Monday, February 4, 2008

My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

My Name Is Yoon is a moving story depicting a seven-year-old Korean girl’s difficult adjustment to her new life in America. With a name “Yoon” meaning “shining wisdom”, the main character thinks that her name looks much happier written in Korean than in English. She struggles to please her parents by learning an unfamiliar language while surrounded by strangers. Although her teacher encourages her to practice writing “Yoon”, the child substitutes other words for her name, words that better express her inner fears and hopes such as “cat” that can hide in a corner and cuddle with her mother, “bird” that can fly back to Korea, and finally, “cupcake” that is loved by her classmates. In fact, she yearns for gaining the acceptance of her peers. In the end, she realizes that she is actually accepted by people surrounded her. She comes to accept both her English name and her new American self, recognizing that however it is written, she is still Yoon.

This is a great book because it conveys to youngsters a positive message of respect and acceptance to different cultures and self-recognition and value. In a simple and straightforward way, it shows children how to accept and integrate others from different cultures that they might not have encountered before. In the meantime, Yoon’s story may relate to millions of immigrant children who tend to be overwhelmed and struggle in a completely new environment. Therefore, it can be helpful to have the youngsters learn an abstract concept of empathy at this point. Moreover, through showing Yoon’s bewilderment and sense of dislocation, the book may help the children to develop an awareness of their unique identities and appreciation of their own cultures as immigrants.

How would I use the book:
This book would be used in the beginning of a unit about Immigration in a second/third-grade classroom. I would first introduce the book through read aloud and then have the class think aloud and discuss what they would do to appreciate and accept people from other cultures. Relating to students’ own lives, I would ask them to think if they have known somebody from other countries and share what it is like interacting with that particular person. If there are certain students with other cultural backgrounds, I would have them share their own cultures and traditions in class. In addition, carrying out a role-play activity in which students act out different characters in the book may be a good idea to reinforce the concepts.

Domains of Social Justice:

Domains of self-love and acceptance:
Students learn to love themselves for who they are. In this story, Yoon gets to accept her “new identity” as a Korean immigrant in America, and tries to involve herself in the classroom and community.

Respect for others:
Students learn to accept, respect, and love one another, and moreover, cultures and traditions of others. In this case, Yoon’s peers get to accept and love this new class member, and vice versa.

Social Movements and Social Change
Students may get to learn that most people tend to face barriers and difficulties when transitioning to a new life, and most of all, how to resolve the problem such as saying something nice to that person, helping out with homework, being a learning buddy, and etc.

Taking Social Action
Students learn to encourage and persuade people to accept other people from other cultures.

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