Finding Joy

Multicultural Picture Book

"Finding Joy" By Marion Coste and Illustrated by Yong Chen was published in 2006 by Boyds Mills Press

This read aloud is designed for fifth grade students. "Finding Joy" is about a Chinese girl name Shu-li who is abandoned by her birth parents. When an American family realizes they miss having a little one at the house they pursue adoption. After the American mother has taken a journey to China and brings her new daughter to the United States Shu-li is renamed Joy.

Multicultural Literature Criteria: The water colored illustrations bring the pictures to life with realistic depictions of Chinese and American races. The book includes the character Shu-li who now has two cultural groups. She was born in China but she adapts well to her American family's culture. At the end of the book the "Author's Note" shares some information about China and their one-child policy. "Finding Joy " is both accurate and sensitive when handling the topic of abandoned baby girls and is a great choice if you are looking for a book about adoption.

About Finding Joy (Background Preparation)

The author, Marion Coste, has lived in Hawaii since 1982 where she loves learning about animals and natural history. Marion is an avid reader herself and is a firm believer of reading aloud to children. She was inspired to write "Finding Joy" after some family friends adopted a baby girl from China.

The illustrator, Yong Chen, is from China and began painting at the age of four. Before he moved to the United State Chen was a high school art and science teacher. After he came overseas in 1989 he earned his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Hartford, CT. Chen has been the illustrator/author for many children's books and uses his paintings to express himself.

"Finding Joy" shares cultural information about China and certain customs after an unwanted child is born. About one-fourth of all the people in the world live in China. In order to prevent the population from getting too big and having enough resources, the People's Republic of China created a policy in 1979 stating that each family could have only one child. If parents did not obey this rule they are fined or punished, sometimes resulting in jail time.

Traditions are very strong in China and boys are supposed to take care of their parents as they get old, while girls are expected to care for their husbands' parents. As a result, couples who are having a child hope for a baby boy so they will have someone to take care of them when they are older. Although it is very painful to give up their child, sometimes parents will give away a newborn baby girl so they can try to have a boy.

In an attempt to get rid of their baby girl many couples in China will leave their child in a public place. Their hope is that someone will find the children and care for them. The babies are then taken to Chinese orphanages where there are professional caregivers called ayis, or "aunties". China has had nearly one million abandoned children who are known as "children of the state".

Chinese babies were not allowed to be adopted from people from other countries until 1991 when the government created an "open door" policy. Since this new policy has been in place, more than 28,000 children from China (mainly girls) have new, hopeful lives with families in the U.S. Canada, and Western Europe.

China's Lost Girls

Procedures for implementing the read aloud and vocabulary presentation

Before: Before I read the book I will show the class some pictures of my dog Cali. I will explain how she was abandoned and we adopted her into our family. I will share how the book I am going to read reminded me of Cali, except it isn't about an abandoned dog. I will ask the students, "Who do you think the story is about?" "By looking at the cover where do you think this story takes place?"

During: I will begin to read the book "Finding Joy". After reading the first page I will ask, "So who is this book about" (Shu-li) and "What happened to Shu-li?" (she was abandoned). I will continue reading until I reach my first vocabulary word on page 3; Caregiver: a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person. I will ask the students if they know what a caregiver does while holding up a vocabulary card that says "caregiver". I will then ask the students what did the caregivers in the story do to Shu-li? (hugged the baby, gave her warm milk, and put her in a soft bed). I will continue reading the book until I get to my second vocabulary word which is an idiom (special phrasing of words). Thread of fear: having a trace of fear about something. I will hold up a second vocabulary card and ask the students, "What does it mean when the text says the mom had a thread of fear wrapped around her chest?" "Did she actually have thread wrapped around her heart?" I will have a few students share their answers. Finally, I will finish reading the book.

After: I will have a discussion with the class about the book. I will ask them, "Why do you think Shu-li was abandoned?" I will have students share their answers. I will tell them that one-fourth of all the people in the world live in China. "Does anyone know they policy China has about children?" Share will the class the one-child policy created in 1979. Ask the students , "Do you think more boys are abandoned rather than girls?" "Why?" Share why more girls are abandoned. Next, I will ask the class, "What is one way we can help the children in China?" (Adoption- over 28,000 Chinese children have been adopted). "Why would it be good for a child to be adopted?" (to give them a new home, family, and hope). I will conclude my lesson by discussing the two vocabulary words: caregiver and thread of fear. I will have the students work with their table groups and have half of them create a word poster for caregiver and the other half will make a word poster for thread of fear. I will tell them to create their own definitions, write a sentence using the word, and draw a picture of what they think of when they hear the word. I will have each table group share their poster with the class.

Pictures of Cali


I selected "Finding Joy" because I thought the students could relate well to the topic of adoption. In the classroom I'm in there are two students who are adopted and one student is in foster care. I also chose this book because my CT is going to the Asian country Burma this summer. She has been discussing with the students the different activities she will be doing in Burma. She said she might be working at an orphanage so I thought it would be great to teach her students about the abandoned children in Asian countries.

I really enjoyed doing the read a loud and it seemed like the students did also. The students were very engaged and gave me great feedback to my questions as I read the book. The students were well-behaved during the entire lesson and I only had to stop once to handle a classroom management issue. The biggest strength of "Finding Joy" is that it presents accurate information about a tough topic in a sensitive way. The way the author tells the story of Shu-li being abandoned and the process of an American family adopting her pulls on the heart strings of anyone reading the book. "Finding Joy" also has beautiful watercolor pictures that adds life to every page. One of the strengths during the vocabulary presentation was that the students were excited to do the word poster. They had never done a word poster before so they liked doing a new project.

Next time, I would need to come up with a different way to have students answer my questions. Although all of the students were listening only about 6 of the students would raise their hands to answer any of the questions given to them. I would like to have a way, such as, putting their names on popsicle sticks, to have the whole classroom involved in discussions. Also, I had difficulty coming up with vocabulary words for a fifth grade class because the book was on a lower reading level. Next time I will choose a book that has 5th grade vocabulary words or I will present the students with words that aren't in the book but relative to the topic.

Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has helped me in three specific areas. First, it has helped me bond more with the students and form better relationships. After my read aloud lesson a student who is adopted came up to me and said she really enjoyed the story and she could relate to it. She then shared with me her story about how she was placed in adoption. I really appreciated her opening up to me and I thanked her for sharing her story. Secondly, after reading the multicultural book it has helped me realize that I am very different than most of the students in the classroom. It taught me that I need to present culturally diverse literature in the classroom to encourage students to develop a healthy self-concept of themselves. I want my students to have a sense of pride from their family background and where they came from. Finally, implementing diverse multicultural literature to my students has increased my cultural awareness. As I was preparing my lesson I learned a lot about Asian customs and values. After presenting my read aloud I realized how important it is to teach students accurate information about different cultural groups so they can understand and appreciate people from other backgrounds.