Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Happy New Year! Lunar New Year, that is. Whether Lunar New Year is part of your family’s traditions or something you’d like your child to learn about, this activity is a fun way to share literacy and learning around this celebration.

A book is always my number one choice for diving into any holiday or topic with children. And for this activity, I highly recommend Grace Lin’s Bringing in the New Year. Its vibrant illustrations, fold out pages, and simple text are a joyous way to explore Lunar New Year together. 

In this story time activity, you’ll first read the book aloud to your child and then teach them how to read and write the names of loved ones as you create Lunar New Year envelopes for family members. It’s a great way to tie cultural traditions and literacy together in a fun and brain-building package.

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  • Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin
  • Red envelopes (enough for each member of your family)
  • Index cards 
  • Pen and crayons
  • Scissors
  • Optional: Paintbrush
  • Optional: Black paint (watercolor or tempera)

Cost: $5 to $10 excluding the book.

Tip: You can get plain red envelopes at any craft store or a stationary store. However, if you live in a town with an Asian neighborhood or market, you may be able to get beautiful red envelopes specifically for Lunar New Year.

Step 1: Read Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin. Throughout the pages, children are holding red envelopes. Look for them with your child as you read. Allow time for your child’s questions and discussion, all of which builds literacy and bonding (check out our post on how to engage kids during read-alouds for maximum literacy benefit).

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Step 2: On the outside of each envelope, write the name of one family member. You’ll make one envelope for each member of your family. 

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Step 3: Next, you’ll help your child write the name of each family member on a separate index card. But first, check if your cards will fit into the envelopes. If they’re too large, trim them to fit in easily. Tip: If your child isn’t ready to write freehand yet, write each name with dotted lines and let them trace it. 

Optional: If you like, you can point out the images of Chinese calligraphy in Bringing in the New Year, then invite your child to paint the names, rather than writing with a pen.

Step 4: Let your child decorate the card any way they like. The more original, the better!

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Step 5: Read the names on the envelopes aloud together. Next, ask your child to match the card and envelope with the same name. Your child can now put each card into the matching envelope. 

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Now it’s celebration time! Help your child deliver the envelopes to their family members.

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Reading and writing are tremendous achievements for children. You can share this accomplishment with them as you share this special holiday. Let us know how you’re supporting your child’s literacy during the Lunar New Year.

Reading resource for parents

More information about Lunar New Year: The dates of Lunar New Year are not set, like January 1st. As the New York Times puts it, “It can be easy to think of a calendar as a scientific given, or a reflection of the laws of the universe. In fact, as these holidays remind us, there are as many ways to track time as there are cultures and languages. Each calendar reveals something about how the people who created it relate to the world around them while also preserving rich cultural identities and memories.” Lunar New Year is celebrated throughout many parts of Asia and with many different holiday traditions. These may include fireworks, dragon dances, family visits, eating oranges, and the giving of red envelopes filled with money to children.