Your Name is a Song

I spell my name D-E-N-A and so naturally people pronounce it Dee-na, but I pronounce it Day-na. So I know how it feels when friends unintentionally mispronounce your name (sometimes over and over). Sometimes it feels like we're not very good friends, although the other person never intends that, that's how it can feel. This book does a wonderful job describing the beauty of diverse names and reminds all of us to pronounce names correctly. It's filled with names that are familiar and not so familiar and the author (in the video below) can help readers learn how to pronounce each name correctly.
On one of the pages, the girl worries that her name sounds made-up. Her mother explains that some made-up names come from dreams. Real names were stolen long ago so they dream up new ones....Ta'jae, Trayvon...They sit on clouds with Jalonte..." This explanation is important for students, and adults, to hear.
When you read this book, it feels as if there is music in the background, making it the perfect text for music lovers, so everyone.-Dena

Social Justice Activities:

  1. Use FlipGrid to record students pronouncing their names correctly and sharing why their names are special. Give students time to listen and comment on their classmates names to build classroom community and allow students time to listen to correct pronunciation. (Identity 4)

  2. Explore making a song using students' names. It can be as simple as hitting your thighs to make a beat or you as intricate and enlisting the school music teacher for help. (Diversity 9)

  3. The child in the story describes several ways people were disrespectful about her name. With each way, brainstorm with students responses that address the issue. Use public speaking, art, music, writing or any other mode to share with people outside the classroom community why it is important to pronounce names correctly. (Action 18)

Relevant Social Justice Standards:

Identity 4. Students will express pride, confidence and healthy self-esteem without denying the value and dignity of other people.

Diversity 9. Students will respond to diversity by building empathy, respect, understanding and connection.

Action 18. Students will speak up with courage and respect when they or someone else has been hurt or wronged by bias.'

Reading Strategies:

Figurative Language: The title is a metaphor and the book is filled with metaphors and similes. The mother also uses beautiful descriptive words to describe names, make a list of all the words to enhance writing.

Speaking & Listening: Build community by having students record a video on FlipGrid, pronouncing their full name and telling something special about their name. This will allow students and teachers to watch the video as many times as needed to memorize names correctly.

Book Details:
  • Fiction, All Ages
  • Perspectives: Black & Muslim
  • Author's stated heritage: Black & Muslim
  • Subject Integration: Music, Art, Writing

Listen to the Author

The Author pronounces all the names in the book.


Book covers images are from publishers and in the public domain