Your Name is A Song is an educational story of a young girl who out of frustration that no one can pronounce her name decided not to go to school any more. Learning about her daughter’s frustration and during their walk back from school, her mother started teaching her the musicality of the different ethnic names (e.g., African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern). Now that the little girls knows how different names are pronounced, she went back to school and shared this knowledge with her peers. She taught them how to sing and say their names.
Your Name is A Song is a celebration of cultural and ethnic diversity, a reminder of the daily plight and stigma that several kids from ethnic minorities live in schools on a daily basis. I would definitely love to see more educators and teachers share this book with their students.
On a personal level, the theme of the book resonates a great deal with me. I too have a family name (Kharbach) that non Arabic speakers find hard to pronounce. It did put me in awkward situations that were sometimes frustrating and embarrassing. Luckily, I learned how to effectively deal with these situations.
Most well meaning people when they say your name incorrectly, they do not mean any offense to you. Your name is simply hard to pronounce. That’s all it is, and people need some time till they get used to the pronunciation of your name especially if it is a phonetically complex name like mine. For instance the sound KH does not exist in English phonetic system and therefore English speakers will obviously find it extremely difficult to pronounce it even after you model it for them they will still say it wrong. Why, because their vocal cords are not trained to make those auditory articulations.
Knowing this, I always try to pronounce my family name to strangers and to make sure they don’t feel any embarrassment for failing to reproduce the correct pronunciation, I would let them know that it is hard to pronounce and that I understand it and I am totally ok with it. This admission almost immediately distresses the situation and relieves my interlocutor from any potential guild or blame.
And yes, there is this tiny minority of ignorant people who would make fun of your name and ridicule its pronunciation. Hence the importance of education and Jamilah ’s book Your Name is A Song is a great resource in this regard. Kids need to know early on to respect others’ cultures and treat it on equal footing with theirs. They need to learn that names are part of one’s cultural identity and that there are no good or bad names.
In this videos, the author of Your Name Is A Song pronounces names featured in her book:
Your Name Is A Song read aloud
Here are few read alouds for Your Name Is A Song I found on YouTube that you can use with your kids and students: