A topic that often causes deep political division is immigration. Right!?! But regardless of where you stand on immigration, I know that you want to teach your children to value and respect human life. This is why I’ve created a list of 10 important books about immigration for young kids. Because it’s never too early to start learning about immigration!
Let’s face it, the time that we are living in is intense (to say the least!). We are still emerging from a global pandemic, gun violence continues to increase, and the deep roots of systemic racism are becoming ever more obvious. Additionally, immigration has become a topic rife with passion and strong opinions.
Parenting and educating can feel especially overwhelming and daunting right now. I know that you want to expose the children in your life to resources that will enrich their lives and grow their compassion. An excellent place to start is with picture books!
While it’s normal to be concerned about scaring our kids and exposing them to material that is too mature for their understanding, it’s also vital that we educate them about topics like diversity, racism, and immigration. This really is the only way to raise educated and compassionate children who grow up ready to seek justice and extend compassion to their fellow human beings.
In addition to teaching our kids about racism, it’s also important to teach them about immigration and to humanize the people who immigrate from one country to another.
Starting with books is an excellent place to begin and I’d like to recommend 10 powerful antiracism books for middle schoolers!
10 Important Books About Immigration for Young Kids
The following books are geared specifically towards helping young kids understand what immigration is. I hope that they provide you and the children in your life with a powerful glimpse into the lives of other people through the power of story.
These stories have the ability to instill respect for different cultures, an understanding of immigration, and compassion for our fellow human beings.
10 important books about immigration for young kids
Note: I recommend the following books for preschool age and up. But be sure to check out these titles to make sure they’re a good fit for your children!
By Yuyi Morales
This is a beautiful story by author Yuyi Morales, who left behind almost everything she owned and came to the United States with her infant son in 1994.
This book reminds us of our shared humanity and tells the story of finding a way in a brand new place while navigating an unfamiliar world.
Also included are an autobiographical essay about Yuyi’s real-life personal experience and a list of books that have inspired her.
2. Watch Me: A Story of Immigration and Inspiration
By Doyin Richards and Joe Cepeda
Author Doyin Richards tells the story of how his father came to America from Africa when he was a young boy. Like so many immigrants, Joe worked hard and succeeded when many people expected him to fail.
Compassionate, empowering, and inspiring!
3. All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel
By Dan Yaccarino
Dan Yaccarino’s great-grandfather arrived at Ellis Island with a small shovel and the advice of his parents’ to work hard, enjoy life, and always remember the importance of family.
Yaccarino reflects on how this little shovel was passed down through four generations of his Italian-American family.
A wonderful entry into discussing the history and roots of YOUR family too!
4. The most beautiful thing
by Kao Kalia Yang and Khoa Le
This book draws inspiration from the author’s experiences as a Hmong refugee. Kalia is a young girl whose family moves from the jungles of Laos to the United States.
Kalia’s family has very little money and struggles as immigrants in a new country. Kalia feels resentful of having so little material possessions and decides she desperately wants braces to “fix” her smile. But her grandmother, who has just one remaining tooth in her mouth, helps her to see that true beauty exists within the bonds of love we share with those we love.
The illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning!
5. A Day’s Work
by Eve Bunting and Ronald Himler
A young Mexican-American boy named Francisco can’t figure out how to connect with his grandfather because his grandfather doesn’t speak English. But soon, an opportunity to grow closer presents itself in the form of learning about gardening in order to secure a job for Francisco’s grandfather.
A beautiful and heartwarming story about multigenerational connection.
6. The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story
by Aya Khalil and Anait Semirdzhyan
Kanzi has moved from Egypt to America and desperately wants to fit in on her first day at her new school. When she forgets her lunch at home, her mother brings it, wearing her hijab. As soon as her mother leaves, the other kids start teasing Kanzi.
That night, to comfort herself, Kanzi wraps herself in her Arabic quilt and writes a poem in Arabic about it. At school the next day, her teacher sees the poem and gets the whole class excited about creating their own quilt, (actually just a paper collage) of the names of the students in Arabic.
Ultimately, Kanzi’s most prized posession from her old home paves a road for acceptance in her new one.
Also includes a glossary of Arabic letters and words.
7. The Name Jar
by Yangsook Choi
Unhei has just moved from Korea and is worried that her classmates won’t be able to pronounce her name and will tease her. On her first day of school she decides not to share her real name and she tells her class that she will choose a name for herself by the following week.
This intrigues Unhei’s new classmates and they decide to chime in by filling a glass jar with various names for her to pick from.
Unhei practices what it feels like to have a different name but ultimately one of her classmates visits her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning.
When the day of her name choosing arrives, the name jar is nowhere to be found. Unhei decides to stick with her real name and teaches her classmates how to pronounce it.
A touching story about trying to fit in and ultimately finding acceptance in being who you truly are.
8. Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreno Played the Piano for President Lincoln
by Margarita Engle and Rafael López
This book tells the true story of Teresa Carreño, who as a little girl, loved to play the piano. She began writing her own songs and performing in impressive venues. But a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States.
This happened during the tumultuous time of the Civil War in the United States. Teresa struggled with loneliness and fear and continued to turn to her piano for comfort and strength.
Eventually, Teresa became known as the Piano Girl and her fame continued to grow. She actually became so famous that President Abraham Lincoln requested that she play at the White House.
An amazing and inspiring story based on true historical events.
9. Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape From East Germany
by Kristen Fulton and Torben Kuhlmann
This tells the incredible true story of the Wetzel family’s escape from behind the Berlin Wall in East Germany in 1979 using a hot air balloon!
Born on the east side of Germany, Peter Wetzel and his family were not free. But Peter’s family had a secret. They were contructing a hot air balloon in their attic with a plan to use it to escape to freedom.
Includes detailed maps of the family’s escape route as well as diagrams of the hot air balloon!
10. We All Belong: A Children’s Book About Diversity, Race, and Empathy
by Nathalie Goss, Alex Goss, and Goss Castle
This is a beautiful book written as a poem, that identifies and celebrates diversity.
It’s essential that we teach our children NOT to be color-blind, but to actually recognize the unique and special differences between cultures. This book offers unique characters that represent the diversity all around us.
A validating and celebratory book about our differences and our shared humanity.
I hope that these 10 important books about immigration for young kids help you dive into this important topic with your children!
Be sure to check out these other helpful posts for additional resources:
- 10 Life Changing Books About Immigration for Middle School
- Important Antiracism Resources for Families
- How to Teach Your Kids About Racism
- Empowering Antiracism Books for Young Readers
- 10 Powerful Antiracism Books for Middle Schoolers
- 10 Important Antiracism Books for Teens
- My Visit to Heart Mountain Japanese Internment Camp
- 10 Important Books About Japanese Internment for Kids
Here’s to making the world a more just and compassionate place, starting with reading, learning, and growing together!
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