Books can be a powerful doorway into a topic that is complex and highly personal, such as immigration. They can serve as mirrors for students who see their experiences reflected and validated; they can also serve as windows for other students (and adults) who gain a new perspective, some background knowledge, and perhaps a new level of empathy as well.
Here are some ideas for using books related to immigration in the classroom, as well as recommended booklists for children's and young adults.
Note: Educators and school staff should never ask students about their immigration status. All students have a right to a K-12 public education regardless of immigration status.
Tips for Getting Started
The following tips can help guide your selection of books related to immigration:
- As you get to know your students, look for books related to your students’ experiences and cultures (without asking your students direct questions about their immigration experiences).
- Ask colleagues for their input on cultural authenticity.
- Include the books you find in classroom libraries, school libraries, reading rooms, parent resource rooms, or other places where families will be able to share them.
- Look for ways to include these books as a part of a class unit or classroom read-aloud.
- Keep in mind that picture books can be great resources for older students and adults as well.
Note: Many immigrant and refugees have experienced trauma. Educators are encouraged to seek guidance in trauma-informed practices and should use care and sensitivity in discussing topics that may be traumatic. Learn more from the Dearborn video below as well as the from the following articles:
- Using a Strengths-Based Approach with ELs: Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence and Chronic Stress
- Addressing Student Trauma, Anxiety, and Depression
Tips for talking about big topics
When talking about a big topic like immigration, it's helpful to know some strategies for navigating those classroom discussions. Here are some resources to support that work:
- Building Community with Student-Driven Discussions (Edutopia)
- Creating a Safe Space for Students to Discuss Current Events (Edutopia)
- Making Space: Teaching After Trauma (Edutopia)
- Building Perspective Through Meaningful Discussion (Edutopia)
- Current Events in Your Classroom: Ideas for Middle and High School (Facing History)
- The best way to teach current events? Let students lead (KQED)
- What are good strategies teachers can use to explore "controversial" topics? (Ed Week)
- Fostering Civil Discourse: How do we talk about topics that matter? (Facing History)
ELL, Immigrant, and Refugee Stories: Books for Children and Teens
Books for young children
Books for older children
- Afghan Voices: Books for Children and Young Adults
- Back-to-School Stories
- ELL Stories
- Family Separation: Stories and More
- Immigrant Stories: Angel Island
- Immigrant Stories: Ellis Island
- Immigrant Stories: Family Keepsakes
- Immigrant Stories: Home at Last
- Immigrant Stories: Life Along the Border
- Immigration Stories: Hispanic Heritage
- Irish Stories: Immigration and More
- Migrant Farmworker Families: Books for Kids
- Syrian Stories: Books for Children
- The Refugee Experience: Books for Children
Books for young adults
- Immigration Stories: A New Life
- Immigration Stories: Crossing the Border
- Migrant Stories for Young Adults
- Refugee Stories from Africa
- Refugee Stories from Asia
- Refugee Stories from Europe
- Refugee Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan
- Refugees: Books for Middle Grades
- Undocumented: Stories of Young Immigrants
- Immigration and Refugees (AdLit.org)
- Classroom Resources: Talking About Immigration
- Social Justice Teaching for Change: Booklists for Kids, Teens, and Adults
- I'm Your Neighbor: Children's Books and Reading Projects Building Bridges Between "New Arrivals" and "Long-Term Communities"
Tracey Baptiste: Finding my immigration story in a book
Tracey Baptiste describes the powerful experience of seeing her own immigration story in the book The Friends by Rosa Guy.
You Are Welcome Here: Supporting the Social and Emotional Health of Newcomer Immigrant Students
In this excerpt from Colorín Colorado's award-winning film You Are Welcome Here, middle school teacher Anna Centi in Dearborn, MI talks about connections her refugee students from Yemen made to Linda Sue Park's book A Long Walk to Water, observing that she has been able to push her students with more rigorous text when they make those kinds of connections.