Title: The Name Jar
Author: Yangsook Choi
Themes: cultural differences, identity, friendship
What’s it about?
This is a story about a young girl name Unhei who moves to America with her family. She is worried that the children in her class will not be able to pronounce her name and so begins a name jar – where the other children write name suggestions and pop them in the jar. One boy though isn’t sure why she won’t just use her name and offers a hand of friendship in the most endearing of ways.
I love the fact that this books addresses the feelings that children from non-English speaking backgrounds face when moving to a new country and having to deal with the constant wrongful pronunciation of their names. There are no villains in this story as the story focuses solely on Unhei and how she is feeling.
I wish the book wasn’t set in America – it might have been far more effective for it to be indicated that Unhei’s family moved to an English-speaking country in general so as to be more relateable to the rest of the countries.
This is an easy to use book that I recommend for the beginning of the year. It is a stepping stone to teaching a class about diversity and differences in cultures. I usually do an activity associated with the book where children mark on a map where they were born and then mark on the same map where their name originates from – it is always interesting to look at the results and makes for data collection to be used for graphing in math.
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