What does your name mean to you? Our names are important because they can help symbolize our loved ones, memories of loved ones that have passed away, our heritage, culture. etc.
My Name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada is an excellent short chapter book about a young girl named Maria Isabel. Maria’s family just moved and she is the new girl in school. The first day of school is very challenging because Maria falls down and ruins her dress and then starts being called “Mary” instead of “Maria” by her teacher. Why is she being called Mary? Her teacher explains that there are two other Maria’s in class, so therefore it is unnecessary to have another one, which is why she must call her “Mary”. Maria struggles to adjust to her new classroom because of this disconnection with her teacher about her name. When her teacher calls “Mary” and Maria doesn’t respond, she gets in trouble at school. During one instance, it causes her to be left out of an important event at school.
What does Maria do? Throughout the book, she continues to have this internal struggle and doesn’t confide in her family or friends regarding this problem. Finally at the end of this book, she gets the opportunity to discuss her feelings with her teacher through an essay regarding her three wishes. Part of her essay states “I think my greatest wish is to be called Maria Isabel Salazar Lopez. When that was my name, I felt proud of being named Maria like my papa’s mother, and Isabel, like my grandmother Chabela. If I was called Maria Isabel Salazar Lopez, I could listen better in class because it’s easier to hear than Mary Lopez”. This helps her teacher understand her feelings which lead to a part in the school pageant.
My Name is Maria Isabel is an empowering book for parents, children and educators because it shows the struggles of a young girl and how she works through her fears in being able to communicate with her teacher. The book also helps emphasize the importance of your name and how it helps identify you in a variety of ways. Ask your child, “Who are you named after?”, “What does your name mean to you?”, “How would you feel if your teacher called you by a different name?”
Would you like to use this book for a discussion? Check out this discussion guide by Girls Leadership.org which is excellent for both teachers and parents:
Are you a teacher? Check out this lesson plan created by Alma Flor Ada
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