You can hardly turn on the news these days without hearing about immigration and the wall, or Syria and its refugees seeking asylum. Whether or not your child pays attention to the news, they might be hearing snippets of confusing information. Because these are important topics, you want to talk about it with them, but you may find yourself struggling to put it in works they understand. That's where children's books about immigration and refugees come into play, as they can explain everything that goes on in the news, while teaching your children compassion and perspective.
Life for families around the world isn't always as easy; sometimes families don't feel safe or like they fit in. These books may help children better understand their neighbors, whose cultures are different from theirs. The books will allow them to live in other people's shoes, and learn compassion. They will help children celebrate the wonderfully diverse cultural experiences that people are living in America and abroad. They'll realize that all people want the same thing: to be safe, to be with their families, to have opportunities, and to be themselves. All of these books give you a jumping off point to have conversations with your kids and arm them with confidence to be a part of the world.
1. 'My Name Is Not Refugee' by Kate Milner
My Name Is Not Refugee is the perfect primer on what life as a refugee might look like. It's not scary, but it gently asks the reader to imagine they have to live with only what they can carry in a backpack, or to not know where you're going to sleep, or that you might have to say goodbye to everyone you know.
2. 'The Journey' by Francesca Sanna
The Journey is a beautiful picture book that goes into a bit more detail of why people might be displaced. In this story, a mother and two young children must flee their country when war descends. Throughout their journey they must contend with border crossings and an unknowable future.
3. 'Chee-Kee: A Panda In Bearland' by Sujean Rim
To introduce the concept of being in a new place and different from the people who live there, pick up Chee-Kee. Bearland is a wonderful, accepting place, but panda Chee-Kee notices just how different he is from the bears. He struggles with his culture and identity until he realizes he too has skills he can contribute to Bearland.
4. 'Teacup' by Rebecca Young
5. 'My Name Is Yoon' by Helen Recorvitz
My Name Is Yoon is about a little girl who loves her Korean name, but isn't sure she wants to use it in school because it makes her feel different from her classmates. Her teacher suggests she practice writing her name, but instead, Yoon tries out different words like "bird" and "cat" as a name. It's a beautiful illustration of trying to keep the parts of her Korean identity while also wanting to fit in with her new culture.
6. 'Here I Am' by Patti Kim
What makes Here I Am so special is that it is told completely in pictures in order to make the reader realize how confusing and disorienting it is to arrive in a new place. The little boy in this story begins his life in New York City and hates it. The sounds, the language, the views, it's all troubling. But the boy finally explores the city on his own and learns that there is beauty and hope in this new place.
7. 'Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, And Hope In A New Land' by John Coy
8. 'The Girl In the Torch' by Robert Sharenow
When Sarah arrives on Ellis Island in the early twentieth-century, she feels like she is finally safe. But when her mother dies, she faces deportation. She embarks on a series of adventures to stay and make a living in New York City. The Girl In The Torch is an adventure story that centers around The Statue of Liberty and all that she represents to people seeking a better life.
9. 'A Long Walk To Water' by Linda Sue Park
A Long Walk To Water tells the story of Salva, who lives Salva in 1985, respectively. Salva's story is based on a real account of one of the "lost boys" of Sudan and how he traveled to Kenya and Ethiopia on foot seeking asylum when he is displaced by brutal rebels. Salva's story has a happy ending when he is given a safe home with a family in America, though he continues to help the people of Sudan, including Nya, a girl who spends her days walking to and from a pond to get water for her family.
10. 'The Only Road' by Alexandra Diaz
Life in 12-year-old Jaime's Guatemalan village is ruled by gang violence. When his cousin is killed and he is summoned to join the gang, the only way to safety is to flee to the United States. There isn't time or money to move there legally, so Jaime must brave the treacherous journey through Mexico and across the river into America. The Only Road is an example of the unaccompanied minors we hear about on the news.