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Words to Make a Friend

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.

Hi. Hola.
Hi. AnNyung. 안녕

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!

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