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Celebrating Lunar New Year with Children

An Interview with Cindy Roberts
Author of Lunar New Year for Kids, Asian New Year for Kids and Chinese New Year for Kids

Interview by Allison Martin

Cindy Roberts is a Graphic Artist with a BFA from the University of Kansas and the mother of 6 children (3 adopted from Vietnam). Now that all 6 kids are in school full time, she has turned her passion for art into writing and illustrating children's books. Lunar New Year for Kids provides fun and educational activities for children to celebrate the Asian New Year.

What inspired you to put together the Lunar New Year for Kids" workbook?

Cindy Roberts: We adopted 3 older children from Vietnam. The boys were 5 and 7 years old when they came to us. The first year they were home, the boys filled our ears with many stories about life in Vietnam. As a way to keep their culture alive, I decided to share Tet, The Vietnamese Lunar New Year at school with their classmates. The teachers were very excited. I did one class, and was quickly asked to do other first grade classes, which snowballed into me providing materials to all the elementary grades.

The more research I did on the this holiday, the more I realized there just isn't much information out there on this subject, especially for children. What I could find seemed lame and didn't capture the spirit of the holiday. My training is in graphics arts, so it was a natural for me to turn all these lessons into hands-on experiences for the kids. My goal was to take a magic carpet to Vietnam for the Lunar New Year. To do this, I combined all the senses. Just reading a book to kids about the holiday is boring. I wanted the kids to feel it. So I developed a program with taste, sound, movement, art, and vibrant colors. Because I did this program with so many different age groups, I accumulated a lot of material. I had teachers asking me to put all my material together for the school library in the teachers reference section. Once I filled this request, more teachers wanted copies. This is how my book came to be.

What are your favorite activities in the Lunar New Year for Kids?

Cindy Roberts: No matter what age child, the kid's favorite is always the Dragon Parade! My favorite is the Lion Dance Activity. It involves the whole class and can accommodate small groups of children or an entire school of first graders. All that is needed is 2 bed sheets and pots and pans for drums. The kids have a blast!

How can parents and teachers use the workbook with children?

Cindy Roberts: The entire workbook was designed to be easily photo copied for distribution to the children. All the projects were developed with common household materials or can be purchased at the grocery store or drug store very inexpensively. The introduction to the book has ideas list by age groups for a class party.

Do the New Years celebrations in different countries (China, Vietnam, Korea, etc.) vary? How do you incorporate these into your book?

Cindy Roberts: The Lunar New Year in Asia is basically the same in China, Korea and Vietnam. It is the celebration of spring, a new beginning. It is a time to reflect on the past and make new plans for the future. It is a time to be with family and friends, and to respect your elders and ancestors. There are dragon parades, lion dances, large meals, and festivals. In China, this holiday is called the Chinese New Year, in Korea the Lunar New Year, and in Vietnam Tet. All three of these countries run on the Chinese Lunar calendar. Japan also celebrates the New Year much like the rest of Asia, except they
run on the Western calendar like America.

However, to answer your question, the book does give ideas how to tailor your party to just one country. I have found when giving a classroom presentation, that the kids in the class are from several Asian countries, so I try to include them all.

What do you think are the benefits of sharing these activities in your workbook?

Cindy Roberts: The whole idea is to promote Asian pride and to educate other children about a different culture. This is very important for minority children. They do not look like the rest of their classmates and are constantly having that pointed out to them with innocent comments like "Why is your skin brown?" and "Why are your eyes slanted?" To be proud of your
ancestry, helps deter these comments. It gives Asian kids the power to say "Because I am Vietnamese." "Because I am Chinese." And when these kids say this, they can be proud of who they are. They can be proud to look different. After doing a classroom presentation, I have heard positive comments from non-Asian children like, "Vietnam is cool!" "When I grow up, I want to live in China." "I feel like I have been to China."

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Cindy Roberts is the mother of 6 children, 3 are adopted from Vietnam. She has been home schooling her children in the summer for the past 8 years. With her children, she explores other cultures through music, food, and art. Cindy is a Graphic Artist with a BFA from the University of Kansas. In 1988, she traded in her drafting table for full time motherhood. Now that all 6 kids are in school full time, she has turned her passion for art into writing and illustrating children's books. She has written Tet for the Timid: The Vietnamese Lunar New Year in Plain English and is working on a book entitled "Dear Sam & Dani: A Travel Diary about our Vietnamese Mother land tour."
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