Tuesday, February 5, 2008


title: Yoko
author: Rosemary Wells
Summary: Yoko by Rosemary Wells is a book about how a cat teaches her classmate about acceptance and respect while she gains self love herself. Yoko, a young Japanese cat, loves sushi and insists that her mother sends her with it for lunch. When she gets to school and lunch finally arrives some students have franks and beans, cheese spread sandwiches, and spaghetti. All her classmates make fun of Yoko because of her sushi and her teacher calls for a cultural food day so that the students may learn to accept one another. For this day Yoko brought in sushi and red bean ice cream but no one ate her food. When the party was over Timothy, another student was still hungry and eats a piece of Yoko’s sushi.
Timothy loves the sushi and Yoko is very happy that her classmate has finally accepted her and the food of her culture. The following day Timothy and Yoko decide to have lunch together and have dragon rolls and brownies. In the end, Timothy, along with young readers, have to confront the issue of how one is socially just and respectful and the struggle that people must endure to cause social change. Also, in the book, students see how Yoko learns that you have to have self love for yourself and your culture.
Reflections: This book is a wonderful piece of literature to use with both first and second graders that presents heavy topics in a way that is understandable and not scary. It helps students to see that they must respect, accept, and appreciate the culture and traditions of all cultures. It shows that Yoko must struggle to create a social change in her classroom, which is a issue of social justice that students will have to one day explore in their own lives. In seeing that Timothy tries and likes Yoko’s sushi, students are able to see that he has respect and acceptance for the traditions of Yoko’s culture and is willing to take social action by having sushi with her the following day.
How would I use the book/curriculum units: The grade level in which Yoko targets in approximately first and second grade. Therefore the book could be used first in a broad discussion about treating others fairly. It could then filter into lessons about respecting and appreciating people who have different cultural traditions, in which student learn about all the cultures represented in their own classroom. The teacher could take all this information and write it on a piece of chart paper with all different colors and then it could be compared to a piece of chart paper with a few pieces of the same colored information. The students could then discuss why it is better and why it looks more pleasing to have all these different cultural characteristics that represent their class. After they have stated why they feel it is better to have many cultures represented in the class the students could explain why this discussion was an example of respect and acceptance for others.
In learning all this, as a class, the students could then be divided into pairs and in the pairs they would interview each other about their cultures. Students could then present what they have learned about their partner as well as create collages that represent that person (using cultural information that they had learned). Each student could also go home and speak to their parents about how their culture has been treated poorly and how these issues were explored and tackled with social movements. After students have learned this information then the teacher could have students share this information as long as it is not too overwhelming. A discussion could follow in which students would talk about what they would do in that situation, how they would show respect and acceptance, what they would do to explore this issue, and how they would try to change it.
Domains of Social Justice: 1) Domains of self-love and acceptance: Through Yoko students learn to have self love for who they are and the culture they are, as Yoko had to do. They see how Yoko finally creates self love and acceptance when she is proud of her culture and eats sushi proudly. 2) Respect for others: In this book students are shown how one cold be disrespectful as well as respect to another person in regards to their culture. Students are given the ability to see how disrespect makes someone feel and then see how this disrespect could change to respect and why it is better to have the latter situation. 3)Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Students will be able to explore racism but in an age appropriate manner. Being that many issues of social justice are overwhelming and evoke strong emotions, students can not go into such issues deeply in first and second grade. However students can learn about social justice and how one sees this by looking at Timothy’s role in the book. 4) Social Movements and Social Change: This book allows students to see how they could take steps to find out about and respect another person’s culture as well as help in making other people respect that culture. 5) Taking Social Action: In this book students learn that they could take social action such as Timothy did when he disregarded what his peers thought and accepted Yoko and her culture (by eating sushi with her). The book also sets the background for discussions about how Timothy could have taken more social action such as working with Yoko to teach other classes about Japanese culture.

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