Here in the Midwest, we’ve had some wintry weather already. Words to Make a Friend: A Story in Japanese and English by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Naoko Stoop is a beautiful story of friendship.
A Japanese girl moves to a new neighborhood and sees the neighbor girl outside building a snowman. She puts on her winter gear, and the two girls start a conversation and play together.
What I love about this book besides the gorgeous illustrations is the fact that the girls don’t let language get in the way of being together. One girl says something in English; the other responds in Japanese.
I have many languages and cultures represented in my classroom. And since I used to teach overseas, I like to emphasize different languages. So this was a perfect read-aloud.
Our Units of Study by Lucy Calkins teaches the kids to use speech bubbles in their illustrations. This book is a good mentor text for that very thing.
I told my students to draw themselves with a kid that speaks another language, building a snowman together like in the book. Most of mine used hola (Spanish) and annyung (Korean) in their speech bubbles.
I also had the students share experiences when they played with someone who didn’t speak the same language as them.
I love how little kids can see beyond race, instead they see a face and a person without language barriers.
Happy Winter Reading!