Everyone deserves to see themselves in the pages of a book.
This statement has been one of the founding beliefs of this non-profit children’s literacy initiative for nearly a decade.
As our mission states, MCBD has been passionate about raising awareness for children’s books that celebrate diversity by getting more of these books into classrooms and libraries since the first day we launched this company. This non-profit also strives to shine the spotlight on the diverse books and authors that mainstream publishing and media often overlook.
That desire and commitment are reflected in everyone who works for, volunteers their time, and supports our non-profit, including our Co-founders Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen. These two Super Mamas are not only brilliant women; they are CEOs, change-makers, and authors themselves. They both are continually seeking and implementing new ways to make reading and diversity a priority. They are tireless!
With that in mind, we are putting Mia Wenjen in the spotlight because she is launching full-force into yet another critical mission: the mission to honor and recognize Asian Pacific American female athletes’ accomplishments!
As everyone knows, Mia has been an enormous part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day’s success. Her love of books has inspired her to pen THREE diverse picture books, including Sumo Joe (a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year), Asian Pacific American Heroes, Best #OwnVoices Children’s Books: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Aged 1-12 (a compendium of book reviews to find diversity books), and co-author How To Coach Girls (winner of IBPA Benjamin Franklin Silver Award™), and The Elusive Full Ride Scholarship: An Insider’s Guide.
Sports and diversity are enormous passions for her and her family, so it was natural for her kids to want to read sports-related books for kids.
“There are so many other great values that kids can learn from sports, such as teamwork, leadership, and being a good follower,” Mia shared. “Like most of the parents in my town, we started our kids in Kindergarten Soccer. My husband coached, and he described it as “herding cats.” My kids tried many other sports from soccer, either joining teams, learning on their own, or taking a clinic. If they loved a sport, they trained more often. If it did not click, they moved on. My husband played golf professionally on the mini-tours, so our kids grew up as toddlers on a putting green!“
As her two daughters grew and became heavily involved in sports, the lack of books that celebrated Asian Pacific American female athletes’ achievements became obvious.
“I asked my middle daughter if she knew the names of any Asian-American female athletes or any books about them. When she laughed and said that there were not any, I was shocked and saddened. Mainly because I knew these athletes did exist; they just were not being talked about.”
After spending a great deal of time searching online, she was disappointed to find very few books featuring Asian-American female athletes.
“The few books that I did locate centered on more dance-driven sports, like figure skating and gymnastics. At that moment, I had to ask myself why there were no books with Asian-American female role models for girls available, especially for popular team sports like basketball, soccer, and hockey. Girls of every ethnicity need to see Asian-American females succeeding in sports to know that everyone can dream of stepping up on an Olympic podium. That was my wake-up call to write this book!”
The Kickstarter Campaign for Changing the Game: Asian Pacific American Female Athletes begins on February 15, and Mia shared that she has woven in a very special way for supporters to help her non-profit, Multicultural Children’s Book Day: a children’s literacy initiative that she helped to create.
Backers who would like to support her project and diversity in children’s literature will have the option to use their dollars to get free copies of Changing the Game: Asian Pacific American Female Athletes into classrooms and libraries.
When the MCBD Team enjoyed a sneak peek at this book, we were amazed how all of the 18 women profiled in Changing the Game: Asian Pacific American Female Athletes were not only excelling at their chosen sport, but also that many of them had also overcome tremendous obstacles including poverty, racism, and injury to succeed.
“I would like them to know that Asian Pacific American female athletes are, by and large, hidden figures in the sports world, despite winning Olympic medals and overcoming great barriers, Mia added. “One athlete highlighted in my book earned Olympic gold for swimming but trained in an irrigation ditch because she did not have access to a swimming pool. How inspiring is that?!”
Meet the 18 Asian Pacific American Female Athletes in this book who excel at a range of sports and represent many Asian ethnicities.
- Eun Jung “EJ” Lee Ok (Korean American) is thought to be one of the greatest point guards ever to play women’s college basketball.
- Chloe Kim (Korean American) is the youngest snowboarder to win Olympic Gold.
- Miki Gorman (Japanese American) is the only female marathon runner to win both the Boston Marathon and the New York Marathon, twice!
- Victoria Manalo Draves (Filipino & European American), a diver, is the first woman to win two Gold Medals in both springboard and platform in the same Olympics games, the first Asian-American to medal at an Olympics game, and the first Filipino to win a Gold Medal.
- Evelyn Tokue Kawamoto-Konno (Japanese American) learned to swim competitively in a ditch through Soichi Sakamoto’s Three-Year Swim Club and is the first Japanese-American female to win an Olympic Medal.
- Julie Chu (Chinese & Puerto Rican American), a hockey player, is the first Asian-American female to compete for the United States in the Winter Olympics for a sport other than figure skating. She took home three silver medals and one bronze medal from five Olympics.
- Natasha “Tasha” Kai (Filipino, Hawaiian, Chinese & European American) is the first player from Hawaii to make the full U.S. National Women’s Soccer team. In 2008, she helped the team earn an Olympic Gold medal.
- Michelle Wie (Korean American) is the youngest female to compete on the PGA Tour and the youngest USGA champion in an adult event.
- Kristi Yamaguchi (Japanese American) is a two-time Olympic Gold Medal ice skating champion, a two-time singles World Champion, and a two-time pairs National Champion.
- Amy Chow (Chinese American) is the first Asian American woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal in gymnastics.
- Anona Naone Napoleon (Native Hawaiian) won the International Makaha Surfing Competition.
- Michelle Waterson (Thai & European American) is a Mixed Martial Arts champion.
- Liane Lissa Sato (Japanese American) took home a Bronze Medal for the United States Women’s Volleyball Team at the Olympics held in Barcelona.
- Catherine Mai-Lan Fox (Vietnamese & European American) is a two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner for swimming.
- Megan Khang (Hmong American) is the first Hmong American to play on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour.
- Mohini Bhardwaj (Indian & Russian American) is the first Indian-American gymnast to medal at the Olympics.
- Naomi Osaka (Japanese & Haitian) is the first female Asian player to hold the number one ranking by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
As someone who has spent many decades inspired by the love of books, Mia shared that she finally leaped into penning her diverse books a few short years ago. When asked what advice she could give to emerging authors, Mia had this to say:
“Think of writing and publishing a book just like learning a language. It may seem daunting at first to become conversational in a foreign language, but “baby steps” will get you there! Just keep at it, and it will happen!”
GO HERE to support this Kickstarter and learn more about Changing The Game!
She is also the co-founder of Aquent, a creative staffing agency specializing in digital and marketing talent with 37 locations around the world.
Mia’s books include the picture book Sumo Joe (a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year), Asian Pacific American Heroes, Best #OwnVoices Children’s Books: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Aged 1-12 (a compendium of book reviews to find diversity books), How To Coach Girls (winner of IBPA Benjamin Franklin Silver Award™), and The Elusive Full Ride Scholarship: An Insider’s Guide.
She lives in Boston with her husband, three kids, and Golden Retriever. Mia can be found online @PragmaticMom on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, and as Mia Wenjen on LinkedIn and YouTube.