Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yoko Writes Her Name

Author: Rosemary Wells
Illustrator: Rosemary Wells
Ages: 3 to 6
Grade Level: Pre-Kindergarten to 2nd Grade

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Resource 1
Resource 2

Summary: Rosemary Wells’ book, Yoko Writes Her Name, tells the story of a young Japanese girl, Yoko, who could write her name perfectly but struggles to find acceptance among her classmates when they notice her name is written differently.  When Yoko writes her name in Japanese, a couple of her classmates say, “Yoko can’t write! She is only scribbling!”  The teasing continues as Yoko writes her numbers in Japanese and brings in her favorite Japanese book for show and tell.  Feeling defeated and not included, Yoko doesn’t want to return to school.  However, Yoko returns to school and with the help of her best friend Angelo, she again takes pride in her culture.  Angelo teaches Yoko to write her name in ABCs and she teaches him to write his name in Japanese.  Soon, all of her classmates are excited and eager to learn how to write their own names in Japanese.  At the conclusion of Yoko Writes Her Name, Yoko and her classmates graduate from Kindergarten, with their names displayed in English and Japanese on their diplomas!

Relationship to Element 2: Respect for Others: Yoko Writes Her Name is a wonderful story to introduce Element 2: Respect for Others.  This story will help students gain a respect for diversity as they read about Yoko’s struggle for acceptance among her peers.  Yoko’s relationship with Angelo highlights mutual respect for others as she teaches him Japanese and he teaches Yoko the ABCs.  This interaction also highlights peers teaching peers and cooperative learning, which is based on respect for others.  This book encourages students to take pride in their culture, while demonstrating respect for their classmates. 

Activity: After reading Yoko Writers Her Name with the class, a follow up activity can be done that will allow students to learn more about the cultures and backgrounds of their classmates.  The first part of the activity will incorporate help from the students’ parents.   A worksheet will be sent home asking parents to tell the meaning of their child’s name, where it came from, and why they chose it.  The children will then be given bubble letters that spell out their name.  Each letter will   allow them to decorate or color in each letter.  The students will color in the letters with colors or images of things that are important or special to them.  The child’s name and meaning behind their name will be attached to a picture of Yoko, which they will decorate as themselves. The class will be able to share the meaning behind their name and what is important to their culture.  Through this activity, students will be able to learn from their peers and share knowledge about their own cultural background.

This is an example of what the activity would look like.  Since the activity is geared towards younger students, the letters, image, and words will be larger to allow for them to color and decorate. 

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