Names are the foundation of our identity. Names matter. Being addressed by your name as it was intended is important. Children (and adults) whose names have ethnic origins or are perceived to be outside of the dominant culture are often forced to endure their names being pronounced incorrectly or worse being given nicknames that are easier for the speaker… but certainly not for the child. Anoosha Syed’s beautiful new book tackles this head-on and I believe it will be a powerful conversation starter about names and the importance of saying them correctly as we kick off this school year.
In That’s Not My Name! we meet Mirha on the eve of her first day of school. She’s all around excited but particularly eager to make friends. When she introduces herself to the class, she’s surprised that so many of the kids (and even teachers) can’t say her name correctly.
Mirha doesn’t want to be called the wrong name all year, but she also feels uncomfortable correcting others. So, she decides to change her name to something easier for everyone to say. Later that day, her mother explains the importance of her name, which means happiness in Arabic. She shares a unique name is special and something of which to be proud. The affirmations give Mirha the courage to simply say, “That’s Not My Name” when others say it incorrectly.
I recently had the opportunity to share this book with a brand new student in one of our schools named Mila, who lamented that people always think her name is pronounced Mill-uh, when it is really ME-Lah. Drawing on the opening pages of this book, where Mirha explains her name is MIR like in miracle and HA as in haha! I encouraged and empowered her to say, “That’s not my name.” and offered that she could add, “My name is Mila… It’s ME (pointing to herself) and then LA (and I sang out a LA as I raised my hand as if I were on stage singing.) A huge smile spread across her face when I said this and she shared, “I love singing.” Saying someone’s name correctly shows you value the person and embrace their unique identity. I believe I have a lovely, new friend in young Mila.
This book is at the tip top of my stack of books to share with kids in the fall. I hope it will empower kids to speak up about their beautiful names and encourage everyone around them to say them correctly.
To listen to another author using the same pronunciation strategy that Mirha used to teach others how to say her name, check out this audio name pronunciation from Aisha Saeed. It’s part of Teaching Books audio database of over THREE THOUSAND authors and illustrators sharing how to say their names!