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What's in a Name?: Pronunciation as Compassion!

August 23, 2022

Names may not seem like such a big deal, but they really are. A name can reflect someone's cultural or ethnic identity, heritage, and even religion. Names are intentional gifts that are passed from caretakers to their children, and they can hold so much meaning. In these two children's books, authors explore what it feels like to be called by the wrong name.  

In That's Not My Name! by Anoosha Syed, Mirha cannot WAIT for her first day of school. She mostly looks forward to making new friends. But when her fellow students and even her teacher struggle to pronounce her name correctly, Mirha feels the need to make herself small. One child asks her if he can call her "Maya". Frustrated and misunderstood, she goes home in tears. Her mother comforts her and encourages her to stand up for herself and demand that her classmates respect her name. She returns to school the next day, determined to speak up and make friends!

Another fantastic children's book, Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, takes a more poetic approach to this same issue of name pronunciation. After one little girl leaves her first day of school, she tells her Momma that she never wants to go back. No one could say her name correctly, including her teacher. The little girl laments, "it got stuck in her mouth".

Suddenly, her mother, inspired by a street musician, comes up with a most brilliant pep-talk. "Your name is a song!", she exclaims. Though our heroine is not at first convinced, she soon finds herself swept up and uplifted by Momma's melodious words. Serenading her with all sorts of beautiful names, she encourages her daughter to teach her class the beauty of her own. Don't read this book without a box of tissues nearby. 

Let's face it. Teachers already have their plates full (overflowing, really). Add a looooooong list of children's names onto that plate, and it can become quite hard to manage. Teachers aren't the only ones responsible for keeping up with name pronunciation. Introduce your child to books like these to cultivate a sense of empathy and connection. Make sure your children know that they are WORTHY of the name you have lovingly gifted them! 

Caroline Cronin


Caroline is a Bilingual Literacy Assistant for Bringing Books to Life! She is passionate about accessibility and language justice and loves to share stories and art with friends of all ages. In her free time she enjoys singing, cooking, teaching and practicing yoga, and roller skating.


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