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Whether it’s a time marked by nerves or excitement, the process of moving to a new country and starting a new life can feel overwhelming to a young child. Thankfully, stories are a great way to paint a picture of what to expect.
They can also offer a source of comfort during times of separation or when the immigration process is not going as smoothly as one would hope.
Touching on themes of resilience, loss, and identity, here are five great children’s books, suitable for a range of ages, to share with your young clients and their families.
Lowji Discovers America by Candace Fleming
When he and his parents move from India to a small town in the Midwest, young Lowji must learn to adjust to life in his new home. This story follows Lowji’s journey as he adapts to American customs, makes new friends, and gradually comes to understand the odd expressions that native English-speakers take for granted.
A charming story that tackles the topic of acculturation with sensitivity and humor, young readers will be laughing out loud as they follow Lowji and his antics.
Reading level: 7-11 years
Dreamers/Soñadores by Yuri Morales
This award-winning story follows a mother and son who have immigrated to the United States. Afraid and disoriented, they find a home in the public library, where they discover how to make their voices heard.
A beautifully illustrated and inspiring story of resilience that doubles as both a tale about the immigration experience, while also highlighting the power of literacy and reading.Reading level: 4-8 years
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf
When quiet nine-year-old Ahmet begins school in his new American classroom, the rest of the class is curious about where he came from. Learning that he fled war and was separated from his family, Ahmet’s classmates devise a plan to reunite him with those he loves.
A touching and accessible story about the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, this middle-grade read strikes the perfect balance between humor and heart, reminding young readers that everyone deserves a place to call home.Reading level: 8-12 years
Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat
This story follows a little girl named Saya, whose mother has been sent to a detention center. While struggling with the loss, Saya finds comfort in the cassette tapes her mother sends in the mail, reading her bedtime stories based on Haitian folklore.
In this book, Danticat expertly addresses the difficult themes of loss and grief, punctuating them with hope and rich folk art. To any child struggling with separation from a parent, this story will provide comfort and remind young readers they are not alone.Reading level: 5-8 years
The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman
When a little girl visits her great-grandfather and asks about his collection of trinkets contained in matchboxes, a sentimental story of resilience and joy ensues.
Written entirely in dialogue, this fresh take on the European coming-to-America story inspires imagination and highlights how sentimental memories can lie dormant in treasured keepsakes. What’s more, the book is beautifully illustrated in sepia tones that will appeal to readers across generations.Reading level: 6-9 years
To see ourselves and our experiences mirrored in writing can be incredibly reassuring. Further, stories can be shared with others who may not know our experiences to strengthen empathy and understanding of another person’s unique journey.
For children, these lessons are all the more important as they discover their identity, adapt to change, and find their place in the world.
I’m Cecilia Racine, and I teach therapists how to help immigrants through my online courses. As a bilingual immigrant myself, I know the unique perspective that these clients are experiencing. I’ve conducted over 300 evaluations and work with dozens of lawyers in the various states. Immigrants are my passion, I believe they add to the fabric of our country.
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