I have been reading “Always Anjali” by Sheetal Sheth to a lot of classes this fall! Anjali is so excited to ride her new bike to the school carnival with her best friends where they decide to buy matching personalized license plates. Mary and Courtney find theirs right away, but Anjali’s name is nowhere to be seen. When she then gets teased about her name by an older boy, Anjali goes home and announces she’s changing her name. Aftter her parents explain what her name means in Sanskrit and why they choose it especially for her, Anjali comes to realize her name is special and finds a way to celebrate its uniqueness.
In every class where I’ve read this story, there are students who can relate to never finding their name on something in a store, and others who might have a more common name but spell it differently (i.e., Jacksen, Makayla) and so they can’t find their name either. It also led to a discussion about how our parents choose our names for us, and they can choose anything they want. Our name is part of our identity, and therefore it is something special about us.
We have talked in our school this year with staff about needing to build relationships with our students and that starts with knowing their names, pronouncing them correctly, and calling students by their preferred name (i.e., John who goes by Jack, or Thomas James who goes by TJ). We also talked with staff about how names aren’t unusual- they are unpracticed, and we need to practice them to ensure our students and their families feel welcome. “Always Anjali” was a perfect book to find for this focus this school year, and one I intend to use each year!