Choi, Yangsook. (2001). The Name Jar. New York: Random House Children’s Books
Multicultural and Kindergarten through Second Grade
Before reading the book, I believed it was going to be about a little girl who wanted to change her name to fit in. However, I quickly learned that The Name Jar is about a little girl, Unhei (pronounced Yoon-hye), and on her first day in America she realizes how many people mispronounce her name. She is confused as to why children mispronounce her name since she recently moved from Korea. On the school bus before the first day of school, children constantly tease her about her name by saying “‘Oh, it’s Yoo-hey.” As she arrives to her class on her first day, she refuses to say her name to the class. She responds by telling them she will tell them her name next week. As school continues, the class begins a name jar where they write down American names that could be hers. Unhei is left is a predicament. She wants to be loyal to her family and country back home by sticking with her name, yet she wants to fit in with her peers. She sifts through the names in the name jar, yet she decides her name is her favorite. At the end, Unhei teaches her class how to pronounce her name.
This book is great especially for children who don’t understand other cultures. It helps break down the barrier of cultural tension between each other. It also displays how everyone is unique and each name is unique. Names display culture typically if you are hispanic your name might be or if you asian it might reflect your heritage.
I connected with this book in many ways. My name isn’t extremely unique; however, most people mispronounce it and say “Rachel or Rochelle.” I was never a fan of my name until recently. I like that it is not a super common name and that it is unique.Unhei didn’t change her name because she realized that made her who she was and that is special.
The issues in the book are about cultural diversity. I loved how the author displayed the struggle many immigrants or second generation immigrants go through. Whether it’s a language barrier, a cultural barrier, or a religious barrier, this book allows children to open their eyes to other and accept them for who they are.
Some prompts that could be used with children are asking the children what makes them unique, have them write a sentence or two about their family culture, and ask them what they are most proud of about their heritage.
The setting, plot, theme, style, and point of view are all perfect for the message of the story. The lesson of how people are all unique and why are names are all different based on heritage. The setting of the book is in Unhei’s classroom which is relevant since the story is about her and her challenges with her new school. There are two points of view one from Unhei and one from the classmates.
This book could be taught in several ways. This book could be read when learning about other cultures such as African American (Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, etc.), Jewish (Anne Frank), and many more. It could be taught to display how everyone is different, unique, and special in their own way. It could be used for teaching math (see lesson below).
Students will understand other cultures and how to break barriers between each other.
Do you know anyone from somewhere outside of the United States like Korea, Mexico, or another country?
If you could pick a new name for yourself what would it be? Or would you keep yours the same?
Why did Unhei choose to keep her name?
How do you think Unhei felt as she sat on the bus before her first day of school?