during Chinese New Year. A quick and easy lesson would be to compare this version to more traditional versions of the story.
The Nian Monster by Andrea Wang This story is lively and full of action as it goes through foods and traditions for Chinese New Year.
Ruby’s Chinese New Year by Vickie Lee This is the story of Ruby who encounters the twelve animals of the zodiac as she travels to visit her grandmother.
Lucky New Year by Mary Man-Kong This one is meant for younger students, but it has great little pop-ups and illustrations.
Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Dawn Casey This is an interesting story and it also contains the Vietnamese Zodiac.
The Day the Dragon Danced by Kay Haygaard An African American girl watches a Chinese new Year parade where her father is performing.
A New Year’s Reunion: A Chinese Story by Yu Li-Qiong This one is a great one to talk about how we’re all the same-we all miss our family when we’re away from them.
Vietnamese New Year
Golden Blooms: Celebrating Tet-Vietnamese Lunar New Year by Y T Tran This is a beautifully illustrated book that explains Vietnamese lunar new year traditions.
The TET Pole: The Story of TET Festival by Quoc Tran This book comes in English and Vietnamese.
Ten Mice for TET by Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill This is a counting book, but it is full of symbols of Vietnamese New Year.
In doing research for this post, we wanted to know more about the TET pole. We found that traditionally, Vietnamese people have a custom of erecting a bamboo pole, known as a Neu tree, in front of their house on the last day of the lunar year. This TET pole will expel evils, worship deities and bring good luck for the New Year. They remove it on the 7th day of the New Year to say farewell to their ancestors in heaven. If you have more information about this tradition, we would love to hear from you.
Korean New Year
This Next New Year by Janet S. Wong Family traditions are shared through the eyes of a Chinese Korean boy.
New Clothes for New Year’s Day by Hyun-joo Bae This is the story of a young Korean girl getting dressed for the lunar new year.
One of the biggest problems we had in writing this blog was finding good-quality books for Korean New Year. If you have any suggestions for books on this list, we would love to add them. Please leave us a comment or send us an email with your favourite titles.
Add a Few Festive Decorations
We like to allow our students to share customs and traditions from home. Think about inviting family members to talk about these family traditions and allowing your students to experience other parts of the world from right inside the walls of your classroom.
Red is a very important colour during the lunar new year. It’s pretty easy to put up a few red streamers or balloons to help students feel welcome during this special part of the year.
If you are really committed, you might be able to have members of the Chinese, Vietnamese or Korean communities come speak or perform at your school.
Even though we teach upper elementary, we’ve learned that students (all students) love picture books. Big kids enjoy reading (and being read to) picture books as they make a nice change to reading longer novels. Your English Language Learners can use the pictures to help build meaning which will improve comprehension and their vocabulary.
Bringing all the world’s cultures into your classroom helps students find themselves in the walls of your classroom. Inclusion takes on a whole new meaning when every student in your room feels comfortable talking about the similarities and differences of the cultures all around the world. When you share different traditions from around the world, you let the students in your room know their lives are important.
Are you looking for books for other times of the year? We have books for other holidays and celebrations:
Books for Ramadan
Holi Festival of Colours
Christmas Books We Love
Cozy up With Winter Books
Lunar New Year
Black History Month
Great LGTBQ+ Characters
Asian Heritage Month
Books For and About Powerful Women
Books for teaching:
Orange Shirt Day (Residential Schools)
Social Emotional Learning
Do you celebrate the lunar new year? What traditions does your family have? What traditions have changed because you live in a country that doesn’t celebrate the lunar new year? Leave us a comment below.