Kao Kalia Yang Kao Kalia Yang holds a hand to her heart while sitting and holding a copy of her children's book

Celebrating Storytelling: March 2024 Newsletter


“For everyone who has trouble speaking, trouble being heard, for everyone who has lived without understanding on their side.”

~ Kao Kalia Yang – The Rock in My Throat dedication

Dear AmazeWorks community,

On March 12, over 100 guests gathered to celebrate the launch of Kao Kalia Yang’s The Rock in My Throat. Kalia’s enchanting reading, complemented by the beautiful music of Jocelyn Hagen, captivated hearts of all ages. 

We extend our deepest gratitude to those of you who could join us for this unforgettable moment with AmazeWorks. As an organization dedicated to amplifying unheard voices and stories through children’s literature, hosting Kalia’s book launch was an honor beyond measure. We cherish the opportunity to foster belonging and connection through such gratifying events.

We are profoundly grateful to all who share their stories with the world, and especially to Kalia, for trusting AmazeWorks to uplift her work. Please enjoy this month’s newsletter, which celebrates storytelling, need exploration, and of course, The Rock in My Throat.

Thank you to RBC Wealth Management, First Bank & Trust, and Friends of the St. Paul Public Library for sponsoring this event! 💙
Two caregivers smiling on either side of their child who holds a copy of The Rock in My Throat
A family smiles and displays their new copy of The Rock in My Throat

Featured Book: The Rock in My Throat

The Rock in My Throat book cover - written by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Jiemei Lin. A somber Hmong child with short black hair, bangs, and flushed cheeks points to a rock illustrated on her throat. She is surrounded by blue flowers, and a tree branches are behind her.

This is a true story about a young girl, Kao Kalia Yang. She tells about her experiences as a Hmong refugee. She describes watching English-speaking people treat her Hmong parents poorly, which led her to stop speaking at school.

Kalia feels as though a rock has become lodged in her throat, and it grows heavier each day. While this book is about a difficult time in Kalia’s life, listen and look for signs of love and hope throughout the story.

Dive into the AmazeWorks lesson’s reflection questions, journal prompts, extension activities and more to bring belonging to life in your home or classroom. 🌟 Although the lesson is recommended for children 7 and up, people of all ages can benefit from reading The Rock in My Throat.

AmazeWorks Ethos in Action: The Basic Needs Chair

Mel Andersen and Rebecca Slaby stand and smile with their hands resting on either side of a neon blue SXSW sign

Mel Andersen and Rebecca Slaby recently travelled to Austin, TX, to present at the SXSW EDU Conference. During their session, titled “Resilient Anti-Bias Educators Build Adult SEL Skills,” they introduced one of our favorite activities – The Basic Needs Chair. 🪑

At AmazeWorks, we understand the profound impact of unmet needs on our ability to navigate stress and reject bias. Inspired by William Glasser’s framework of 5 basic needs (love & belonging, power & success, freedom, fun, and safety & security), we’ve developed an activity to help cultivate self-awareness and empathy.

Imagine a chair: its seat symbolizing safety and survival, and its legs representing the needs of belonging, power, freedom, and fun.

Just like a chair needs sturdy legs to support its seat, we require a balance of these fundamental needs to thrive as individuals and create cultures of belonging.

A yellow graphic chair with black text reading "Basic Needs Chair" on the back, "Safety & Security" on the seat, and "Belonging: Accepting, Cooperating," "Power/Success: Achievement, Competence," "Freedom: Choice, Flexibility," and "Fun: Play, Excitement."

Curious to explore which “legs” of your Basic Needs Chair may be wobbly? Click here to access our handout and begin your journey of self-discovery and growth.

As we continue our mission to promote anti-bias education and cultivate belonging, let’s remember to tend to the needs of our Basic Needs Chair – both for ourselves and those around us. 🪴🌷


Affirming Religious Identity

Honoring Earth Day

Organization Highlight: Neighborhood Forest

The forest is growing! Thank you, partners! Neighborhood Forest, giving trees to children. A child poses next to a freshly planted tree.

Looking for Earth Day inspiration? Our friends at Neighborhood Forest are giving a record of 65,000+ free trees to kids at over 900 schools, libraries, and youth groups across North America. 🤗🌳

While free tree registration has closed for this season, there are other ways you can contribute to their growing forest. Visit their website to sign up for their 2025 list, donate, and learn more about their mission.

Board Highlight: John Bjoraker

John Bjoraker joined the AmazeWorks board in November 2023 because of his passion for building respect across differences. He believes belonging allows space for learning, making mistakes, and growing in community. He is a lifelong Saint Paul resident and currently serves as the principal at EXPO for Excellence Elementary School.

Thank you, John, for bringing your passions and insights to the AmazeWorks board!

Headshot of John Bjoraker wearing a navy blue blazer, white button collared button up, and black glasses. He is smiling and standing in front of a brick wall.

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