12 Books to Help Kids Understand Immigration January 23, 2019 – Posted in: Book News
We live in a nation of immigrants. But what does that mean to 3, 6, or 12-year-old? Maybe they’ve heard about people arriving in boats from across the channel. Or seen people on TV debating the ‘immigration issue’ and heard that some immigrants are “illegal”. Maybe they know someone who recently immigrated to the U.K. — and who is struggling to fit in. Maybe immigration is part of their own family’s story.
Educating young people about what terms like ‘migrant’, ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’ mean, and about the UK’s diverse mix of cultures, seems absolutely vital in today’s world and can only result in better tolerance and inclusion of all.
In this book collection, I’m sharing some books that may help primary-aged children to understand what immigration is, and how it can affect children just like them.
A powerful and beautifully illustrated fable about friendship from the internationally-acclaimed and award-winning illustrator Michael Foreman, who is best known for classics like War Boy and for illustrating Michael Morpurgo’s stories. In this moving story, Adam feels alone in his strange, new city. He misses the colours and friendships of his faraway home. But when a teacher at school gives him a few seeds, she plants an idea in him – an idea that could transform his grey world for ever.
Best for Years 1-3
What is like to have to leave everything behind and travel many miles to somewhere unfamiliar and strange? A mother and her two children set out on such a journey: one filled with fear of the unknown, but also great hope.
A beautifully illustrated story of adventure, fear, love and the search for home that is not only a joy to read and discover but a poignant and significant book for our times.
Best for Years 1-4
A young boy discusses the journey he is about to make with his mother. They will leave their town, she explains, and it will be sad but also a little bit exciting. They will have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and that will be difficult. They will have to walk and walk and walk, and although they will see many new and interesting things, it will be difficult at times too.
A powerful and moving exploration that draws the young reader into each stage of the journey, inviting the chance to imagine the decisions he or she would make.
Best for Years 1-4.
When a new family moves in next door, Joe’s mum explains that they are asylum seekers. Joe hears that they are silence seekers, especially as Mum adds that they need peace and quiet. When he sees a young boy from the family sitting disconsolately on the steps, Joe decides to help him find a quiet place in the noisy and chaotic city.
A simple, moving story which is the perfect way to gently open discussion around the refugee crisis.
Best for Years 3-4
The Children in Our World picture book series helps children make sense of the larger issues and crises that dominate the news in a sensitive and appropriate manner. With relatable comparisons, carefully researched text and striking illustrations, children can begin to understand who refugees and migrants are, why they’ve left their homes, where they live and what readers can do to help those in need.
Where issues aren’t appropriate to describe in words, Hanane Kai’s striking and sensitive illustrations help children visualise who refugees and migrants are, in images that are suited to their age and disposition.
Best for Years 3-6
Azzi and her parents are in danger. They have to leave their home and escape to another country on a frightening journey by car and boat. In the new country they must learn to speak a new language, find a new home and Azzi must start a new school. With a kind helper at the school, Azzi begins to learn English and understand that she is not the only one who has had to flee her home. She makes a new friend, and with courage and resourcefulness, begins to adapt to her new life. But Grandma has been left behind and Azzi misses her more than anything. Will Azzi ever see her grandma again? Drawing on her own experience of working among refugee families, renowned author and illustrator Sarah Garland tells, with tenderness and humour, an exciting adventure story to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
Endorsed by Amnesty International.
Best for Years 3- 4
Told with heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class is a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.
There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it. He’s nine years old (just like me), but he’s very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn’t like sweets – not even lemon sherbets, which are my favourite!
But then I learned the truth: Ahmet really isn’t very strange at all. He’s a refugee who’s run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to help.
Best for Years 4 and above
A beautifully illustrated story of freedom, music, and seeking refuge.
A small group of refugees is crowded on to a boat on the sea. They share their stories as the boat travels towards the dream of safety and freedom. One boy, Rami, has brought his violin, and his story of how the violin was invented, and of a stallion that could run like the wind, weaves through the other stories, bringing them all together into a celebration of hope and of the power of music and story. A very special, beautifully illustrated, fable for all who strive to understand, and to stand together with, those around them.
Gill Lewis is the multi-award-winning and best-selling author of novels such as Sky Hawk, White Dolphin, and Scarlet Ibis and A Story Like the Wind is her lyrical and unforgettable response to the refugee crisis, which will linger on in the mind long after reading.
Best for Years 4 and above
This is a powerful and timely story about one boy’s epic journey across Africa to Europe, a graphic novel for children with glorious colour artwork throughout. From Eoin Colfer, previously Irish Children’s Laureate, and the team behind his bestselling Artemis Fowl graphic novels.
Ebo: alone. His sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too, and Ebo knows it can only be to make the hazardous journey to Europe.
Ebo’s epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his sister.
Best for Year 5 and above.
What does it mean for people to have to leave their homes, and what happens when they seek entry to another country? This book explores the history of refugees and migration around the world and the effects on people of never-ending war and conflict. It compares the effects on society of diversity and interculturalism with historical attempts to create a racially ‘pure’ culture. It takes an international perspective, and offers a range of views from people who have personal experience of migration, including the campaigners Meltem Avcil and Muzoon Almellehan, the comedian and actor Omid Djalili and the poet Benjamin Zephaniah. Aimed at young people aged 10 and upwards, the book encourages readers to think for themselves about the issues involved. There is also a role-play activity asking readers to imagine themselves in the situation of having to decide whether to leave their homes and seek refuge in a new country.
Best for Years 5 and above
Nobel Peace Prize winner and bestselling author Malala Yousafzai introduces some of the faces behind the statistics and news stories we read or hear every day about the millions of people displaced worldwide.
In We Are Displaced, which is part memoir, part communal storytelling, Malala not only explores her own story of adjusting to a new life while longing for home, but she also shares the personal stories of some of the incredible girls she has met on her various journeys – girls who have lost their community, relatives, and often the only world they’ve ever known.
Best for Years 6 and above
What drives so many to leave everything behind and journey alone to a mysterious country, a place without family or friends, where everything is nameless and the future is unknown. This silent graphic novel is the story of every migrant, every refugee, every displaced person, and a tribute to all those who have made the journey.
THE ARRIVAL has become one of the most critically acclaimed books of recent years, a wordless masterpiece that describes a world beyond any familiar time or place.
Best for Years 6 and above