John and Aiko, the two characters in Ina Friedman's How My Parents Learned to Eat, are careful to consider each other's customs in order to demonstrate how much they respect and care for one another. John is afraid to ask Aiko to dine with him because he cannot eat well with chopsticks; he tries to learn one afternoon at a Japanese restaurant. Aiko thinks John would not want to dine with her because she does not know how to eat like an American; she goes with Great Uncle to a restaurant and learns to eat like the English with her fork and knife. Little does the other know the great effort it has taken to show their respect for the other person's customs...and then Aiko's skills are not even ones John has seen in America!
Our school's Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) model seeks to reinforce three basic principles of behavior: Be Respectful, Be Responsible, and Be Safe. We have started a book collection that supports many virtues in line with those principles. Fourth grade students listened to this book on the story steps this afternoon at their teacher's request for me to share a book that echoed acts and words of respect. How My Parents Learned to Eat shows so many respectful acts and words, and the students were so engaged with the story!
Though we talked about ways John and Aiko showed their respect for each other, they mostly wanted to talk about food customs in the cultures they know best, and the multi-cultural group before me had many to share. What an enlightening afternoon reading experience it was!