Read Aloud: Whoever You Are

Written by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Leslie Staub

Text Type: Info-fiction: Persuasive — Opinion

Summary: This book takes readers around the earth and across cultures to show us that even though we may look different and speak different languages, we are just the same on the inside. People all around the world laugh, cry, play, learn, eat, and sleep.

Text Features
• other languages featured (price signs, school tablets)
• universal symbols used (birthday cake, doctor’s coat and stethoscope, hearts)

Strategy Teaching
• integrated throughout the lesson
• prompts focus on a range of strategies (Making Connections, Predicting, Inferring,
Analyzing, Sequencing, Synthesizing, Evaluating, Self-Monitoring)
• the comprehension purpose for listening highlights Inferring/Synthesizing

Assessment Opportunities
Note each student’s ability to:
• attend to story reading
• participate in partner and whole-class discussions
• understand the inquiry question
• make connections to their own experiences with friends

Time: approximately 30–35 minutes


Establishing the Inquiry Focus
  • For the next while, we are going to be thinking about the question “Why should we be friends?” The first thing we will think about is how even though we may look different and live in different places, we all have many similarities, or things that are the same.

    Explain to the students that you will be reading a book about children who live all over the world and that the book explains how we are all really the same, no matter where we live or where we come from.
  • Show the students the front cover of Whoever You Are and read the names of the author and illustrator.
Activating and Building Background Knowledge
  • Ask students what they notice about the cover illustration. To stimulate student conversation, you may wish to offer prompts, such as:
    • Do you know what the big circle behind the people represents? What parts of the world are shown on the globe here? Let’s find them on our globe. [Analyzing/making connections]
    • What do you notice about the people we see in the illustration? [Analyzing/inferring]
    • Whose family came to Canada from another country? Let’s find the country your family came from on our globe. Let’s find the area where we are right now, where our school is. [Making connections/analyzing]

Teaching Tip: Have a globe near the area where you are gathered.

  • Read the title again and ask students to think about what it might mean. Ensure that students understand the meaning of the word ‘Whoever’ before proceeding.

Why do you think the author started the title with the word ‘Whoever’? How is the word ‘Whoever’ diffrent from the word ‘Who,’ or how would the title be diffrent if it were ‘Who You Are’?… Yes, I think that ‘Whoever’ makes it seem like we don’t know who the people are.

  • I am thinking the author means that many of us change a lot when we grow up.

    Ask students to predict what the author’s big idea might be in this book, now that they have examined the illustration carefully and read the title. [Predicting/inferring]

Teaching Tip: Make a T-chart of students’ observations and understanding, as shown below. At this time, fill in the ‘I See’ column together with students, based on what they know from the cover. You may wish to use simple illustrations to accompany the words. Leave the second column for filling in later in the lesson.

I See
This Means
People who look different from one another
A globe showing the world and many people
Happy people gathered together in a group
  • Ask students to listen as you read to find out if their predictions about the big idea were right. [Inferring/synthesizing]


  • This book has detail-rich illustrations, other languages featured, and universal symbols (e.g., birthday cake, stethoscope, hearts). Select, in advance, pages you may wish to pause at and discuss with your students. Alternate between asking students to discuss as a whole group and with partners.
  • Prompts for discussion may include:
    • (p. 3) The text begins with ‘Little one, whoever you are.’ Why do you think the author used these words at the beginning? [Inferring/synthesizing]
    • (p. 4) On this page, what do you notice about the adult and children from the first page? Why do you think the group is shown ‘flying’ through the sky in the background? [Self-monitoring/analyzing/inferring]
    • (p. 5) What does the illustration show on this page? [Analyzing/inferring]
    • (p. 6) Why do you think so many different types of homes are shown on these pages? [Inferring/analyzing]
    • (pp. 8–9) What do you notice about this school? How is it similar and different from ours? [Analyzing/making connections]
    • (p. 13) What do you notice about the signs on the baskets of fruits and vegetables? [Making connections/analyzing]
    • (p. 14) The text says, ‘But inside, their hearts are just like yours.’ What do you think the author is going to tell us next? [Predicting/inferring/making connections]
    • (pp. 16–17) How are these last few pages different from the beginning of the book? [Analyzing]
    • I am thinking the author means that many of us change a lot when we grow up.

      (pp. 20–21) Here the text says ‘Little one, when you are older and when you are grown, you may be different.’ What do you think the author means by that? (Refer back to show students that it is the same girl as on p. 4.) [Self-monitoring/making connections/analyzing/synthesizing]
    • (pp. 22–23) What do you notice about the adults shown on these pages? (They are adult versions of the children featured throughout the book, seen at the top of p. 23.) [Inferring]


  • Tell your partner one way that people all over the world are the same.

    Ask students to share with a partner one way that people around the world are all the same. [Analyzing/synthesizing]
  • Tell your partner one way that people can be different.

    Ask students to share with a partner one way people around the world may be different. [Analyzing/synthesizing]
  • This helps us to understand that since we have so much in common it should be easy for us to all be friends.

    Conclude the lesson by reflecting on the big idea presented by the author: that no matter what our differences may be, there are so many things about us that are the same, such as our feelings.


  • How is our community similar or different from what you see here? Does the place where you shop look like the one in the book? How is it the same or different? What makes you cry? What do you do when you hurt yourself? Why is an adult holding the birthday cake?

    When you reread Whoever You Are, emphasize visual and textual comprehension. Ask students to compare their lives with those of the children in the text. [Making connections: comparing/
  • Expand on vocabulary concepts with students, for example, ‘wherever you are, all over the world.’ Use the globe to help students understand the vastness of the world and the number of different places where people live.
  • As you reread the text, encourage students to chime in on the refrain ‘whoever they are, wherever they are,’ adding ‘all over the world’ as the book progresses. Note to students how the refrain changes throughout the book through the use of different pronouns and adjectives.
  • After a second or third reading, go back to the chart begun earlier and fill in the ‘This Means’ column.

    I See This Means
    People who look different from one another People look different, but are the same on the inside.
    A globe showing
    the world and
    many people
    People live all over the world, in different types of homes, speaking many different languages.

    Happy people gathered together
    in a group

    Since we are the same in many ways, we need each other and should be friends.


Young students explore and research in multiple ways. Consider using some of the following suggestions to extend the inquiry.

  • Show students video clips and pictures of places around the world. Websites that may be helpful include:

I’m asking myself the question,…? What question are you asking yourself?

   Encourage students to talk about the video clips and pictures and to
   ask themselves questions that may be answered by other sources.

  • Read with students other books about similarities between people and life in other places around the world. Place such resources in a centre so students can look through them individually or with a partner. Encourage students to talk about their learning and to ask questions. Suggestions include:
    • Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz: Henry Holt and Company, 2006 (Non-fiction: the word peace is given in many languages, showing how children all over the world want and need the same things)
    • Dear Juno by Soyung Pak: Puffin, 2001 (Fiction: a boy and his grandmother exchange letters between the United States and Korea)
    • Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1995 (Non-fiction: a girl canvases the neighbourhood and realizes that though they may cook it differently, everybody cooks rice)
  • Invite students to use some of the provided puppets to retell or reenact a scene from the text. Place the book nearby as a reference for the students.
  • Brainstorm with students other things that people all over the world have in common, other than those mentioned in the book. You may wish to focus students’ ideas on common feelings (e.g., sadness, happiness, silliness, tiredness) or common needs (e.g., food, water, sleep, shelter).

Do you remember when we read “Let’s Play?” What did we learn about all children? We learned they all like to play and how to play a game from Africa too, called Antoakyire.

Teaching Tip: If you have already read the Shared Reading text “Let’s Play” by Susan Hughes in It’s My World, link this selection to your discussion. (See Literacy Place for the Early Years.) [Making connections: text to text]

  • Invite students to create a self-portrait at the art centre. Provide them with Body Outline BLM to colour in as themselves, using the appropriate hair colour and skin tone. Students will then cut out their self-portraits and place them around a world map, similar to the illustration on page 5. You may wish to provide a variety of materials for students to include in their self-portraits (e.g., fabric scraps, wool bits, skin tone crayons or paints, paper scraps). If students’ families come from other countries, place those students’ self-portraits by those countries, or with pieces of string leading to the countries, to connect them to the countries on the world map.