Teacher and author: See Lor of Reading Karma

Interview by Xeng Moua

My name is See Lor (Maiv Xis Lauj), and I born in the highlands of Laos. My family came to the United States as political refugees in 1982. Every dream or idea begins with a simple thought.

About twenty years ago, I walked into a classroom for my very first teaching assignment. In this class I had a diverse body of students, speaking eight different languages and eager to learn. I decided that I was going to have my students learn about each other through literacy.

We were going to read books that reflected who we were and celebrate that beautiful diversity. I was able to find many books that reflected most of my students. However, when we got to my Hmong students, I could not any find children’s books that reflected them. I realized that the books I needed as a teacher were not available, so I became motivated and inspired to write my own books.

I knew early on that my books were going to be multicultural children’s books. This means the artwork would have to be authentic and as relevant as possible. I wanted my books to have authentic Hmong characters and settings. I wanted my books to showcase aspects of the Hmong history or culture.

Not only that, I wanted my books to have Hmong versions, too. Therefore, it’s critical that I am part of the decision-making process for every book. After much thought, I decided that it was best for me to be my own business, so I can create and publish the kind of books that I have been dreaming and envisioning for almost two decades.

This was how my company, READING KARMA, came to be. I wanted to showcase Hmong culture and identity and make it visible in books for all readers to see and enjoy. The Hmong language is an important aspect of the Hmong people, therefore, it must be preserved and promoted as well.

Today, all my books are translated and are either a dual language book (written in both Hmong/English) or it is a two versions book (one in English and one in Hmong). I want those who can read Hmong to have access to the Hmong version, so they can appreciate being bilingual and bi-literacy in Hmong. 

READING KARMA’s mission is to promote reading literacy (energy of reading) for children and to create and produce a collection of multicultural children’s literature where the Hmong culture, history, and language are preserved and sustained for future generations. My business is about spreading READING KARMA to achieve the KARMA of SUCCESS for all children. Simply put, READING KARMA is about reading and children.

I focus on writing books for grades K-6, because we lack quality literacy at these grade levels. I write and publish both fiction and non-fiction books and have plans to write for both the middle school and high school sectors as well.

I am most proud of how my books make my readers feel. I have the opportunity to witness my own students read my Hmong versions and truly enjoy it, because they see themselves in the books. Parents both near and far shared with me how happy their children were to have books that reflected them. A parent shared that her daughter was so proud to have read my book, The Forbidden Treasure. Her daughter stated, “The main character looks just like me.”

I am working on getting my books read and recorded for educational purposes. I would like to make educational videos for children, and hopefully, create an app for my books, so readers can access it online. These are all long-term goals.

The biggest chunk of my time is spent writing and creating future books. I have several books in the making, and my next book, Hmong History—for young scholars is coming out soon. I want our Hmong children to know who they are and to always remember their sacred history and identity. 

To get in touch with See Lor or check out her books, visit her website https://reading-karma.myshopify.com/

Seng Alex Vang

Seng Alex Vang is a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program at the University of California, Merced. He is also a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, Geography & Ethnic studies at California State University, Stanislaus where he teaches courses in Asian American studies.

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