Now Reading
March is Reading Month. And Storytelling is an Inherent Part of My Indian Heritage

March is Reading Month. And Storytelling is an Inherent Part of My Indian Heritage

  • There is a multitude of literary works in the many Indic languages that I have come to know about as an American Hindu that inspires me to keep writing, albeit in English.

During “March is Reading Month,” I reap the rewards of being a legislator: reading to students across the district. This helps me navigate the more challenging aspects I face as a state Representative, from contending with the challenges that come with representing a frontline district to being a latecomer to the political arena. 

A favorite anecdote from my first term: I went to a school that falls within Michigan’s 41st House District but not within the Troy and Clawson school districts. I was asked to read two books — one to the entire kindergarten thru second-grade student body and the other to the entire third, fourth and fifth grades. I was the first state legislator who had ever visited them for March is Reading Month. 

The joy of reading to young students is something I also share with my seatmate, Rep. Lori Stone, who was a 4th-grade teacher before being elected to the legislature. She makes ‘March is Reading Month’ exciting by bringing in Michigan authors to be honored in the House chamber. This year she invited Patricia Polacco, a popular children’s author and illustrator whose books were often on display in our local public library. This popular Michigan author — an inspiration to many who are slow to learn to read — was joined by the State Librarian, and given a standing ovation on her visit earlier this month. 

When I visit classrooms — now mostly virtually — I love to share books that I have cherished since my childhood: Caldecott winner Blueberries for Sal, Virginia Lee Burton’s book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and more. I  usually bring a bag of books that include my faves from my kids’ years in elementary school: our signed copy of Tomie dePaola’s The Knight and the Dragon, Weslandia with its entrepreneurial protagonist, and of course, The Math Curse, which blends my love of math with my love of storytelling. 

I even bought a couple of new books this year: former NY District Attorney Preet Bharara’s Justice Is… and a book about the conception and construction of the Statue of Liberty, with a poignant quote from Emma Lazarus’ The New Colossus: “From her beacon-hand /Glows world-wide welcome.” And boy, did I feel welcome at the many schools that not only allowed me to visit virtually and read a book of my choice to the students, but I did so to the entire school! The students were enthusiastic, engaged and even posed questions to me when time permitted.

Storytelling is an inherent part of my Indian heritage, with the use of various art forms, especially in southern India, to narrate stories from the Puranasor the pitta kathalu (short stories) in the Mahabharata. There is also a multitude of literary works in the many Indic languages that I have come to know about as an American Hindu that inspires me to keep writing, albeit in English. With this foundation and the practice provided by my column Seeking Shanti as a Hindu blogger focused on building interfaith understanding at, I came to the political arena with an awareness that stories can help us establish connections with people across the state and across the aisle. Telling stories has helped me advocate for a hearing for the DriveSafe bills to allow immigrants to get a driver’s license. 

In my first term, I heard the challenges faced by immigrants with H1B and other visas, including former colleagues from across Michigan. This term, I championed the Drive Michigan Forward coalition’s initiative and their decade-long effort to address this issue. This month, I was able to elevate the “country backlog” challenge, with a bipartisan resolution that asks Congress to eliminate country caps on employment based immigration

The stories of the million-plus folks stuck in the complex legal immigration process aren’t usually told, especially those of the documented dreamers – many young people in my district are worried about having to self-deport after decades of growing up in America while their parents work in the auto industry. Employment-based immigration is a tool that the US has used to combat worker shortages in the past and can help head off inflation, a current challenge in every state including Michigan. 

See Also

As a legislator, I am lucky that I continue to build awareness about the importance of literacy, developing a reading habit and sharing stories. It’s a personal reminder, to take time to read, and a way to reinforce an educator’s message.While my personal reading is often curtailed by legislative responsibilities and running a competitive campaign, I am grateful for the reminder that reading to students provides: sharing our stories is important, and it all starts with reading a good book.

(Top photo, Rep. Kuppa with author Patricia Polacco, Michigan-based children’s author and illustrator who was honored in the Michigan State House in March 2022.)

Padma Kuppa is the Democratic State Representative for Michigan’s 41st House District and has been just re-elected for a second term. A mother, an engineer from NIT Warangal, and an automotive and IT professional for over 2 decades, and a civic and interfaith leader for years, she is the first Indian immigrant and Hindu in the Michigan state legislature. You can reach her at Learn more at or

What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2020 American Kahani LLC. All rights reserved.

The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
Scroll To Top