Multicultural Read Aloud

Grandfather's Journey

Grandfather's Journey

"Grandfather's Journey" was written and illustrated by Allen Say in 1993. This book is geared towards 5th graders.


This book does an extremely good job at celebrating diversity. The entire book is based on the life of a Japanese boy and his grandfather. However, there is a spot in the book that highlights "white men and black men, yellow men and red men." The book is also rich in cultural details by detailing the scenery of Japan and the war that began there. There is also evidence of traditional Japanese clothing in the images of the book. This shows the kids that Japanese culture is the same as, but also different, than ours. All of these elements also tie in to the criteria of inviting a reflection, critical analysis, and response. "Grandfather's Journey" provokes students to ask about immigration and different cultures. This book deserves more praise. It gives students an interesting perspective on a topic that is not often talked about in children's literature.

Allen Say

Allen Say was born in Japan in 1937. He illustrated his first children's books in 1972. Say has written many children's books on Japanese culture including "Grandfather's Journey" that was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1994. This specific book highlights immigration. It is told from the perspective of a young man about his Grandfather's grand stories of his journey from Japan to California and back again.

Here is a short video about the book (except the ending!):


1. Pass out word maps for both vocabulary words (journey and homesick).

2. CHAMPs the read aloud:

C: Level 0

H: Raise your hands if you have any questions.

A: Reading "Grandfather's Journey"

M: Please stay at your seat unless one of the adults asks you to get up.

P: You are expected to fill out your word maps and listen closely to my story.
S: How will I know if you're successful? I need to see that you are following along and filling in your word maps.

3. Place the book under the document camera. "Does anyone have any guesses on what my book is about?" Talk with your neighbor about your ideas. "Can anyone share what they think our book is about?"

4. "Great! You were all really close. This book is by a man named Allen Say. He wrote this story about a little boy who loved hearing about grandfather's tales of Japan and California." (Show pictures of both places)

5. Explain word maps: "Now, in front of you there should be 2 word maps. Can everyone hold theirs up? Now, before I start, does everyone see the words in the center of your word maps? Those are the vocabulary words we are going to focus on! Your job is to raise your hands when you hear the words."

6. Begin reading. The students should raise their hands to signal the word journey. "Okay, in the box that says definition, I want you all to write what you think the definition for this word is in this book." Allow a minute. Flip word poster and show actual definition.

7. Continue reading the book. Stop on page 11. "Who can tell me what we know Grandfather saw on his journey so far?" "Exactly right!"

8. Read page 12. Ask the students what they think those "colors" of people mean. "What do you think it means when the boy said he 'shook hands with black men and white men, with yellow men and red men?'" If they are way off base, tell them that those colors are used to describe how different people looked. Show them that, well, my skin is white but I am German. My color doesn't tell who I actually am.

9. Continue reading.

10. Stop on page 18. Ask the students: "How do we think Grandfather feels here? Why is that?"

11. Continue reading. Page 25: "Does anyone know what warblers and silvereyes are? Hint: the picture gives us a clue!"

12. Continue reading. On the last page of the book, the students should raise their hand to signal the word homesick. "Alright, just like with the word journey, I need you to write down what you think the word homesick means in this story." Allow a minute. Place the definition side of the word poster under the document camera.

13. "Have any of you ever felt homesick?" Discuss their feelings with them. Give them an example of a time when you were homesick.

14. Finish the book. Ask the students what the moral of the story is. After that discussion, have them complete their word maps.


1. This particular book was selected because it had to do with journeys. That was the purpose behind selecting this book because it fit within the genre that my CT was focusing on. However, the kids were able to relate to this book because it had to do with immigration and a mixture of different cultures.

2. Overall, this read aloud went well. The kids were interested. My activity made sense and helped them learn their vocabulary words. I was even able to maintain control of the class when the office was making several announcements to call kids out of my class and classes around the school.

3. Next time, I think I should select a more interesting book with a more meaningful activity.

4. Implementing multicultural children's literature that is culturally and linguistically diverse relative to my elementary students has helped me open my eyes to the different cultures in my classroom.