Books for kids about names are everywhere. It can be hard to find the best books for kids about names that include diversity and understanding of different cultures and traditions. You also don’t want to read the same book for your back to school, identity, or learning your name unit every year, so don’t do that. Picture Book Brain is a group of educators who love to read picture books to their students. These are some of their favorite books about names for kindergarten, first, second, third, and fourth grade.
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TEACH US YOUR NAME BY HUDA ESSA
It was an amazing book that made me think about how I’ve been able to remember my students’ names in the past. This book has changed the way I learn the names of my students for the rest of my life. People don’t like her name because it’s so long and weird. In school, her teachers don’t know how to say her name, and she doesn’t want to correct them. Even when people say her name in a different way, she starts to like it. All of this changes when she visits her family in another country. When they can pronounce her name and she learns the meaning of it, everything changes for the better.
ALMA AND HOW SHE GOT HER NAME BY JUANA MARTINEZ-NEAL
This is a Caldecott Honor-winning book that has a story that is as beautiful as its illustrations. if you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza will tell you what she wants to do. José Pura Candela has a lot of different names: six, to be exact. How did someone so small get such a big name? For help, Alma asks her dad. He tella her about Sofia, the grandma who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who wanted to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other people with the same name. As Alma hears the story behind her name, she starts to think it might be a good fit after all. Alma also realizes that one day, she will be able to tell her own story. Juana Martinez-Neal, a Peruvian author and illustrator, wrote and illustrated Alma and how she got her name.
MY NAME IS BILAL BY ASMA MOBIN-UDDIN
Bilal and his sister Ayesha have to go to a new school when they move with their family. Soon, they find out that they may be the only Muslims at the school, and they don’t like it. Bilal sees that his sister is being bullied because she is Muslim, so he decides to hide it by saying that his name is Bill to make it seem like he isn’t Muslim. Mr. Ali, one of Bilal’s teachers and a Muslim, sees how Bilal is having a hard time and helps him. A book on who was the first to call people to prayer during the time of the Prophet Muhammad is given to Bilal by him. In this case, he was Bilal Ibn Rabah, another one of his names. What Bilal learns from the book helps him accept who he is and live with pride.
THE NAME JAR BY YANGSOOK CHOI
She’s afraid that kids in the United States won’t like her because she just moved from Korea. This means she won’t say her name on the first day of school. She will pick a name. When she moves in with her new classmates, they decide to help her out by filling a glass jar with names for her to choose from. During the time Unhei is pretending to be a Suzy or Laura or Amanda, a classmate comes to her neighborhood and finds out her real name and what it means. A strange thing happened on the day that she was going to pick her name. In the company of her new friends, Unhei picks her own Korean name and tries to help everyone pronounce it.
CHRYSANTHEMUM BY KEVIN HENKES
Until her first day of school, Chrysanthemum thinks her name is great. Victoria says, “You’re named after a flower!” Jo says, “Let’s smell her.” The Chrysanthemum dies. A lot of work. A book that has been around for a long time and still has the same effect on people today as it did when it first came out. Favorite book for school, too!
MY NAME IS ELIZABETH! BY ANNIKA DUNKLEE
Elizabeth is here. She has a great pet duck, a great grandfather, and a great first name. So, why not? She has a queen named after her. So she’s not happy when people keep calling her Lizzy and Beth. She doesn’t speak about her anger until an otherwise normal autumn day, when she learns that she can change things for good.
MY NAME IS YOON BY HELEN RECORVITS
This is how Yoon says her name in Korean: It looks like dancing people. He says that she must learn to write it in English. A lot of things stand out when you write in English. This is how Yoon feels in the United States. YOON isn’t sure if she wants to be her. At her new school, she tries out a lot of different names. She might call herself CAT or BIRD. Then, maybe a cupcake!
THUNDER BOY JR. BY SHERMAN ALEXIE
It’s Thunder Boy Jr.’s dream to have a normal name. One that’s all his own, of course. When people see Dad, they call him “big thunder.” Little Thunder doesn’t want to be called that. This person wants to be named after something that is cool, like Touching the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder. When Little Thunder thinks all hope is lost, his dad picks the best name for him…Lightning! When they are together, their love will be loud and bright.