Multicultural Picture Book

Read Aloud

"How My Parents Learned to Eat" by Ina R. Friedman and Illustrated by Allen Say was published in 1984 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The read aloud is planned for a fifth grade class. "How My Parents Learned to Eat" is a picture book about an American sailor who meets a younger Japanese women and each try, in secret, to learn the other's way of eating. The book has recognized and awarded by many different organizations, including:

  • ALA Notable Book for Children
  • Christopher Award
  • Horn Book Fanfare Selection
  • Council for Social Studies/Children's Book Council
  • Reading Rainbow Review Book

The book offers an engaging introduction to the idea that there are many ways to do even something so basic as eating. The differences and similarities of the two cultures are shown throughout the illustrations in a wonderful and thought-provoking way. The colorful illustrations show the cultural difference that will attract an audience. The book can relate to many different children and if not relate it can open the eyes of a new dimension of eating.

The following link is a question and answer with the author Ina R. Friedman about the inspiration behind "How My Parents Learned to Eat".

Multicultural Literature Criteria Evaluation

About the Author

Ina R. Friedman was born on March 5th, 1926 in Chester, Pennsylvania. Friedman is a dependent of Jacob Sidney and Libby Rosen. At a young age, Friedman showed interest in writing. Her parents would often find her writing plays and/or short stories. In 1946, Friedman graduated from Pennsylvania State University with her Bachelor's of Art Degree. Shortly after graduation in August of the same year, she married Soi Friedman. Together they had four children. In Friedman's free time she began to write books. Total, including "How My Parents Learned to Eat", Friedman has written 4 books.

About the Illustrator

The illustrator for the book "How My Parents Learned to Eat" is Allen Say. Allen Say is a writer and illustrator who was born in Yokohama, Japan in 1937. His mother was Japanese American and his father was Korean. At the early age of 6, Say dreamt about becoming a cartoonist. By the age of 12 his parents sent him to live on his own in Tokyo to attend a prestiegious school. There he self sought an apprenticeship with post-war cartoonist, Noro Shinpei. He worked with Shinpei for the next four years learning to draw and paint. During his high school years, Say attended Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. After graduation Say did various different jobs which included, two years in the army and many years of commercial photographers. Say kept drawing and in 1988 he was asked to illustrate for Houghton Mifflin Company. Since then he has illustrated many different books.
A first autobiography

Instructional Sequencing -- Talking Notes

  1. Behavioral Expectations: The behavior expectations are as followed: Conversation during read aloud is to be at a level 0. If you need help raise your hand. Activity is listening to the teacher read aloud. Movement is minimal; you should be seated in your seats. Participation should be actively listening and raising your hands if you need help!
  2. Engage Content Objective: “Ask the students what they have been learning about this week?” [the answer should be invention or the Nork] Hand out a piece of paper to each table cluster. “What we are going to do first is brainstorm different eating utensils and/or ways to eat. I will give everybody one minute to write down as many utensils or ways to eat. These ways can be from here in the United States or they can be from any where in the world. The team who comes up with the most ways to eat, will be the winners. (Winners can get a team point or candy). After the minute is up, have one person from each team read off their ideas. I will make sure the ideas are legitimate. After every team has shared they will teams will tally their points.
  3. State Purpose: Show students How My Parents Learned to Eat. “Today, students, we are going to read a book about two different ways to eat. This book talks about two different cultures and how they are costumed to eat. After we read the book, we are going to practice using these eating customs.”
  4. Show students the cover of the book again. Ask the students, “by looking at the book’s cover page, where do you think the book takes place?” [ students might respond with: China, Asia, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, etc. ] Then ask, “What can you infer from the title of the book and the illustration, what this book might be about?” [possible answers could be the two people on the cover could be the children/parents, that the book is about how those people’s parents learned to eat and they are comparing them… there are many different answers that are acceptable] **See additional resources at the bottom**
  5. Begin reading aloud to students the first few pages (1-10). Ask students if there were any words on page 10 that they had never seen before? [ Sukiyaki should be of those words they have not seen before] Ask students, “what do we think sukiyaki is? Has anybody heard of this before?” [If students did not pick up what it was from the first time reading it. Point out the word within the text. Read the paragraph again. Re ask students “what does the book say it is? How does the book describe it?” [Sukiyaki is make of small pieces of meat, vegetables, and tofu.” This is commonly eaten in Japan] Show students the picture of Sukiyaki. “this is a photo of Sukiyaki” Teach students how to say the word with echo pronounce. {soo-kee-yah-kee]
  6. “Okay, we are going to continue reading the book.” Begin reading aloud the book again. Read pages 11 – 26. On page 26, pause at the word sukiyaki and ask “what is this word again?” [ it is a food that is commonly eaten in Japan. It has meat, vegetables, and tofu in it.]
  7. Read the rest of the page. Stop and ask the students “is there any other words besides sukiyaki that might be unfamiliar to us?” {Kimono} If students do not see the word point to the word. Ask students what do we think kimono is? [a type of clothing based on the word before it that says “wear my kimono”, if students did not pick up on that, re read the paragraph, emphasizing “wear my kimono” and re ask students what they thing this is? [students should say something along the lines of something a person wears in Japan] Show students the photo of a kimono. This is a photo of a kimono that I got off the Internet. Teach students how to pronounce kimono with echo pronounce. [kee-moe-no] **See additional resources at the bottom**
  8. Finish reading the book aloud.
  9. Higher Level Questions: After reading the book, ask to the group orally: “Where your predictions about where and what the story was about, correct? How was it correct/incorrect?” [answers will vary based on their original answer]. Ask: “What do you eat with at home? Have you ever used chopsticks before? What did you eat with them?” [some students may use chopsticks at home, some many have never used them.]
  10. “Now we are going to practice using chopsticks ourselves. But first we are going to watch a video on how to use chopsticks.” Students will watch this video. First the students will watch the video one time through. After once, I will pass out chopsticks to each student. We will rewatch the video, pausing the video as each step is introduced. Watch video as many times as needed. **See additional resources at the bottom**
  11. Now the students will begin practicing picking up Skittles using these chopsticks. Each student will get a napkin and a handful of skittles. Together we will practice picking up the skittles by color and moving them to the other side of the napkin. After getting the hang of it, students can then practice bringing them to their mouth and eating them. After practicing students may eat their skittles.
  12. Remind students to keep their chopsticks in their desks and not lose them. Next week they will be using them to eat rice and noodles and they will not get a new pair of chopsticks.
  13. Have students store their chopsticks and clean up their mess by throwing their napkins in the trash.

Additional Resources

How to Use Chopsticks


Why this book?
I selected this book for a couple reasons. The first reason was it tied into the curriculum already being taught by my CT. Prior to my read aloud, the 5th graders have been learning about inventions of eating utensils. Last week they had the creator of the Nork, who is from Wichita, come in and speak to them. Thursday, I introduced the chopstick. My CT did a mini lesson on the creation of the chopstick and I then read my book. This book tied very well into this and the students LOVED it. The second reason I choose this book speaks to the population of my classroom and the school. The three main languages spoken in my school are English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Even though this book takes place in Japan and not Vietnam, I believe that these students can still relate some of the Asian Cultures seen throughout the book. After the read aloud, the class then practiced using chopsticks by picking up different candies. This was especially fun to watch as one of the Vietnamese students went around showing her classmates how to use them.
The strengths of this read aloud?
I believe the one of the strengths of this read aloud was the comparisons of cultures. At the end of the book we stopped and reflected on the differences seen in the Japan versus what they often do at home and here in America. This led to the basic comparisons that the book mentioned, but it also led to a more in depth conversation about what different families do. For example, one of the Hispanic boys raised his hand and asked if he could share how his Grandma eats. He shared a story about how when he eats dinner at his "Abuela's" house they typically eat a lot of rice and beans and tortillas and how tortillas sometimes act as your utensil. Another strength of this read aloud was the Japanese words: Kimono and Sukiyaki. Once the words were pronounced we looked at different photos of them and practiced saying the words properly. The students love learning new words in a different language.
What I would do differently next time?
Due to the size of my CT's classroom, there was not enough space to have them all gather around and sit at the floor while I read the book. Instead, I read the book under the document camera (per my CT's suggestion) and the students remained in their seats. I CHAMP-ed out the rules prior to reading. However once I began reading the book the students were very interesting and maintained interesting, however one of the pages shows the American soldier practicing using chopsticks with his pencils. This then led to my students wanting to get into their desks and practice using utensils, which became a distraction. I had to stop a few times to remind the students to keep their pencils in their desk and to focus on the book. So if I were to do this again, I would even rearrange the classroom so there was room for the students to sit around me while I read the book, this would allow for the students to not get distracted by their items in their desk and to solely focus on the book.
Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has taught them basic cultural differences between the ethnicity seen in the book and the ethnicities within their own classroom. The students were introduced to a new eating custom that one of their classmates uses every day at home with her family as well as practicing their own chopstick skills. The students realized that using chopsticks is not as easy as it may seem and that they must practice and be patient.