Back to school season is upon us, and I couldn’t be more excited! I love setting up my classroom, organizing student materials and thinking of new ways to build classroom community. One of my favorite ways to form positive student relationships is through name activities. It’s important for students to learn the names of their classmates, and what better way than through the power of read alouds?! These name books for back to school encourage students to celebrate their identities and appreciate their unique names!
“The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi is one of my favorite culturally inclusive name books. It tells the story of a young Korean girl named Unhei who moves to America. She is hesitant to share her name with her new classmates, so she decides to choose an American name from a glass jar. With the help of a friend, Unhei learns that the best name is her own.
“Your Name Is a Song” by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow is one of the most diverse name books. Frustrated with everyone mispronouncing her name, a young girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names. Through poetic prose, readers are reminded that their name is, too, a song.
“Becoming Vanessa” by Vanessa Brantley-Newton is an inclusive and empathetic story that follows Vanessa on her first day of school. It seems that everything that could go wrong does… even her name is too hard to write. When Vanessa’s mother shares the true meaning behind her name, Vanessa gains the self-confidence she needs to show her classmates the real Vanessa.
“Always Anjali” is a heartwarming children’s book by Sheetal Sheth. In the story, Anjali becomes frustrated when she can’t find a license plate for her bike with her name on it. Upon returning home, she asks her parents to let her change her name. Through the process, Anjali discovers why being different means being marvelous.
“Thunder Boy Jr.” by Sherman Alexie is a captivating name book that celebrates the power of names and personal identity. It follows the journey of a young boy who yearns for a “normal name” that he doesn’t share with anyone else, not even his father. He wants a name that reflects his own uniqueness and dreams.
“Chrysanthemum” by Kevin Henkes is another one of my favorite name books that explores the themes of self-acceptance and embracing individuality. As the story unfolds, young readers learn to understand the appreciation for the beauty of their own names. My students always enjoy working on these Chrystanthemum name activities during the first week of school.
“Yoko Writes Her Name” by Rosemary Wells is an empowering name book that tells the story of a young Japanese girl named Yoko. She has just learned how to write her name, but her classmates make fun of her Japanese writing. Feeling nervous and self-conscious about her name, Yoko finds the confidence to embrace her unique identity.
“A, My Name Is Alice” by Jane E. Bayer is a classic children’s book that introduces the alphabet in a fun and memorable way. Its catchy rhymes invite young readers to join Alice on her imaginative journey through the alphabet, sparking their curiosity and love for learning.
“That’s Not My Name” by Anoosha Syed follows the journey of a young girl named Nour who is tired of being called by the wrong name. Despite the persistent mispronunciations and misunderstandings, Nour remains determined to assert her true identity and have her name pronounced correctly. It encourages young readers to embrace their own names and teaches the value of empathy, acceptance and understanding in a beautifully illustrated and heartwarming tale.
“My Name Is Wakawakaloch” by Chana Stiefel is one of the best humorous name books. It follows the adventures of a young girl named Wakawakaloch who is fed up with her long and hard-to-pronounce name. Through playful storytelling, the book emphasizes the importance of embracing one’s unique identity, appreciating cultural diversity, and ultimately learning to love and be proud of one’s name.
“Millions of Maxes” by Meg Wolitzer revolves around a young boy named Max. He discovers that there are countless other children with the same name as him. As Max explores different identities and imagines the lives of other “Maxes,” he realizes the endless opportunities for adventure, growth and embracing his individuality.
“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin Jr. is a beloved children’s book that introduces the alphabet in a lively and rhythmic way. Young readers are encouraged to partake in the playful journey as the letters of the alphabet climb up a coconut tree. Students can practice sequencing the letters in their name and/or counting the number of letters with this fun “Chick Chicka Boom Boom” craft
“Alma and How She Got Her Name” by Juana Martinez-Neal is about a young girl named Alma who is curious about her unique name. As her father shares the stories behind each of her namesakes, Alma begins to understand the rich heritage and love that is embedded within her own name. With warm illustrations, the book celebrates the power of names in shaping our identities and connecting us to our roots.
“The Change Your Name Store” by Leanne Shirtliffe is a whimsical and imaginative children’s book that follows a young girl’s hilarious adventure. Wilma Lee Wu does not like her name… so she heads to a magical store where she can change her name. The store owner convinces Wilma Lee Wu to try on new names. With each name, she is transported to the country of origin.
“You’re Called What” by Kes Gray is just one of a few name books that takes readers on a wild journey to discover some of the most peculiar animal names. Filled with witty storytelling and whimsical illustrations, it introduces young readers to a world of unique and hilarious animals.
“The Steves” by Morag Hood uses humor as two birds named Steve discover each other. Surely, one of them must be better than the other. While finding friendship, the two learn to embrace their similarities and differences.
“My Name Is Elizabeth” by Annika Dunklee follows the story of a determined and spirited young girl named Elizabeth. Frustrated with the various nicknames given to her, Elizabeth insists on being called by her full name. With confidence and resilience, she stands up for herself and asserts her identity, inspiring others to do the same.
“My Name Is Sangoel” by Karen Williams tells the story of a young boy named Sangoel who moves to a new country. With a name that is difficult for others to pronounce, Sangoel faces the challenge of feeling isolated and misunderstood. Determined to preserve his identity and share his culture, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery, finding creative ways to connect with his peers and teach them about his Sudanese heritage.
“The Wheels on the Bus” by Raffi is a beloved children’s songbook that brings the classic nursery rhyme to life. With its interactive and playful nature, it engages young readers and encourages them to join in the fun of singing along and imitating the sounds and actions of the bus ride. Pair this book with this hands-on name on the bus craft that allows students to practice identifying the beginning letter or number of letters in their name.
“Andy, That’s My Name” by Tomie dePaola follows the story of a young boy named Andy who loves his name but often gets confused with other words that sound similar. As he encounters various instances where his name is mistaken for everyday objects or expressions, Andy remains steadfast in affirming his identity, reminding others that he is, in fact, Andy. This endearing tale encourages children to embrace and assert their own identities with confidence and pride.
“Thao” by Thao Lam is a beautifully illustrated name book that takes readers on a whimsical adventure where Thao discovers the joy of self-expression and the importance of friendship. Despite it being only four letters long, no one can every pronounce Thao’s name. She decides to try on an easier name, but soon realizes she feels more comfortable being herself.
“What’s Your Name” by Bethanie Deeney Murguia portrays the power behind names. “Everyone has one… or maybe a few. So what’s in a name? What does it do?” Of course, our name makes us uniquely special.
“The Arabic Quilt” by Aya Khalil is about a young girl, Kanzi, who feels out of place in her new school. Because of her name and her Arabic heritage, her mother decides to make her a special quilt using pieces of their old clothing. Kanzi, then, discovers the power of storytelling and the importance of embracing her unique cultural background.
“My Name Is Yoon” by Helen Recorvits is about a young Korean girl named Yoon who has recently moved to the United States. Yoon struggles with adjusting to her new surroundings and finds it difficult to accept her new name in English. The book explores Yoon’s journey of self-discovery, as she navigates her cultural identity and eventually learns to appreciate her name and embrace her new home.
“I’m Not a Mouse” by Evgenia Golubeva is a humorous name book that explores the adventures of a little girl who insists she’s not a mouse. Despite others mistaking her for one based on the nickname she was given by her mother, young readers are encouraged to assert their true identities with confidence and humor.
Activities for Back to School Name Books
Pair your favorite name activities with any of these back to school name books! Here’s a quick look at my favorites!
Keep your little learners engaged with these interactive name activities and editable printables!
Help students master writing their names with these editable name writing practice activities!
Learn how to make these picture name puzzles that are self-correcting!
Want to help your students easily learn the letters in their name while they strengthening fine motor skills? Read about our favorite fine motor name activities!
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