Immigration Books for Kids

children reading together

Immigration books for kids can help children understand not only their heritage, but other cultures in the world around them.

Importance of Learning About Immigration

In today's world, immigration is an emotional topic for many people. Children are bombarded with conflicting and confusing messages regarding immigration and what it means to the country and its people. Reading children's books with themes about immigration helps kids develop a better understanding of the subject. Cut through the confusing messages by creating a background of stories that help kids learn what immigration was in the past and what it is like for current immigrants today.

Reading books on immigration helps children:

  • Gain cultural awareness
  • Empathize with new immigrants in their classrooms and neighborhoods
  • Learn about the nation's past
  • Understand a complex topic being debated today

Suggested Immigration Books for Kids

Immigration narratives and fictionalized accounts of real immigrants and their lives offers a glimpse into another world, from past to present.

Historical Books

Reading immigration books helps children understand their own history and the history of their country. A narrative about children and families who immigrated in the past is a wonderful way to weave immigration into a historical lesson about the United States. Consider reading one of these books, set in years past:

  • Coming to America: The Story of Immigration by Betsy Maestro is a historical look at immigration from the beginning the nation.
  • The Memory Coat by Elvira Woodruff follows the story of a young Russian Jewish boy who immigrates to the United States through Ellis Island during the late 19th or early 20th century.
  • When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest tells the tale of Jessie, a young girl who leaves her grandmother behind in Europe in the early 20th century to become a dressmaker in New York City.
  • The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh by Janett Nolan follows the story of an immigrant Irish family, who passes their story down to the next generation, along with a shillelagh (walking stick) made from a tree in Ireland.

Read I Was Dreaming to Come to America: Memories from the Ellis Island Oral History Project by Veronica Lawlor features excerpts from the stories of actual immigrants, mostly children, who come through Ellis Island. This nonfiction book for children is a glimpse into the actual minds and feelings of those who came to the United States.

Contemporary Books

While many immigration books for kids are set in the past, there are still many that offer insight into contemporary immigration. These books are excellent choices for reading to new immigrant children, in a classroom with a newly immigrated student or with a child at home who wants to know more about a new family that moved into their neighborhood. More current stories often focus on a child fitting into a peer group at school while still maintaining his or her own culture.

Evaluate children's literature and books on immigration so that you tailor it to the child's questions and current knowledge level. The following books offer a more contemporary 20th and 21st century look at immigration and its effects on children:

  • When This World Was New by D.H. Figueredeo is a tale about a Spanish-speaking child who flies in an airplane and adjusts to live in a city in the northern United States.
  • One Green Apple by Eve Bunting follows a newly immigrated young Arab girl on a field trip with her classmates on the second day of school.
  • My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits is about a young Korean immigrant as she adjusts to her new life, focusing on her reluctance to write her name in English.

Immigration has a rich history in the United States. Books on this multifaceted topic help kids understand what it was in the past and what the impact they have on current immigrants today.

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Immigration Books for Kids