As a child growing up, Xe Yang, a new Hmong author of the book, KUV POG, had always dreamed of traveling and experiencing new things like the character she wrote in her book. “As a child, my dream was to travel to the end of the Earth. I used to lie down at night dreaming about going to the end of the Earth and sit at the edge of the Earth with my feet dangling down (that was before I found out that the Earth was round and there’s such a thing as gravity). While many of my classmates were dreaming about what they wanted to do when they grew up, I just wanted to ride my old bike all summer long,” said Xe.
Riding her old bike and going to places inspired Xe to write her new book about a Hmong grandmother who could do amazing things even in her old age. Xe wants to paint the picture that grandmas can still do adventures and explore things surrounding them. “I wanted the book to be funny and playful, so I threw in some humor. I also wanted to break the stereotypes that Pog or grandmas only cook and babysit for their grandchildren. I wanted to convey to the readers that Pog can ride a bike and read books to their grandkids as well other things. Pog can pretty much do anything!” said Xe.
Xe has always wanted to write Hmong children’s books because she believes that reading is like magic to young children in their own world. As Xe emphasized, “I truly believe that books are like magic to children. Books inspire young minds to dream beyond what they can see with their eyes. I can feel the excitement when I’m reading a story to my students. To me, books are like glitter, and knowledge is like glue. When glitter falls on wet glue, no matter what happens, some of the glitter will stick to the glue. Although some glitter might fall off from the glue, most of it will stay. It’s important to create culturally diverse books for young children. We can never have too much glitter!”
As a Hmong educator, Xe feels that she has a responsibility to keep the Hmong language alive by promoting and inspiring the next generation to retain their native tongue. “I feel that it’s my responsibility to inspire youths to retain our Hmong language. One of my favorite quotes by Nelson Mandella says ‘If you talk to a man in the language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’ I feel that it’s time for us to make sure what we say to our children goes to both their head and heart.”
Going into the head and heart is exactly what Xe did, by writing the KUV POG book for the Hmong community and young children. KUV POG was inspired by many small moments in Xe’s life. As she stated, “I have three sons, and I hope one day I will be lucky enough to be a Pog to their children. I imagine reading this book to them and future grandchildren, and teaching them the importance of speaking Hmong.”
Xe has many amazing story ideas for children that she wants to write and share with them in the education world. At first, Xe was planning to write about Kuv Niam Tais, but decided to focus on Kuv Pog for something that rhymes in Hmong words in this grandma story. “My knowledge of young children is that they have very short attention spans, and since the title is repeated throughout the story, I needed something that is easier for young children to read like Kuv Pog. I also have three sons, and I would like to read this book to my grandchildren one day, that’s why I chose Kuv Pog for this adventure story. This book is about all the incredible women and grandmas who aren’t afraid to be different. It’s a fun book that builds vocabulary, helps increase reading fluency, and encourages young readers to love Hmong literature,” said Xe.
When asked what is Xe’s favorite part of Kuv Pog, she remarked the repetition in the adventure story. “I like the repetition in the story. I know that language is acquired through repetition; therefore, I wanted to keep this theme consistent throughout the story. I wanted the reader to see all the fun things Pog can do.”
The Hmong Educational Resources (HER) is a one-of-a-kind publisher that provides services for Hmong students, writers, educators, researchers, and graphic artists. To inspire students and teachers in writing and telling their own stories, HER provides educational presentation to the public and future writers to cultivate their ideas and support writers to chase their own journey in the writing process. Xe happened to attend one of the workshops hosted by HER Publisher and Hmong authors. As Xe continued her journey in the writing of Kuv Pog, she recalled that one specific presentation that inspired her to complete the book: “I had the title for a while but couldn’t come up with the right words until I listened to these amazing speakers during a webinar hosted by HER Publisher earlier this year. And while listening to the speakers, the words just came to me. By the end of the webinar, I had all the words and a clear direction on how my book was supposed to look. To say that HER Publisher inspired me to come up with the words to my story would be an understatement.”
Writing not only happens in the classroom, on your desk, or when you scheduled a specific time to sit and write. Writing and new ideas occurs everywhere you go, even at random places where you expect it the least, like taking a walk at the park, or helping a friend and family doing things around the house. As Xe described her experience of jotting down ideas: “I always carry a notebook with me because ideas come in random places and times. Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night and start writing my thoughts down. Other times, the idea comes when I am listening to others. Everyone has something special to share, but often times we’re too busy listening to the loud voices of the world and we miss out on the amazing stories that can change our lives. Having a notebook with you and jotting down your ideas and thoughts at the moment is important, so you could come back to it again. It actually inspires you to do things that you normally haven’t done in the past, or trying new things.”
When it comes to her writing, Xe’s family is the most supportive system in her journey. As Xe announced, “My family is very supportive of my writing. They know that I’m very passionate about sharing my ideas with others, and they are always there for me. Recently, my family wanted to give me a beautiful ring as a gift, but I convinced them to take that money and fund my book project instead. A diamond ring cannot be shared with others, but if I take the money and fund my book printing project, I can hopefully bring a little magic to some young minds out there. It’s quite a simple decision.”
As an educator who cares so much about Hmong literature, Xe feels that Hmong teachers could change the Hmong community and educational environment by sharing materials, ideas, curriculum, stories, or classroom projects with each other. The purpose of education is not to keep the door closed, but to open the door for effective learning and sharing with students and colleagues – to be a dreamer, not a dream stopper. “I learned that we could change the education world by sharing our ideas with colleagues; whether through writing a book or a collaboration project. For me, I know that I can reach children beyond my classroom by writing Hmong literature books. Sometimes we get intimidated when our work is being shared with the public, but we have to remember that fear is a dream stopper. We cannot let fear stop us from reaching our dreams,” vocalized Xe.
Changing the education world by inspiring young learners has always been Xe’s passion. Even though there is so much work to be done, Xe feels that looking after your family and self-care are important for teachers. When Xe is not writing, she likes to create Hmong educational materials to help her youngest son at home. She also enjoys hiking, traveling, cooking, gardening, and making YouTube videos to promote Hmong literacy in the social media and technology world.
Technology has changed today’s education and society so much. As Xe is preparing her future plan in the teaching field, she hopes to transition her teaching to the online platform. “As I’m nearing the end of my teaching career, I need to plan my transition from teaching in the classroom to teaching online. I have dedicated many years of my life to educate children in my community, but it’s time to bring what I have learned over the years to promote Hmong literacy through media so that our children and parents will have access to resources that will inspire them to want to learn their language and culture,” said Xe.
Xe would like to ua tsaug the Hmong Educational Resources Publisher for providing a platform for Hmong students and teachers to envision a future led by Hmong voices in the education world. With the support from the HER Publisher team, she would like to remind other dreamers out there in the community that there are resources available for you. Chase your dream and tell your story through writing and publishing. “I would like to remind them to not be afraid to follow their dreams and never put an expiration date on their dreams. Be authentic and run your own race because you have all that you need to get to the finish line,” voiced Xe.
To read more about Kuv Pog and the work Xe does, readers and fans could purchase this book from HER Publisher at www.herpublisher.com, or follow the author at www.Hmongazbooks.com, or contact author by email at Hmongazbooks@gmail.com