Learning and pronouncing a person’s name correctly is respectful and kind. These picture books about names share stories of hurt feelings, correcting when people don’t say your name right, learning the story behind your name, and feeling proud of your name.
My oldest daughter’s name is Annika. Yes, we thought a few people might say it wrong, but it’s been way more than a few. Most people say it wrong. (It rhymes with Monica. And Hannukah. It’s not that hard.) But my shy daughter eventually stopped correcting people, including teachers, even her high school advisor, because they would persist in saying it wrong. (Even her flatmates say her name incorrectly.) Now that she’s 21, she’s asked her friends to call her a new, easier name. Which is SO sad for my husband and me, but I do understand. She’s tired of the rudeness, disrespect, and hurt feelings.
Pronouncing names correctly is RESPECTFUL and KIND. It is the best thing you can do to show that you care for someone. Saying someone’s name correctly models to others (your kids, your students, other humans) how to be a decent human being. Not to mention, respect for a person’s name is essential to being a good friend.
When I was a teacher, I struggled with remembering names. Admittedly, I used name tags way longer than my co-workers. But I worked hard at it. Since it wasn’t a strength, I’d quiz myself at night to match names and faces. Why? Because knowing someone’s name (and saying it right) makes a student feel known, welcome, and valued. That should always be our goal as educators.
Please read these children’s books with your preschool and elementary-age kids and students. Teach the next generation how important names are! And how kindness means saying someone’s name correctly.
Best Books About Names
My Name is Saajin Singh by Kuljibder Kaur Brar, illustrated by Samrath Kaur
When Saajin goes to school, his teacher says his name incorrectly and so do his classmates. At home, Saajin’s parents tell him that even grown-ups make mistakes. The next day, he tells the teacher the correct pronunciation of his name, and the teacher apologizes.
The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name by Sandhya Parappukkaran, illustrated by Michelle Pereira
This is a good book about a boy with a long name. He learns to skateboard step by step and then teaches a new friend how to say his long name in the same way, syllable by syllable.
Kantiga Finds the Perfect Name written by Mabel Mnensa, illustrated by Chantelle Burgen Thorne
Kantiga, a South African girl, wants to change her name. When she tells her grandmother, her grandmother shares a folktale about a village ruler who walked to get water with two pots, one of which was cracked. When questioned about the waste of water, the village leader shows the path she’s walked from the well to her home that is filled with flowers and plants that grow new fruits and vegetables every day that her dripping pot watered. The water gains magical powers through the crack in the clay pot, called a Kantiga. After hearing the story about her name, Kantiga embraces her name.
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela thinks her name is too long …until her father explains about each person she was named for — like Esperanza, Alma’s great-grandmother who hoped to travel. This helps Alma make a personal connection to each person she’s named for. With Esperanza, she says, “The world is so big! I want to go see it, Daddy!” Names are important. This story would be a wonderful way to talk with your child about not just your child’s name but the names in your family, too. Soft, muted colors give this story a nostalgic atmosphere.
My Name is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee, illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Elizabeth loves her name — “I like that it’s nine letters long…And I like all the neat things my mouth does when I say it.” But she doesn’t like when people call her Lizzy or Beth or Betsy. She’s had enough and announces to the world that her name is Elizabeth, “But you may call me Elizabeth.” Blue and white backgrounds with white and orange characters give this book a unique retro feel. It’s a book for anyone who loves their given name — and doesn’t want to be called anything else.
Millions of Maxes by Meg Wolitzer, illustrated by Micah Player
What do you do when you find out other kids have YOUR same name? The one and only Max goes to the park where he discovers that he is NOT the only Max in the world. He befriends two other Maxes who, he realizes, are different than him. Together, they search for one of the Max’s pink pinecone and meet yet another Max — a dog Max. Later at bedtime, Max tells his parents his realizations that he’s not the only Max but that they’re all unique so it’s okay with him. Read this with children to introduce the idea of other people having the same name, I predict it will spark important conversations.
That’s Not My Name by Annosha Syed
Mirha is so excited to go to her first day of school. When she gets there, the other kids say her name wrong which hurts her feelings. Her mom helps Mirha understand the importance and meaning of her name. This empowers MIrha to return to school and correct her classmates’ pronunciation.
My Name written by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat
Filled with gorgeous illustrations and figurative language, a child reflects on their name that gives their classmates pronunciation troubles and mean giggles, a name that marks the child as being different. Then, the child’s family remind the child that their name also means giggles and love and spices and family, and much more. “My name means I’m me. Your name means you’re you.”
My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Yoon loves writing her name in Korean, but her father insists she must write her name in English. Yoon decides she isn’t sure about her name in English and wonders if another name would be better.
Thunder Boy by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Thunder Boy wants a name all his own, not just a smaller version of his dad’s name. So he begins brainstorming the best name, all the while figuring out who he is. The story is humorous and playful while placing importance on knowing yourself.