Immigration often feels like one of the most divisive topics for discussion. But regardless of where you stand on immigration, I’m confident that you are eager to teach your children to respect humanity and to instill a sense of compassion. To help you do this, I’ve created the following list of 10 important books about immigration for middle school.
10 Life Changing Books About Immigration for Middle School
We are living in an intense time, (to say the least!) Political division, religious persecution, and climate change have forced countless people to flee their homelands and seek out safer places to live.
It’s completely normal to worry about exposing our children to the intensity of current events and instilling a sense of uncertainty and fear. But it’s also crucial that we educate them about immigration, diversity, racism, and politics. This is truly the only way we can hope to raise educated and compassionate children who will share their knowledge and compassion with the world around them.
As we teach our kids about racism, we must also remember to teach them about immigration, as we do our best to humanize the people who immigrate from one country to another.
Starting with books is an excellent place to begin this process of learning and to instill a sense of compassion and empathy.
The following books are ideal for middle school. They’re geared specifically towards helping tweens understand what immigration is and who the human beings we refer to as immigrants really are. I hope that these titles provide you and the tweens in your life with a powerful glimpse into the lives of other people through the power of a story.
10 life changing books about immigration for middle school
Note: I recommend the following books for tweens/middle school. But do your due diligence and preview these titles beforehand to make sure they’re a good fit for your tweens!
1. Everything Sad is Untrue: (a true story)
by Daniel Nayeri
Daniel, (whose real name is Khosrou) shares his family’s history with his classmates at school, including stories from centuries ago. He describes how his family fled Iran due to religious persecution, experienced dangerous and unpredictable conditions, found temporary shelter in refugee camps in Italy, and eventually sought asylum in the United States.
A powerful and heartbreaking story of courage and hope.
2. Living Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican in America
by Margarita Longoria
A collection of short stories, essays, comics, and poetry by a group of Mexican American authors who describe their challenges and struggles in navigating two cultures; Mexican and American.
An insightful and compassion compilation of touching and relatable stories.
3. Nowhere Boy
by Katherine Marsh
Ahmed is a 14-year old Syrian boy who has just arrived in Belgium. After fleeing oppression and losing his father while traveling to Europe, he struggles to understand his new environment and to trust people.
Fortunately, Ahmed meets Max, an American boy who has just moved from Washington, D.C. Max is homesick and lonely, struggling at his new school. The boys form a friendship and together they learn how to navigate their new homeland.
A great way to learn more about the Syrian refugee crisis, and to humanize all of the people who have suffered.
4. Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town
by Warren St. John
This is the inspiring true story of the Fugees, a youth soccer team made up of refugees from all around the world, and their head coach, Luma Mufleh.
Luma Mufleh, a young Jordanian woman educated in the United States, was coaching private youth soccer teams in Atlanta, Georgia. While driving one day in Clarkston, Georgia, she saw young boys playing soccer. After talking with them and learning about their challenging circumstances, she decides to quit her job, move to Clarkston, and start a soccer team for these boys.
An inspiring story of how the dedication of Lumah Mufleh and the Fugees soccer team inspired an entire community.
5. Come on In: 15 Stories About Immigration and Finding Home
by Adi Alsaid, Varsha Bajaj, Maria E. Andreu, and 13 more YA authors
An anthology of stories from bestselling and up-and-coming YA authors. We travel from Ecuador to New York City, from Argentina to Utah, from Australia to Harlem, and many other locations worldwide, to experience their unique immigration stories.
We find out what it’s like to face random traffic stops, TSA detention, customs anxiety, and new living situations with extended family and friends. Along with hardship and fear, we also experience the hope, excitement, and dreams of these brave people who are making new homes in a new land.
Engaging stories about real life immigrant experiences.
6. Fresh of the Boat
by Melissa de la Cruz
Vicenza is attending high school in the United States but is originally from Manila. She hates being the new girl, having to shop at the Salvation Army, and feeling embarrassed by her immigrant parents.
A relatable and entertaining story about what it’s like to be navigating the immigrant experience as a teenager.
7. The Magic Fish
by Trung Le Nguyen
Tien’s mother is an immigrant from Vietnam and Tien has been raised in America. He checks fairy tales out from the library and reads to her as a way to improve her English. The stories of challenges, journeys, family, and love help them to connect.
But Tien doesn’t know how to come out to his mother and his father. He has no way to explain what he’s going through in Vietnamese and is terrified that his parents won’t accept the real him.
A graphic novel that illustrates family challenges and the ways that stories can connect us and create understanding.
by Alan Gratz
Josef is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany who boards a ship with his family to seek safety across the ocean. Isabel lives in Cuba with her family. Because of the unrest and frequent riots in her country in the 1990s, she and her family set out for American on a humble raft. Mahmoud is a Syrian boy who sets out on a long journey to Europe in 2015, trying to escape the violence and destruction in his homeland.
Although these three characters are separated by both time and location, their stories are tied together in unexpected ways.
9. Illegal: A Graphic Novel
by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, and Giovanni Rigano
Ebo lives in Ghana and decides to attempt a dangerous journey to reach Europe, where he hopes to begin a new life, free from danger. His sister and brother have already set out before him and he is eager to follow them.
He crosses the Sahara Desert, navigates the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and ultimately ends up at sea. What keeps him hopeful and moves him forward is his hope to be reunited with his family and hope for a new life.
A powerful way to learn about immigration and current global issues while exploring our shared humanity.
10. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
by Thi Bui
An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui.
A powerful memoir exploring the complexity of immigration. While hoping for a bright future but longing for familiarity and a sense of place, the author shares her family’s story of escaping South Vietnam in the 1970s.
We follow her story as she becomes a mother and learns how to balance her new role, with all of its responsibilities, in a new country.
A powerful examination of the bravery, strength, and resilience immigrant families experience.
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 Important Books About Immigration for Young Kids
- 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
I hope these books help you connect with your tweens on the topic of immigration. These 10 titles really are ideal for the middle school years!
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