What a joy it is to return to kindergarten classrooms and be able to share a picture book with them! All nice and close on the rug, their expectant eyes peering over their masks – I had been waiting to be able to read this way for a long time. And I brought with me a great picture book for getting to know a new class: What I Am by Divya Srinivasan.
I love how Divya starts the book with the stumper of a question, “What are you?” and tells the reader: “I didn’t know what to say. So I didn’t answer, and they left. But I kept thinking about it.”
The main character then goes on to describe the many answers she has to the question “What are you?” I asked kindergarteners to practice their “Me Too!” signal with their hands and to signal back to the book when they shared a similar trait.
Hands furiously shook back and forth as the main character shares that she is a human, and that she is an Amma to her stuffed animals. We puzzled out the meaning of “vegetarian” and shared the many different things we do and do not eat.
Things got really interesting when the narrator shows that she can be two opposite things at the same time – we all have times when we are nervous and brave, selfish and generous. The talk around the room exploded when the narrator shares that she can also be mischievous!
This book was a great way to get kids talking about themselves, sharing their identities, and growing awareness that they have similarities and differences with their friends. It’s a great read aloud for kindergarteners and could be an inspiring mentor text for first and second graders.
The narrator wraps up sharing how she identifies herself: “I am American. I am Indian.” As we talked about what that meant, I summarized the students’ ideas.
“That means she has family from India. Do any of you have family that lives in another country?”
“My grandma lives in Pittsburgh!” one new friend eagerly volunteered.
Oh kindergarten, how I’ve missed you!