Asian American Culture in Children's Books

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AAPI Small Business Series: R is for Rice by JKL Teahouse

Embracing the vibrant tapestry of culture and entrepreneurship, supporting Asian American Owned Small Business is a celebration of resilience, diversity, and community. Welcome to the fourteenth part of Joeydolls’ monthly series on “Supporting AAPI Small Businesses! In this blog we introduce R is for Rice by JKL Teahouse. They created their first children’s book, “R is for Rice”, to celebrate Asian cultures infused in daily American life! Join them on a journey through the alphabet with the ABCs of Asian American foods! But before that, let’s get to know more about them first.

Tell us about yourself & what your business does.

JKL Teahouse is the publishing company behind R is for Rice, a beautiful, rhyming ABC book about Asian American foods. We came together at the beginning of the pandemic when our everyday lives were affected by the coronavirus outbreak. For many of us, our worlds, our work, and our social relationships were changing, and we wanted to create something new and meaningful for our families and our communities to be proud of and embrace.

As Asian Americans growing up in the U.S., we rarely saw ourselves reflected in popular books and media. When we look specifically at children’s books that foster an appreciation of Asian American heritage and influences on American life, we see even more gaps. We created our first book, R is for Rice, to celebrate Asian cultures infused in daily American life!

At JKL Teahouse, we are proud of our multiple Asian heritages, and we are proud to be Americans. Our mission is to inspire a broader definition of “American” by offering products that reflect Asian Americans and the impact of Asian communities on American life.

How long have you been in business and how did it all begin?

We started during the pandemic lockdown in 2020. We are three Asian American friends who wanted to create a fun and engaging children’s book that would inspire pride and belonging among all kids, especially Asian American kids.

What are some challenges you have faced in running this company, as well as an Asian-owned small business?

As self-taught book creators, the whole process of creating the book printing the book, and marketing the book has been a series of challenges! Furthermore marketing has been a big challenge for us because there is no tried and true way of reaching Asian American parents and grandparents of small children and allies of Asian American communities. In addition, as newcomers to the children’s book industry, we don’t have access to the usual marketing and distribution networks that the big children’s book publishers have, so school teachers and librarians don’t see our book in their usual lists of new books. We have to rely on out-of-the-box strategies to get the attention of purchasers.

What are your thoughts on the changing landscape in the industry?

More people are self-publishing than ever before. We love that self-publishing creates more opportunities for anyone to get their book out to market. This comes with a downside–there are fewer gatekeepers to control quality. However, we believe that a great children’s book will speak for itself and become popular regardless of how it was published

What are your favorite things about your company?

Our company is mission-driven. We want to inspire a broader definition of what it means to be “American” by offering products that reflect the impact that Asian Americans have had on American life. Furthermore, we love our book, R is for Rice, which has reached many parents and students and continues to make an impact in the lives of young folks.

What are your hopes and dreams at your company?

We dream that R is for Rice will be in every library, every school library, and every child’s nursery bookshelf in America.

How can we best follow and support you?

Follow us on our social media channels

Instagram @risforrice

Twitter @risforrice

Facebook risforrice

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