A 17-year-old high school student organized for six children’s books about the history of Japanese American incarceration to be made available in 33 elementary schools in Washington.
Kai Vanderlip, of Tesla STEM High School, developed his pandemic project, “The Day of Remembrance Japanese Incarceration Literature for Libraries,” to help teach children about the unjust incarceration of over 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II that was brought about by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066.
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Vanderlip felt strongly about the topic, as his great-grandfather’s brother and brother-in-law were among those incarcerated. He decided that for the 80th anniversary of the order, he wanted to help children learn about civil rights at an early age.
“I didn’t learn much about this in elementary school, it was all my own research. Especially in 2020, it seemed super relevant,” he told The Seattle Times. “They could speak out and grow up to be more knowledgeable individuals who can speak out against intolerance of all forms.”
Vanderlip finalized a list of six books, including “The Cat Who Chose to Dream” by Loriene Honda and “Fred Korematsu Speaks Up” by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi. With the help of librarians and his school’s Equity Club, he managed to secure funding from the Lake Washington Schools Foundation and the City of Kirkland to buy six books each for 33 elementary schools in the Lake Washington School District.
The books were distributed for the Day of Remembrance on Feb. 19. According to The Seattle Times, Vanderlip has also produced video lesson plans with the help of librarians. He still hopes to branch out his project to more elementary schools in other districts.