I am the daughter of Turkish immigrants. My parents came to the United States with a dream, like all immigrants. They brought their food, their customs, and traditions to add to the rich historical immigrant tapestry of the USA. One of the most important choice parents make is having and naming their children. When we name our children, we do it with so much care. Our names mean something to our parents. Although our names our given by our parents they help define us as we grow.


Everyone deserves to be proud of the name they are given. This is hard to do when your name is not “common” enough. That it is too unique and hard to pronounce. You feel uncomfortable. My name is Selma. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a Sarah. An Amy. A Jennifer. Anything but a Selma.

I promised myself that when I grow up I will name my kids the “trending” names. I wasn’t going to have my kids teased because of their name. But as you grow older you start to appreciate your roots. You appreciate and you embrace your culture. It happens on some level. I can proudly tell you today – that when I named my children I named them names with meaning to me. My daughter’s name is the Turkish word for sea, so that she can remember that she can be as strong or as serene as she wants to be. My son is named after his grandfather – a beautiful Arabic tradition of naming the first born son after their paternal grandfather.


The book I want to introduce to you today is “Your Name is a Song” by Jamilah Thompkins Bigelow. A book about a girl learning to celebrate her name and showing others how special all our names are.


Predicting is what good readers do when they read. Predicting helps you deepen your thinking and better comprehend what you read. When we predict we think ahead about what is going to happen – revising and refining our predictions as we get more information. Have students look at the cover of the book and describe what they see and what they wonder. You can use the sentence stem:

I see… I wonder…

Ask who they think the characters are.

Thinking about the characters and the title of the book, have them explain what they think the characters problem will be.

I think the character(s) will _____ because …

When you start reading the text. Encourage students to explain what happened to that point and what they think will happen. You can use the following sentence stem:

Since _____ happened, I think that _______ will happen.


“Somebody Wanted But So” is a good way to help students organize their summary. This strategy helps students pick out what are the most important parts of the text.  After students read the book they then decide who the somebody is, what that person or character wanted, but what happened that prevented it from happening, and so how they overcame or how it all ended.


Good readers make personal connections to what they read. The more the student can connect with the text the more it will help with meaning and understanding. When we stop and help students make meaningful connections to the text, we not only help them improve their comprehension skills, but we help them to grow as people.


In the book “Your Name is a Song” the author uses metaphor and simile with the names presented in the book to compare them and show the uniqueness and beauty of all names. A good activity to do is to have students come up with a metaphor or simile for their name.


I have included questions to help your students dig deeper for meaning and to brighten up your classroom discussion. Here are the questions, which are in a printable form in the download.

  • In the beginning of the story, why was Kora-Jalimuso upset?
  • How are names like songs?
  • The teacher tried saying Kora-Jalimuso’s name, but it got stuck in her mouth. Later the girls pretended to choke on her name. Why would the author use those words?
  • When Kora-Jalimuso and her mom were walking, her mom said that names must be said from the heart. What do you think she meant?
  • Kora-Jalimuso’s mom said names have fire and they are strong. What does that mean?

Included in my free download are also word wall cards and a classroom name activity. This book is really a great book and I recommend everyone get a copy for their classroom or home library. Names are beautiful and meaningful. Always remember… Your name is a Song.

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