These stories capture the varied experiences of learning English through a child's eyes. From the shy and nerve-wracking beginnings to the joy of a blossoming new friendship, ELL students will recognize the highs and lows of the situations and emotions of the stories, many of which were written by authors who themselves were immigrants. The books also provide valuable insight to adults working with ELLs in the classroom.
All Are Welcome
Discover a school where — no matter what — young children have a place, have a space, and are loved and appreciated. Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other's traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be.
Areli Is a Dreamer: A True Story
When Areli was just a baby, her mama and papa moved from Mexico to New York with her brother, Alex, to make a better life for the family — and when she was in kindergarten, they sent for her, too. Everything in New York was different. Gone were the Saturdays at Abuela’s house, filled with cousins and sunshine. Instead, things were busy and fast and noisy. Areli’s limited English came out wrong, and schoolmates accused her of being illegal. But with time, America became her home.
Mia Tang has a secret. Actually, a lot of secrets. She doesn't live in a house like her friends. She doesn't have a dog. And her parents are hiding an even bigger secret, one that could get them all in trouble. It will take all of Mia's courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams? Winner of the 2019 Asian/Pacific American Award for Children's Literature.
Get Ready for Gabi: A Crazy Mixed Up Spanglish Day
Third grade Gabi speaks Spanish at home and English at school and sometimes "Spanglish" everywhere. Spanish and English combine naturally in Gabi's narration as the irrepressible, likable girl befriends a kindergartner who has moved from Nicaragua and as she controls her temper when teased by a classmate.
Good-bye, Havana! Hola, New York!
It is 1960 in Havana, and young Gabriella doesn't understand what the changes she sees around her in Cuba will mean until she boards a flight to New York to start a new life with her parents in the Bronx. New York is cold and busy; she doesn't speak any English, and she misses her grandparents. Slowly, however, she adapts to her new life, making friends and learning English along the way. The story is based on the childhood of Edie Colón (now an ESL teacher) and illustrated by her husband, Raúl.
Home at Last
When Ana's family comes to the U.S., she can tell that her mother misses their life and family in Mexico terribly. In addition, she doesn't want to learn English, and she relies on Ana and her husband to translate. Soon, however, Ana's mother realizes that English may be the key to finally feeling at home in her new country. A touching tribute to the children — and their parents — who have come to the U.S. for a better life.
Home of the Brave
This novel, written in free verse, tells the story of Kek, an eleven-year-old boy from the Sudan who arrives as a refugee to Minnesota in the middle of winter. In moments both amusing and heartbreaking, it is possible to see through Kek's eyes what it is like for new immigrants who come to this country and to think about the scars that war leaves on its youngest victims. Teacher's Guide available.
I Hate English!
Mei Mei loves to think and write and talk…in Chinese. But at her school in New York City, everything happens…in English. Mei Mei is afraid that if she starts speaking in English, she will lose all that she loves in Chinese, including her friends at home in Hong Kong. Will Mei Mei always hate English as much as she loves Chinese? A humorous and touching story about the difficulty of accepting a new language and home.
I'm New Here
Maria, Jin, and Fatimah are new to their American elementary school. The words that they hear around them and see on the page are confusing. They each long for the language that they understand and the friends who understand them back home. They feel as though they don’t fit in—they are alone, confused, and sad in their new school. After observing those around them, each new student slowly gains the confidence to interact with their new surroundings. They realize that their peers and teachers are very supportive, welcoming, and excited to learn what these new classmates have to share.
In English, of Course
On the first day of school, Josephine must tell her new classmates in the Bronx about her native Italy. Even though she understands English, she keeps thinking of the words in Italian! Based on the childhood experiences of the author, this book offers a tribute to the many immigrant children who have built a new life in this country — in English, of course.
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
Meet Shirley Temple Wong, a delightful heroine who has come from China and arrived in Brooklyn in 1947 — the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson. Based on the author's own experiences, the story captures the highs and lows of coming to live in a new country, learning English, and falling in love with the Brooklyn Dodgers during moments that are both heartbreaking and hilarious. A must-read for teachers working with ELLs and newcomer students.
Juana and Lucas
Juana loves many things — drawing, eating Brussels sprouts, living in Bogotá, Colombia, and especially her dog, Lucas, the best amigo ever. She does not love wearing her itchy school uniform, solving math problems, or going to dance class. And she especially does not love learning the English. Why is it so important to learn a language that makes so little sense?
My Name Is Maria Isabel
Product Description: For María Isabel Salazar López, the hardest thing about being the new girl in school is that the teacher doesn't call her by her real name. "We already have two Marías in this class," says her teacher. "Why don't we call you Mary instead?" But María Isabel has been named for her Papá's mother and for Chabela, her beloved Puerto Rican grandmother. Can she find a way to make her teacher see that if she loses her name, she's lost the most important part of herself?
My Name Is Yoon
Yoon narrates the difficulty she experiences when her family moves to the United States from Korea. Her struggle with the transition focuses on the moment when she must learn to write her name in English rather than in Korean, and she remains resistant to learning a new language. Her imaginative voice is child-like and plausible, augmented by inventive illustrations.
No English is the story of two second-grade girls who become friends after overcoming a language barrier. Teachers and students alike will appreciate and empathize with both girls' struggles as they get to know each other and look for ways to communicate. An accompanying Teacher's Guide also provides activities and discussion questions.
One Green Apple
In this heartwarming story, Farah is trying to get used to a new country and language. She knows what's happening around her, but without the words to say what she's thinking in English, she feels alienated from her classmates. A trip to the apple orchard helps her begin to bridge those gaps, however, and she realizes that "Laughs sound the same as at home." As she practices her first "outside-myself word," she knows that she will be able to say more in time. Beautiful watercolor illustrations bring Farah, her classmates, and the apple orchard to life.
Product Description: In Painted Words, Marianthe's paintings help her to become less of an outsider as she struggles to adjust to a new language and a new school. Under the guidance of her teacher, who understands that there is more than one way to tell a story, Mari makes pictures to illustrate the history of her family, and eventually begins to decipher the meaning of words.
Spanish Is My Superpower!
Rosita and her Mami are told not to speak Spanish at the supermarket. While discussing the upsetting encounter with her friends, Rosita is reminded how smart and special she is to speak two languages. And that the ability to do so is like having a superpower!
Speak English for Us, Marisol!
"Marisol is rushing home from school to see to her cat, but on the way she's stopped by adult family members and neighbors who need her to translate from Spanish for them so that they can communicate with shopkeepers and officials in English. Whether she's helping Uncle Tomas bargain with the poultry man, showing her neighbor how to fill out an application form, or speaking for Mama about a problem with the telephone bureaucracy, Marisol translates the words and also interprets the messages across cultures." — Booklist
Sumi's First Day of School Ever
When Sumi arrives at her big new school, she thinks that it is a lonely, scary, and mean place. Throughout the day, however, little things begin to change her mind and give her hope. An excellent portrayal of what the first day of school is like for both new students and ELLs. Expressive illustrations convey Sumi's emotions throughout the course of her first day.
The Color of Home
Product Description: First-grader Hassan has only recently arrived in the United States after he and his family were forced to flee Somalia, and he deeply misses the colorful landscape of his former home in Africa. But with the help of his parents, an understanding teacher, and a school art project, Hassan finds that by painting a picture of his old home and sharing his story, his homesickness and the trauma of leaving a war-torn country are lessened.
The Name Jar
On the way to Unhei's first day of school, a group of kids on the school bus make fun of her name. When she gets to class, she refuses to tell anyone her name, deciding that she wants to choose an American name instead. The next morning, she finds a name jar filled with pieces of paper and finds that her classmates are eagerly awaiting to see which name Unhei will choose. Yangsook Choi (who chose the name Rachael as a child) offers a moving portrait of the importance of names and identity to all children.
The Upside Down Boy
Product Description: The Upside Down Boy is the sequel to Calling the Doves and award-winning poet Juan Felipe Herrera's engaging memoir of the year his migrant family settled down so that he could go to school for the first time. Juanito is bewildered by the new school, and he misses the warmth of country life. Everything he does feels upside down…But a sensitive teacher and loving family help him to find his voice and make a place for himself in this new world through poetry, art, and music.
Uncle Rain Cloud
When Tío Tomás speaks in Spanish and tells his nephew Carlos ancient stories from Mexico, he is animated and happy. When he has to speak in English, however, his bad mood makes him look like a rain cloud. Eventually the two of them find a solution that will allow them to know "twice as much as everyone else!" This realistic story provides an authentic look at the frustration many recent immigrants feel when they are struggling to learn a new language, as well as the opportunities that being bilingual provides.
See more great related resources and videos in our Multicultural Literature section!