Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms
Weston, R. P. & Saburi, M. (2018). Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms. Tundra Books. New York, NY.
Sakura is a young girl from Japan who shares a special relationship with her grandmother. Sakura and her parents move to America when her father gets a new job, leaving Obaachan and the cherry blossoms that she loves. Sakura makes a new friend who helps her adjust to life in America and the following spring they enjoy the cherry blossom festival in Sakura’s new hometown. This sweet story about what it is like to leave home is written in tanka, a style of Japanese poetry similar to haiku.
The Color of Home
Hoffman, M. & Littlewood, K. (Ill.), (2002). The Color of Home. Phyllis Fogelman Books. New York, NY.
Hassan is asked to paint a picture on his first day of school in his new home, America. He paints a picture depicting the fear and loss that preceded the family’s relocation journey. The next day, Hassan meets a Somalian woman who translates for him and he tells the story of his home to the translator and his teacher. Afterward, he plays on the playground with a friend and paints a new, happier picture to show his mother. The beautifully told story is complemented by bright, child-like illustrations to convey the heartbreaking truth of what it means to be a child refugee.
Sanna, F. (2016). The Journey. Flying Eye Books. New York, NY.
Francesca Sanna has created a captivating and highly moving book about the difficult journeys refugees must take to reach safety. Through vibrant and emotional illustrations that convey a child-like sense of wonder and fear, Sanna follows the journey of a mother and her two children. The book is based upon multiple interviews with refugees conducted by Sanna after she met two young sisters in a refugee camp in Italy and heard their story.
Joseph’s Big Ride
Farish, T. & Daley, K. (2016). Joseph’s Big Ride. Annick Press. Toronto, Canada.
A vibrant and joyful story that tells about a young boy who encounters his first bicycle in a refugee camp. He doesn’t get a chance to ride it before he and his mother take an airplane to America. Joseph spots a red bike outside his apartment and becomes determined for a chance to ride it. In the end, he learns to ride the bike and gains a friend in the process.
Here I Am
Kim, P. & Sanchez, S. (2014). Here I Am. Picture Window Books. North Mankato, MN.
Patti Kim relies on her own story of immigrating to America to create this tale of a young boy who overcomes his fear and homesickness after leaving his apartment to find the girl who picked up the seed that he brought with him from Korea. He inadvertently explores his new neighborhood and discovers many new sights, sounds, tastes, and friendly people. This delightful story is told in a wordless, graphic novel style, drawn with pen and watercolor. It is dreamy and sentimental in the best way possible. There is an author’s note at the end that talks about her own immigration experience.
De Arias, P. & Borras, L. (2018). Marwan’s Journey. Michael Neugebauer Publishing. Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Marwan’s Journey tells the story of a young girl who walks for days (and days, and days) to escape the war that has come to her homeland. She dreams of one day returning home and planting a garden, hopeful that the “night will never get so dark again” as when she had to leave. The illustrations are done in watercolor and evoke strong emotions through the use of bold colors and broad, emotional strokes. This book speaks to the hope that accompanies many refugees, the hope of one day returning home.
A Different Pond
Phi, B. & Bui, T. (2017). A Different Pond. Capstone Young Readers. North Mankato, MN.
A young boy joins his father for an early morning fishing trip before his father goes to work for the day. The boy’s father tells him about fishing in Vietnam, where they are from, as the sun rises. Afterward, both of the boy’s parents go to work. When they return home, the family eats the fish that was caught that morning for dinner while laughing and telling stories together. The book comes with pictures and notes from both the author and the illustrator and pictures from their childhoods.
Immigration Lesson Plans, Scholastic
Scholastic has complete lesson plans with printables and activity guides for 3-5th graders. There are a variety of plans to choose from and each one helps broaden children’s understanding of how and why immigrants come to America, expanding empathy and understanding all the while.
Immigration, Teacher Vision
TeacherVision offers multiple lesson plans, printables, and activity guides for teaching about immigration to elementary students. One activity, in particular, the class quilt, looks like it would be an engaging and thought-provoking exercise for young students. The lesson plans are broken down by subject, including math exercises.
Exploring Young Immigrant Stories, Tolerance.org
Teaching Tolerance offers highly interactive lesson plans designed to teach students the importance of acceptance. It recommends books, websites, and YouTube videos to go along with the lesson. The guide lists the applicable Common Core standards at the bottom of the website.
Down the Rabbit Hole, Library of Congress
The Library of Congress offers lesson plans about immigration that are aligned to Common Core and state standards. The lesson designed for 3rd-8th grade is based around Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and is designed to teach students about how disorienting it can be to come to a new country and need to learn a new language and set of customs.
How to Teach About Immigration, Socialstudies.org
This is a research article focused on different ways to introduce the topic of immigration to students. It makes suggestions such as starting with a lesson on the Statue of Liberty or doing a book-focused unit study.
Teaching Poetry of Immigrant Experience, Sara Burnett
A list of lesson plans that can be used to teach students about poetry and the immigrant experience. Lessons can be adapted to be age appropriate for elementary aged students, particularly the author studies on immigrants who use poetry in their writings.
Statue of Liberty, BrainPOP
BrainPOP has a guide for parents and teachers about the history of the Statue of Liberty and how to teach about it’s significance to elementary aged students. BrainPOP has other resources on immigration, but most are dedicated to middle school students and older.
Hyman, D. & King, P. (2014). Paddington. Studio Canal. United States.
Paddington is an unlikely resource for teaching students about immigration, but it fits quite perfectly. Paddington, after experiencing loss in his home country, leaves Peru and travels to London, where he must learn new customs, find a home, and rely on the kindness of strangers, who in the end become family. The tag on his coat is reminiscent of the ones children who fled London during WWII would wear, opening up even more conversations with historical context that can be had with students.
An American Tail (movie)
Bluth, D. (1986). An American Tale. Universal Studios. United States.
“There are no cats in America!” The classic tale of a family of mice who journey to America for a fresh start is a wonderful child-friendly introduction to the challenges faced by immigrants as they start life anew in America. The movie is sweet and engaging and offers many opportunities for class discussion.
Ellis Island 3rd Grade (video)
Mrsfersht (2014). Ellis Island 3rd Grade. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/SC9q-kpfm0I
This short video was created by a third-grade class as they acted out what it was like to immigrate through Ellis Island on their way to a new life in America. It is an excellent introduction to Ellis Island and the students will identify with the students acting out the story in the video.
Baumi, M., Field, S. L. ., & Ledbetter, M. (2013). Immigration, Any Small Goodness, and Integrated Social Studies. Social Studies & the Young Learner, 26(1), 17–21.
Baumi and Ledbetter discuss the importance of teaching about immigration at the elementary school level. They discuss ways to integrate social studies with language arts in a way that gives historical context and provides opportunities for students to develop their own ideas.
Lobron, Alison, and Robert Selman. “The Interdependence of Social Awareness and Literacy Instruction.” Reading Teacher 60 (2007): 528–37.
This article discusses the importance of, and challenges that come with, teaching about immigration, racism, and social justice at the elementary school level. The article talks in particular about studying “Freedom Summer” with elementary aged students.
Bersh, L. C. (2013). The Curricular Value of Teaching about Immigration through Picture Book Thematic Text Sets. Social Studies, 104(2), 47–56.
A thorough exploration of the importance of teaching young students about the immigrant experience. This article offers justification for such lesson plans as well as an annotated reference list of picture books on the subject. The reference list at the end of the article offers many other thoughtful works on the matter.