Day 3 of Refugee Week. Today I have chosen three picture books that highlight the difficulties children have when starting school in an environment that is very different from the one they have left.
1. My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed
Near the beginning the text reads,'Sangoel's father was killed in the war in Sudan. His family had to run from the fighting in the middle of the night. Sangoel was a refugee. He did not have a home. He did not have a country.' Straight away there is so much to discuss with children and the chance for readers to immediately empathise with Sangoel. He moves to America and his peers and teachers struggle to say his name correctly. Amazingly he is strong enough to solve this problem for himself and his positive step becomes a rebus activity for the whole class. The children I have shared this book with all wanted to do the rebus activity with their own name and while this may appear tokenistic, they all remember Sangoel and this book.
2. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
This book is also about names and classmates having problems pronouncing it. Uhei (Yoo-hay) is Korean and feels the pressure to choose an anglicised name. Unlike Sangoel, initially she thinks about it, but finally decides to keep her own name. This book is not as inspiring as the previous one but still worth reading and discussing. There are some great discussion starters for this book here. This book could also be used in conjunction with My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits to look at connections between texts.
3. Marianthe's Story by Aliki
This book is very novel. It is made up of two stories, Painted Stories and Spoken Memories. One story is at each end of the book. Like Uhei and Sangoel, Marianthe moves to school in America and doesn't understand English, but she is very good at drawing. In Painted Stories her teacher asks her to paint and then allows her to share her paintings with the class and in this way they come to appreciate what she is experiencing. In the Spoken Memories end is Marianthe's lifestory and how she came to go to America.