THE NAME JAR Yangsook Choi

Mikheala Hill (CI 402E)

The Name Jar

Written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi

1st Grade Read Aloud

Realistic Fiction

Unhei and her family move to a new country. She has to live in a new town, but she is most scared of attending a new school. On the first day she debates about changing her name, since no one can pronounce it. Unhei's friends create her a name jar, but what name should she choose?

The Name Jar Booktalk


Yangsook Choi is the author of The Name Jar and other novels. She spends most of her time volunteering with children in the community, and around the world. She divides her time between the United States where she received her MFA in illustration in New York and Seoul. "Her books have been acclaimed as "Best of the Best" by the Chicago Public Library, included on the American Library Association Notable Book list, selected by PBS Reading Rainbow, and have recieved the International Reading Association's Children's Book Award" (Yangsook Choi).

"Korean migration to the United States, which began in the early 20th century, has been motivated by a mix of political, military, and economic factors" (Zong and Batalova). The theme of the story is social identity, which is the way an individual compares themselves to the others. Social identity is also seen as an issue for Unhei. Once she arrives and is ready to go to school she notices that no one can pronounce her name on the bus, and they are making fun of her name. Once she arrives in the classroom she tells the students that she does not have a name yet, and she will let them know when she picks one. The issue is solved once she realizes that her name is the best name.

The name stamp mentioned in the book is custom for the countries of Korea, Japan, and China. They can be made from wood, black ox horn, and stones. They are used mostly by artist, martial art instructors, calligraphers to sign artwork or certificates. Some families will keep these items as a family heirloom.

Snapshots of the books illustrations

Discussion Questions

Before: What is a name? Where do names come from? Do you have a nickname?

During: Why does Unhei want to change her name? How does Unhei's mother feel about her changing her name? Do you agree with her or not, and why?

After: What do you think about Joey and the things he did to help Unhei choose her name? Why didn't Unhei change her name? Would you have done the same? Explain.

Evaluation of Multicultural Literature Criteria

Honor and Celebrate Diversity

The students create a jar full of American names from American stories or people they know. They support her decision of wanting to change her name. The students are extremely excited about her choices. The book discusses how Korean babies are given their names versus American babies. Korean parents go to the Name Master. The Name Master gives the babies a name that has meaning (for example, Unhei means grace). American names are picked by the parents and sometimes may have a meaning or significance for choosing name. Also, there is a portion where Mr. Cocotos talks about how Korean names have meaning, as well as some American names.

Demonstrate Unique Language or Style

There are three Korean words in the book that the students can learn: Unhei (grace), kimchi (Korean-style spicy pickled cabbage), and Chinku (friend). For style, Korean's sign their name using a stamp with a significant symbol. Unhei's grandmother gave her a stamp before she boarded the plane, and at the end of the book her Chinku will purchase himself one.

Portray Cultural Accuracy and Authenticity of Characters-'Insiders' as Authors of Literature

The classroom is very diverse and the teacher even Mr. Cocotos is even of a different race/ethnicity.

Unhei's mother continues to cook Korean foods. Unhei's mother wants her to be proud of her name, and to not change it because of everyone mispronounced it.

Unhei and her mother visit Mr. Kim's store and are able to buy all Korean items, and more.

Unhei's mother mentions that her daughter should go to school to learn, and make good grades in order to be a good Korean. Koreans are typically stereotyped as extremely smart and disciplined. It is a family responsibility for them to have the best education, and not just the student's responsibility.

Procedures for implementing read aloud

Vocabulary words that were chosen:

identity: person's name and special things that make someone different from others

gleamed: shined brightly


  1. Introduce The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
  2. The book is about a young Korean girl who moves to the United States, and must begin a new school. Her name is Unhei, and the other students have a hard time pronouncing her name correctly. She is faced with the issue of keeping her Korean name (Unhei) or changing to an American name.
  3. Before we begin we will learn two vocabulary words that are unique or new to you all. The first word we are going to learn by interviewing our friends. Think of one thing you like to do that makes you different from others. For example, Ms. Hill likes to eat tacos on Tuesdays. This something I like to do, but what is something you all like to do that is different? (Share with a buddy on the carpet)
  4. Grab three name sticks and ask those students to share their one thing they like to do.
  5. The things that make us different create our identity. Repeat the word after me: identity (identity).
  6. I will then have them look at their hands and discuss briefly that every person's finger prints are different, they connect with our names, and are a tool to identify who we are. When we hear the word identity in our book I want to see your hands in the air.
  7. The second word will be gleamed. (Dramatization) I need one volunteer. Curl into a ball on the floor. I have a light switch in my left hand. When I count down to one you have to show me what a light bulb would do, once I flick the switch. Flick the switch and student is expected to jump up! What is our light bulb doing when I flick the switch? (Expected answers: shine, light up, be bright, etc.) Can someone tell me what they think the definition of gleamed is? (Allow students to answer and if no one provides the correct answer ask the student what does the sun do?) Gleamed means to shine. Repeat after me: gleamed...means to shine brightly. When you hear this word in the book I want you to wave your hands in a circular motion to mimic shined brightly (spirit fingers).
  8. Now, we will read the novel, and students will listen for the two words we just learned. Due to the time constraint we will listen to the book and ask a discussion question towards the end.
Is it hard to buy things in a convenience store?


  1. Why was this particular book selected? How did it "match" the funds of knowledge of this particular class/group of students? This book was selected because it connected with the students who had a name that is typically mispronounced. There are two students in my classroom that are new students to the school. They are all in the first grade, so school is still a fairly new learning experience as well.
  2. What were the strengths of the read aloud/the picture book/vocabulary teaching presentation? I believe that the strength that I had during the read aloud was keeping the students engaged the whole time. The book was long, so I decided to change my voice with the different students teaching. When we heard our two vocabulary words during the book the students did a motion to go along with the word. We dramatized gleamed, and they truly enjoyed the overall presentation. I even received hugs!
  3. What would you do differently next time? I wish I had more time! Although, the only thing that I would do next time is ask the students to show me a quiet sign when they are done talking to their partner, instead of giving them 20 seconds and then trying to gain their attention.
  4. Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has open their eyes to the thought that although we all may not look the same, talk the same, or come from the same locations we still experience some of the same things in life. There was a part in the book where she says it is the same rain as Korea!