Celebrate diversity in your classroom by highlighting the importance of students’ names. Set the tone at the beginning of the year (and every day!) with these heartwarming books about names to teach kids about empathy, culture, and identity.
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1. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. Instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name from a jar by the following week.
2. Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
What’s in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from—and who she may one day be.
3. Hello, My Name is Ruby by Philip C. Stead
This is one of the sweetest books about names for students! Join Ruby, a plucky little bird, as she ventures through life, making new friends, learning new skills, and asking questions that may have some very surprising results.
4. My Name is Elizabeth! by Annika Dunklee, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Meet Elizabeth. She’s got an excellent pet duck, a loving granddad, and a first name that’s just awesome. After all, she’s got a queen named after her! So she’s really not amused when people insist on using nicknames like Lizzy and Beth.
5. My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Yoon’s name means “shining wisdom.” When she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures—but her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States.
6. My Name is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Barbara Kiwak
A young boy wrestles with his Muslim identify until a compassionate teacher helps him to understand more about his heritage.
7. Andy, That’s My Name by Tomie DePaola
Andy may be the littlest kid on the block, but he’s very important. He has a wagon full of letters that spell his name, and he takes it with him wherever he goes. He could probably spell out his own list of books about names!
8. Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe
Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city.
9. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Chrysanthemum thinks her name is absolutely perfect—until her first day of school. “You’re named after a flower!” teases Victoria. “Let’s smell her,” says Jo. Chrysanthemum wilts. What will it take to make her blossom again?
10. Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Thunder Boy Jr. wants a normal name … one that’s all his own. Dad is known as big Thunder, but little thunder doesn’t want to share a name.
11. My Name is Konisola by Alisa Siegel
On a freezing winter night, nine-year-old Konisola and her mother step off a plane in Canada. They are running for their lives when Konisola’s mother becomes sick, and Konisola is forced to fend for herself in a strange country. Will they be allowed to stay as refugees or will they both be sent back across the ocean?
12. A, My Name is Alice by Jane Baye
This is one of the silliest books about names! Meet Barbara, the bear with balloons for sale in Brazil, New York Ned, the newt who owns a noodle emporium, and finally the zipper-selling Zambian zebra and zebu, Zelda and Zach.
13. How Nivi Got Her Names by Laura Deal, illustrated by Charlene Chua
Nivi has always known that her names were special, but she doesn’t know where they came from. One sunny afternoon, Nivi decides to ask her mom to explain. This book is an easy-to-understand introduction to traditional Inuit naming, with a story that touches on Inuit custom adoption.
14. My Name is María Isabel by Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by K. Dyble Thompson
For María Isabel Salazar López, the hardest thing about being the new girl in school is that the teacher doesn’t call her by her real name. “We already have two Marías in this class,” says her teacher. “Why don’t we call you Mary instead?” Can she find a way to make her teacher see that if she loses her name, she’s lost the most important part of herself?
15. My Name is Sangoel by Karen Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock
Sangoel is a refugee. Leaving behind his homeland of Sudan, where his father died in the war, he has little to call his own other than his name, a Dinka name handed down proudly from his father and grandfather before him.
16. Always Anjali by Sheetal Sheth, illustrated by Jessica Blank
Anjali and her friends are excited to get matching personalized license plates for their bikes. But Anjali can’t find her name. To make matters worse, she gets bullied for her “different” name, and is so upset she demands to change it.
17. A Porcupine Named Fluffy by Helen Lester
Even animals need books about names! Fluffy the porcupine is unhappy with his name: “So he decided to become fluffier.” He climbs a tree and pretends to be a cloud! He even poses as a pillow. When Fluffy meets a rhinoceros named Hippo, it puts his plight in perspective … and he makes a friend.
18. The Change Your Name Store by Leanne Shirtliffe, illustrated by Tina Kügler
Wilma Lee Wu does not like her name, so she marches to the Change Your Name Store where she tries on new names. Each time Wilma selects a new name, she is transported to the country from which the name originates. Will Wilma find a new name that she likes? Will she discover her real identity and where she truly belongs?
19. The Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, illustrated by Ted Lewin
All day long, Ahmed maneuvers his donkey cart through streets crowded with cars and camels, down alleys filled with merchants’ stalls, and past buildings a thousand years old. He keeps his secret safe inside. It is so special and wonderful, that he can reveal it only to his family when he returns home at the end of the day.
20. Yoko Writes Her Name by Rosemary Wells
Yoko is so excited for the first day of school. She’s just learned to write her name. But when Mrs. Jenkins asks Yoko to show everyone, Olive and Sylvia make fun of her Japanese writing. “Yoko can’t write. She’s only scribbling!”
21. Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet
One ordinary day, Noah’s parents tell him his name isn’t really Noah, his birthday isn’t really in March, and his new home is going to be East Berlin—on the other side of the Iron Curtain. East Germany seems the least likely place in the world for a kid from America with a lot of secrets of his own to make a friend, but then Noah meets Cloud-Claudia, the lonely girl who lives one floor down.
22. My Name is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry
Isabella’s heroes include U.S. Astronaut Sally Ride, activist Rosa Parks, and sharpshooter Annie Oakley—but there’s no bigger hero than Isabella’s own mommy! Join Isabella on an adventure of discovery, and find out how imagining to be these extraordinary women teaches her the importance of being her extraordinary self.
23. My Name is Wakawakaloch! by Chana Stiefel
The intrepid, determined, and savvy Wakawakaloch learns to embrace what makes her special while lifting up her Neanderthal community.
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